The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards
Twilight Times Books
Format: ebook, paperback
Have you ever puzzled over a book review and wondered if the reviewer was a personal friend of the author? Perhaps you’ve read a review and wondered what took place between reviewer and author to prompt such a vicious collection of words. Anyone who reads book reviews is sure to have come across one of he increasing number of lazy reviews – the ones that make you wonder if the reviewer read the book, or just read the back cover.
When I first started writing reviews, I studied work from different professional sources and found examples of all three of these fairly useless review types mixed in with many examples of excellent reviews that delivered the straight forward information I sought. I wanted the reviews I wrote to fall into this latter category. Unfortunately, my honest opinion of my own work was that it was a clumsy imitation of the useful reviews. I needed help.
That’s when Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards came to my rescue with their fantastic guide, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing. I count my lucky stars this book was published in the same year I started writing reviews. This straight forward, easy to follow guide contains four parts:
- The Art of Reviewing explains how to be a good reviewer, defines a book review, teaches the reviewer what it means to read critically, different types of reviews, and much more, including how to start your own review site
- The Influence of Book Reviews discusses the different institutions that use or depend on book reviews – readers, libraries, authors, publishers, etc.
- Resources is chock full of great resource information for book review writers
- The appendix contains a sample press release
The stated aim of the book is “to offer some guidelines in a clear manner supported with targeted examples of how to write and publish thoughtful, well-written reviews…” The certainly meet that goal.
The pages of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing are full of great advice that is backed up by examples. The reviewer is gently, but firmly, reminded book reviews should be written for the reader. The reviewer has an obligation to read the book, to provide an honest opinion of the book, and to support that opinion with examples from the book under review.
Hints and examples of ways to keep your reviews on the professional level are provided throughout. Following is one example on the subject of tact:
“Stating your thoughts tactfully and eloquently while offering examples to support your evaluation will keep the negative review from sounding harsh, mean, or insulting. Your aim is not to offend or humiliate the author, but clearly explain to the reader why this particular book is not worth reading.”
“Avoid statements like, ‘This is a terrible book’ … the harsh phrases mentioned above can be replaced by, ‘This book didn’t live up to its full potential because…”
Using the advice and guidance in this book improved my reviews to the point that strangers began following my reviews in places like GoodReads.
In case there is any doubt, let me say I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to write professional reviews. Others may also find value, such as reviewers seeking new outlets for their work and readers who would like to develop a deeper understanding of the professional reviews.