Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Writing Reviews

Hooper, B. (2010). Writing reviews for readers' advisory. Chicago: American Library Association.

I've been poking through the professional collection at my library, which happens to reside in my office. I already reviewed "Crash Course in Reference," and now I've moved on to an area where I can use all the help I can get: reader advisory. I'm not bad at's just not an area of service that comes easily to me.

The main reason I chose this book, though, is because writing book reviews always feels like a chore to me. As a smart librarian - Kathryn Bergeron of the blog Reference Counterculture wrote recently, the reason she writes a lot of read-alike posts is because she hates doing them, and the best way to get over that hatred is to do it. I agree. I hate writing book reviews because I'm not that good at it. I will never get better unless I write more reviews. My library has a staff choices blog, and I try to write one a month. I also write a "what I've been reading" post monthly for this blog. I'd like to get better at it.

That's where this book comes in. The author is a reviewer for Booklist. He gives advice on how to write good reviews. It's a tiny book with practical advice. It's very easy to get through, and includes lots of examples. The best pieces of advice I picked up from this book are:

1. Every book review should tell the reader what the book is about and how good it is. Sounds simple, right? Here's how you do that:

2. Read critically, not just for enjoyment. Really pay attention to characters, plot, theme, setting, and writing style.

3. Be lively in your reviews. Use humor where appropriate. Match the mood of your review to the mood of the book.

4. Be critical, not cranky. If you have an opinion, share it. If that opinion is negative, that's ok, but be constructive and back up your point with examples. You can't just say "worst book ever" without explaining why.

5. Be generous. You can write a negative review, but if the book has any redeeming qualities, point them out.

6. Remember that you are reviewing someone else's work. They are the star here, not you. Don't overwrite and try to put the focus on yourself and your writing. Put the focus on the book. That's what the point of a book review is.

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