Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what makes a book review a good book review. It began when we discussed this topic in my modern literature class, and I felt like I didn’t really agree with the strict rules most people thought a review should adhere to.
And then there was the impromptu book blogger chat that happened on Twitter this week (and which I totally missed – darn those time zones). I read this really helpful recap post by Emily from Emily’s Reading Room to catch up on what was said during the chat, and she had included one of her own tweets:
— Emily Hellsworth (@emsreadingroom) October 23, 2015
This got me thinking even more. Is the traditional “book review” really dead? Or have our ideas about what makes a good and entertaining book review simply changed? I feel this whole book review dilemma is definitely something worth exploring.
The book reviews we talked about in my literature class were the more traditional book reviews you encounter in newspapers and what not. During our discussion it became clear that most people thought a book review should include a short summary of the book (without any spoilers) as well as some context – who is the author, have they written other stuff as well, what are some other important books that have appeared in this genre, that kind of thing. Then follows the actual review, which should be a balanced piece that includes aspects (themes, plot, characters, style etc.) you liked and aspects you didn’t like and, most importantly, why. You should end with a summary of the good and/or bad points and then conclude whether or not the book is worth reading.
Pretty strict rules, I’d say. However, the book blogging community seems to have different views on all this. Mostly, I think the big difference is that we aim to be much more personal in our reviews than is customary in “traditional” reviews. We write our reviews to present our ideas about the book and tell our readers about our feelings and thoughts. At least, that’s how I feel when I look around this community. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have meaningful contributions or discussions, because we do. We just take a different approach, and I love that about the book blogging community!
I do recognise Emily’s feeling that the book review as we know it might be “dead” though. I love writing book reviews, but I skip reading most of the book reviews that appear in my Bloglovin feed, except when the title sounds interesting or if it’s a book I especially want to know other people’s thoughts about. And this book blogger chat has made clear to me that I’m definitely not the only one! Most of us seem to enjoy reading discussion posts or other book related posts more than we do book reviews, even our own non-traditional ones.
On the one hand, that makes me kind of sad, since, like I said, I love writing reviews. However, it also encourages us to be more creative, which is always a good thing, I’d say. Emily states that we need to innovate, and I think she might be right, but I also think book reviews are an important part of our community and I’d be sad to see them disappear. I will keep on writing book reviews, but I do think I will try to think of a way to make them a bit different. How? I have no clue as of yet.
What do you think makes a good review? Is the book review on its way out in the book blogging world? What kind of posts do you most enjoy reading? I’d love to hear your views, so let me know in the comments!