Friday, April 3, 2009

How I Approach Book Reviews

What should I do if I agree to write a review but I think the book, ah, lacking in merit?

In a public review, I either emphasize some aspect I found interesting or use some topic in the book to spin off into a related discussion on something that genuinely interests me.

Then, if there are obvious flaws the writer needs to know about, I send him/her a private email and I'll be frank. But even then it's usually along the lines of, I'm sure your second novel will be stronger now that you've gotten this out of your system. And actually, many first novels are throat-clearing for what comes next. I never want to be any writer's excuse for putting the pen down.

If the writer is more experienced and I didn't like the book, it probably has a lot to do with choice of subject matter or approach. Those are matters of taste and I have no trouble whatever saying what turned me off in my review. A good example would be my recent dual review of The Tourist and The Spanish Game (previous post on this blog).
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