There’s been a lot of online conversation lately about whether book reviewers (perhaps especially online reviewers) can be trusted. Are we too nice, too mean, too easily bought, too elitist, too uneducated, too out-of-touch, and on and on blah blah blah blah blah. The problem I’ve seen with just about every article on the subject is that they try to treat reviewers as a single entity, as if we’re all the same and have (or should have) the same goals. But reviews in newspapers, in literary journals, on blogs, and at Amazon, Goodreads, and Librarything all have different purposes. A review in a mainstream newspaper is generally going to be pitched a little differently than a review in a literary journal. And chit chat about books on Twitter is going to have a different level of nuance than a 1,000-word review in any venue. You’ll even find different purposes within each of those categories. Not every blogger blogs for the same reason, obviously. This is not a bad thing.
Some might think that there’s too much of one kind of discourse and not enough of other, but it seems wrong-headed to wish for all literary discourse to be to our particular tastes. Not all books are suited to any individual’s particular tastes, so why should conversation about books be? If there’s literary conversation that annoys you, the best thing to do is ignore it and focus instead on what you do like.
Today, I’m feeling a need to seek a better way—and to encourage others to do the same. Instead of going on and on about what kind of writing about books we want to see, let’s go on and on about specific pieces of writing about books that we enjoy.
This week on Twitter I started making a point of posting links to reviews that I especially enjoyed reading. You can see those tweets on my Storify page. My taste in book reviews is just about as eclectic as my taste in books, so I’ve ended up sharing a variety, all of which I liked for different reasons.
I plan to keep using Twitter, Storify, Tumblr, and other venues for sharing reviews I enjoy, from professional and nonprofessional sources. (This week’s reviews all happen to be from bloggers, but that won’t be the case every week.) I intend to focus on writing about specific books, rather than writing about books in general because it seems like topical posts don’t need the promotion. I’d like to encourage everyone to find ways to share the review writing they enjoy and to help others find good, trust-worthy sources of thoughtful writing about books. If you have ideas, please share them!
In related news, Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming September 10–14. This is a good time to give some extra attention to the blogs that you love the most. I think this year’s event will be more low-key than in past year—no awards are planned. I’m looking forward to the celebration!
Also, The Estella Society, “a reading playground for book bloggers and by book bloggers,” launched this week. I contributed a post about how I’ve avoided blogger burnout, and there are readalongs, book art, and more.