“I intend to put up with nothing that I can put down…” Letter from Edgar Allen Poe to J. Beauchamp Jones August 8, 1839
As regular readers know, my book reviews aren’t filled with oodles of details nor do they read like a book report. I fully believe that book reviews are meant to be a brief synopsis of the book, rather than detailed treatises on the book. I would rather read a brief review and decide from there if the book is worth my time investment. Personally, I don’t want to know how the book affected another reader I want to know if it was well written with a good story and enjoyable characters. Your reaction to a book won’t be my reaction and thus to be honest, I skip book reports that masquerade as book reviews. I’d rather spend that time reading an actual book!
So how do I decide what books I review and what is the criteria?
Would I recommend the book to a family member to read? If not, then why would I spend the time to write up a review? There are exceptions to this hard and fast rule for books that are either so bad they should be avoided at all costs or if I’m reviewing an Advanced Readers Copy. I try and be fair and objective but I’m human and come with a lifetime of preferences, beliefs, and judgments.
I aim, but am not always successful, to briefly introduce the main protagonist of any book I review. Characters and their stories are why I read books and I would rather share what makes a character worth the time investment than provide a book report. Memorable characters will always be something I want to read and I assume that to be true for others. If characters and their stories aren’t memorable why would anyone continue to read the book?
Wet the Reader’s Appetite
My personal philosophy is that book reviews should wet the reader’s appetite to search out the book and read it for themselves. Details should be sparse but tantalizing. I only want to share my impressions, not a detailed analysis of character motivation or details of the story. As a reviewer, I want to make my readers want to search out the book to figure out why it was worth my time to read and effort to review.
I use stars for adult books and flashlights for children/young adult books. Five stars or flashlights means the book is one I would go back and reread if I ever managed to deplete my Mount TBR. Four stars/flashlights means it was an excellent one time read that has my full endorsement. Three stars/flashlights means the book was good but nothing I’d go back and reread. Two stars/flashlights means the book was just barely readable and I plowed through the text because it was an Advanced Readers Copy most likely. One star/flashlight is the lowest rating and the book is not recommended because it violates one of my pet peeves or I find it completely unreadable.