Audience for reviews

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Audience for reviews

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1ed.pendragon
kesäkuu 29, 2011, 4:41am

When you review a book, who do you imagine it's for? I love reading reviews--in papers, in journals, on the covers of paperbacks, sometimes even in blogs--but find some of the reviews on LT (and Goodreads) very puzzling. Here are some observations.

(1) Some reviews seem to be aide-memoires for the member themselves: "Couldn't get on with it." "Bleurgh." "Awesome!" A couple of observations here might be that not only does this possibly show that the writer has trouble remembering books they've read (this seems to be quite common) but also that they assume that any other readers share (or want to share) their taste. The trouble is the reviews are often so terse and uninformative that I completely discount them. Audience: 1. Self. 2. Adulatory readers (imaginary).

(2) A large number of reviews are obsessed with reading ages. I suppose these reviewers are primary/elementary school teachers because they are often very prescriptive about the suitability of a book for a particular age range (fantasy titles particularly get this treatment). My view is that a book has to be viewed on its own merits and not on its appropriateness as a product for a consumer of a particular age. I attempted Dickens at an early age and got something out of it even though a lot of it went over my head. I don't suppose the violence would have earned it a recommendation from some LTers. Audience: Other teachers and compulsive school librarians.

There are other categories I've noticed, but that may do for now. Oh, who do I review for? I suppose I try to write the reviews I would like to read. So, perhaps Audience: 1. Self. 2. Like-minded readers.

2reading_fox
kesäkuu 29, 2011, 8:54am

I definetly write them for myself. In addition I try and consider those whom I'm likely to recommend the book to, and what they'd want to know.

3aulsmith
kesäkuu 29, 2011, 9:13am

I think the reading-age people are largely home schoolers. They seem to have a network here on LT.

I write them for two reasons: if the book has no other reviews I try to write one or two sentences of summary with no plot spoilers and a sentence with my reaction to the book. Just enough that if the book came up on your recommendations list, you'd have some idea whether to pursue it. With non-fiction how-to books, I try to write an assessment of how useful the book would be for users with various experience levels

If a book already has a review, I will only write one if I think something major has been overlooked or have a radically different opinion from the average review.

For what I've heard folks say, I think a lot of the people on LT are writing reviews for themselves, which is why there are detailed plot summaries and quotes and other things I might put in my reading journal, but wouldn't write for other people.

4BTRIPP
kesäkuu 29, 2011, 2:14pm

I write reviews of everything I read ... and I target reading 72 non-fiction books per year, so that's a lot of writing. I also don't understand those folks putting up one-sentence-or-less reviews, although Tim does this and defends the practice.

Frankly, I started writing reviews in a period of unemployment as a way to keep my writing skills sharp. I sort of write for myself, but they're "voiced" as though I'm speaking to the readers of my main LiveJounal blog, so there are frequent asides about things that "regular readers" may recall. My reviews are "chatty" and I almost always begin by describing how the book got into my hands and ending with where my readers can get copies (i.e. what used copies are going for on Amazon).

The "conversational" nature of my reviews is why I almost never put them up on Amazon, as they're not "to the point". Interestingly, I had an author of a book that I'd reviewed "edit down" my review of their book and send it back to me to post on Amazon after I noted that I probably wouldn't be doing so with my initial review ... I guess they really wanted that up there!

 

5ed.pendragon
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2011, 7:43am

Really interesting to read the thoughtful replies so far. For what they're worth these are my responses.

I write them for myself.
I think this must be the first and most important spur. It's a shame though that some of the reviews seem to be dashed off and posted before the reviewer actually reads them!

I try and consider those whom I'm likely to recommend the book to, and what they'd want to know.
This must be a good second reason to write; I like to think I'm altruistic too!

If the book has no other reviews I try to write one or two sentences of summary with no plot spoilers and a sentence with my reaction to the book. Just enough that if the book came up on your recommendations list, you'd have some idea whether to pursue it.
As well as being a cataloguing site, LT is also for social networking, so I think it's also helpful to share your considered opinion on a book; it's quite dispiriting to find that a squillion readers have copies of a book but none of them want to make a comment, either for or against. The average of star ratings is not always helpful here as a substitute.

If a book already has a review, I will only write one if I think something major has been overlooked or have a radically different opinion from the average review.
Whether a book has only one review or several I try to have something new or different to say that doesn't just repeat what has already been said. (Oops, have I just repeated what you said, aulsmith?)

