What is a book review?

Celsus Library was built in 135 AD and could h...
Celsus Library was built in 135 AD and could house around 12,000 scrolls. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never really gave much thought or paid any attention to book reviews until I started writing seriously. As a fledgling author it is a pleasant feeling when someone comments favourably that they enjoyed your book. It is OK if they say, it isn’t bad but I didn’t like this or that. But it is extremely unpleasant if they say it is a load of rubbish.

What really matters to me is that I am read and that my readers benefit from the reading and we have connected. If I have evoked or aroused feelings of sadness, joy or laughter I am happy. If they learn something they didn’t know before then I have added value. If I have made them angry then I am sorry.

I doubt that many authors make money from writing; therefore writing for most authors is a passion rather than a profession. And passionate authors are entitled to offer their work to readers just as much as professionals who work for the big publishing houses.

Old Koran manuscript, Alexandria library
Old Koran manuscript, Alexandria library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe a Book Review, if it is to have any value, should be a serious, critical and constructive appraisal of a literary work that adds a dimension to, and summarises the work to help a prospective reader make a decision. It should not be abusive or taken lightly or frivolously and above all it must be sincere.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but when I see ill-informed malevolent and destructive criticism, which I sometimes do, I have to question the critic’s motive.

Martin Amis gives a speech in León, in norther...
Martin Amis gives a speech in León, in northern Spain, in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One-liners are not book reviews. They are just one person’s quick comment on whether or not he or she liked it. By way of example, I bought a novel ‘Lionel Asbo’ by, the very successful, Martin Amis, whom I had never read. There are 5 ‘one liners’ on the front and back covers. ‘Gloriously funny and incisive’ – Sunday Telegraph. ‘Terrific, both funny and serious……………..’ Guardian. I didn’t have time to read a chapter so I bought it on spec. – not something I usually do. After all it’s Martin Amis and the book is dedicated to a legend, Christopher Hitchens, so it must be good!! I ploughed through half of it and cannot manage any more. I didn’t enjoy it one little bit; it isn’t for me. But please don’t let that put you off. You may love it.

Christopher Hitchens from the Randi Foundation...
Christopher Hitchens from the Randi Foundation The Amazing Meeting 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Personally I like to decide for myself whether or not I read a book by reading a sample first. I don’t want reviews or one-liners from people I don’t know to influence me. I prefer to trust my own judgement and the integrity of the author.


2 thoughts on “What is a book review?”

  1. Great post, just a pity there are some people who think thier opinion, albeit how narrow minded, are the opinons the world should be run by and that they have been placed on earth to protect the world for other people’s views. But hey, I suppose that is the joy of the internet, anybody can post anything.


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