Recently, I came across this article on the good book review at The Manila Review. Of course, our standards on judging book reviews are relative, but I find the article really nice. In fact, it is so good that I put the pointers at the footer of my blog so that I can refer to them when I feel that I’m not in the mood to do book write-ups, which has been common as of late. Hopefully I won’t be sued for plagiarism?
We follow book blogs from the leading papers of the world to the most obscure blogs that we stumble upon during our Internet dawdling time. But how do you choose the book blogs that you follow or add on your feed readers? Me, I check out the list of books that the blogger reviewed (and this is why the review index is an important page of any book blog). Reading this list gives me an idea of the kinds of books that the blogger reads, and then I read a couple of posts to get a sample of the blogger’s style.
I am usually taken away by posts between 1,000 to 2,000 words. They intrigue me and give me the feeling that the blogger has really thought about the book regardless of his feelings and judgments on it (so long as the post is not merely drivel). Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind short posts and non sequiturs. In fact, the latter are very welcome especially if the blogger knows when and where to put them, and how to link them to the point that he or she is driving at.
So yes, I don’t have a concrete set of standards on the good book review, and this is why I find the article helpful in many ways. In case it’s too much to ask you to scroll back up or down further to check out the bullet points for the good book review, here they are:
[The article is written by Jennifer B. McDonald.]
The Good Book Review …
- introduces a book and attempts a rigorous appraisal, while demonstrating fairness, intelligence, clarity, discernment, and style.
- should consider the version offered by publishers for review, not an early, unfinished draft, not a copy acquired through shadowy means.
- should evaluate the book the author wrote, not the book the reviewer wishes the author had written.
- does not simply reveal whether a reviewer “likes” or “dislikes” a book. It measures a book’s arguments, ideas, and artfulness, and is ideally well argued itself.
- comments perceptively on a book’s literary accomplishment.
- avoids lengthy plot summary.
- provides context, which requires the reviewer to come to the work well informed.
- can say a book is bad, but shouldn’t do so with gratuitous venom.
- is also more than just content: We must consider its style.
- should avoid cliché, especially book-reviewese, the empty adjectives and exclamations you find plastered on cover after cover.
- should be written with flair — lucidity, elegance, panache — and indeed may be so well composed that it becomes its own lesson in writing.
Do you agree with all the points listed above? Do you have any additions to them?