Sunday, November 26, 2006

Book reviewing

The Telegraph has a bit bemoaning the rise of the Internet book reviewer. It's a bit tongue in cheek, but you can tell the author hates the notion of these non-professionals coming and muddying the pristine pond of the paid reviewers. He also seems to dislike the speed of their rise. He makes a good point that much of the reviewing on Amazon is worthless, but anyone can tell that simply by reading them. I imagine most people take a quick look at the overall rating and then try to gauge whether the numbers supporting have any merit.

And its hardly like the professional space is perfect. Far too many book reviews end up as a means to either showcase the reviewer's expertise or to highlight their personal interest. This Washington Post review of Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah does discuss the book in places, but mostly serves as a means to ruminate on Iran.

Still the very best reviews will come from people who can best explain why you should or should not read the book. In non-fiction, this will be someone who can place the book amongst its peers and relate the ability of the author to sustain his or her argument. In fiction, the reviewer should describe the success in literary and entertainment terms. How they do that is their own business. The professionals will normally be better. This William McNeill review of Max Boot's new book is an excellent example. But I learn great things about books from any number of bloggers too. So can't we all just get along?


lisa_emily said...

Hear ye! Hear ye! I concur. That whiner at the telegraph needs to get over his elitism slant. Oh no! the common reader wil have something to say about a book, the horror of it all.

With all the books that are published yearly, you would think a little help wouldn't be minded. If a good review has been done of a book, I feel no need to add more. And any intelligent person can see a hack job written up. He must think that unprofessional reviewers are a bunch of illiterates.

Tripp said...

There appears to be an element of envy. The Amazon reviwers rapidly build up a level of prominence that would take much longer on the traditional route. Still, the professionals get prestige, so I wonder why he cares.