11.03.08

Rave ‘Reviews’

Posted in Book reviews, On writing, Writers at 7:59 am by Marion

Book reviews are unlike other writing. They are both opinion and when done right, nonfiction.

Nothing beats sitting on the couch with the NY Times Books section or the NY Review of Books and savoring those dense pages. I’ve been known to keep those sections around for weeks, dipping into them one review at the time to enjoy each book and author.

Because the author’s voice is very important in a book review: It’s easy to understand why writers have gone after these reviewers with feuds that last decades. Some reviewers are just horrible … but when they are deliciously clever, it makes fine reading.

A well-done book review is a pleasure. So what makes an ordinary book review an elusive gem? Good book reviews should have ample information — about the period in question for a book, about the author, about his or her subject. A book reviewer should pack his or her review with good stuff — philosophy, religion, politics — and lots of it.

In other words, don’t just tell me about the book, or even worse, your opinion of it. (Everyone has an opinion.)

No, for your book review, give me the history of the Assyrian Empire, the philosophy of lost Atlantis, the hidden romance between a concubine and the queen. Then, in that rich bed of storytelling, you can tell me about the book.

In honor of the noble book review, I am adding links to my home page that will take you to some of the best in book reviews.

Each day I receive the “Review a Day” from Powell’s Books. No matter how busy I am I try to read it; many reviews I print and savor on a Saturday afternoon.

If you have suggestions for book review sites please add them as comments.

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