Given that there have been several recent posts in the blogosphere about reviews, including on OF Blog of the Fallen and, just today, Mumpsimus, I thought Iâ€™d weigh in with my two cents, for what itâ€™s worth. (These thoughts aren’t responses to either BoF or Mump, just FYI, both of which seem to me to contain clear and cogent arguments, most of which I agree with.)
As readers of this blog know, Iâ€™m primarily a fiction writer, but Iâ€™ve also reviewed books, off and on, for almost twenty years. This gives me a twinned perspective as a giver and receiver of formal opinions about books. As might be expected, the same things that bother me in reviews of my work that I think are unfair or poorly written, beyond simple errors of fact, are also things I try to avoid in reviewing other peopleâ€™s books.
By a â€œreview,â€ I donâ€™t mean two paragraphs I post on this blog or some of the capsule summaries of 200 or 300 words that appear on Amazon and elsewhere. I mean a â€œreviewâ€ in the sense of an attempt by a person, whether formally identified as a reviewer or not, to fully engage a published text at a length of anywhere from about 500 words to 2,500 words.
So, that said, here are eight things I try to avoid doing as a reviewerâ€”things that also bug me as a writer being reviewed, to a greater or lesser extent. Some of them are easy for me to avoid as a reviewer. Some are less so. But with every review, I think seriously about these issues.