With non-fiction how-to books, I try to write an assessment of how useful the book would be for users with various experience levels.
I'd say that a critical assessment of pretty much all non-fiction books is helpful, both for me to help sort out the thrust of the explications and arguments and for other potential readers; the assessment should make clear at what level of complexity the text is pitched.

I write reviews of everything I read ... I also don't understand those folks putting up one-sentence-or-less reviews, although Tim does this and defends the practice.
I'm also aiming to review pretty much everything I catalogue, but I have a bit of catching up to do!
The one-sentence-or-less review must surely be an aide-memoire--I can't believe that many books deserve just a one-liner, especially if you've bothered to include them on your shelves. Unless, of course, you see your one-liner as a potential quote to go on the cover of the paperback issue (you know the form, "The best fantasy I have read since The Lord of the Rings").

6dekesolomon
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 16, 2012, 8:04am

I write reviews for myself. If I really LIKE a book or DISLIKE a book, I want to be able to articulate my reasons for feeling as I do about the work. It's my way of learning to be a better reader AND a better writer. If I can take a book apart and describe its virtues and its flaws, then (hopefully) I'm better able to build one myself when the time comes -- as it inevitably WILL come for those who read with passion. I don't believe there ever was a successful author who didn't read incessantly. Ol' Dr. Johnson may have said it best: "I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read."

To use a different analogy, I can go to the kitchen: I love good food but I will never be a chef OR a gourmet because I've never taken the trouble to educate my palate. I know when I like a dish, but I can't tell why because I know nothing about herbs and spices and how to use them together, whereas a chef can taste a dish and tell -- almost to a certainty -- all the things that went into it. I'll be a gourmand who cooks, perhaps, but never a gourmet chef.

7ed.pendragon
tammikuu 16, 2012, 9:10am

>6 dekesolomon:
my way of learning to be a better reader AND a better writer.
My sentiment exactly, dekesolomon. Writing for oneself should be the primary aim if you're voluntarily reviewing (as opposed to an assignment, say).

>4 BTRIPP:
I write reviews of everything I read ... I also don't understand those folks putting up one-sentence-or-less reviews, although Tim does this and defends the practice.
Of course, BTRIPP, there is the LibraryThing Members' Description section on the main page, where you can post (a) your own book description (one sentence would go well here) or (b) a haiku summary (a chance to write your even more considered description-cum-crit of the title in a limited number of syllables).

8lilithcat
tammikuu 16, 2012, 9:17am

> 7

there is the LibraryThing Members' Description section on the main page, where you can post (a) your own book description (one sentence would go well here)

Those don't show up in your catalogue. And those one-sentence reviews BTRIPP is talking about rarely describe the book; they give the reviewer's opinion of it. Do you really want to see "awesome" and "worst book I read this year" in the Book Description field on the work page?

9ed.pendragon
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 16, 2012, 9:19am

>8 lilithcat:
No, that's true, I don't! OK, I withdraw the comment! (Though the haukus are often critical...)

10dekesolomon
tammikuu 16, 2012, 11:50am

You guys wanna see a GOOD, one-line review? See my treatment of Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour." (Not to blow my own horn, mind you: It's just that I'm awfully proud of that one.)

11lilithcat
tammikuu 16, 2012, 11:57am

> 10

Link?

13ABVR
tammikuu 16, 2012, 2:10pm

> 12

Well played, sir! Not having read the book, though, I have to ask: Given the nod to Lynne Truss should we take it that the lack of a comma after "eats" is deliberate and meaningful? :-)

14lilithcat
tammikuu 16, 2012, 2:31pm

> 12

Ha! Excellent!

15dekesolomon
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 16, 2012, 4:41pm

> 13 yes, the comma placement is deliberate. It's part of the joke after all.

> 12 thank you, lilithcat.

Please notice that I DID like the book. I gave him four stars on it.

The other thing is that I really didn't know how else to review it. The book is episodic: Bourdain shows up in town (wherever) and eats a bunch of crap (eats poops), and then he goes somewhere else (leaves) to do the same thing. So the joke was there and I just HAD to use it. So it's not my fault, you see. It's the publisher. Still, as I said, It's a pretty good book. Fun way to kill time on an airliner -- or in the loo -- or wherever it's necessary to kill time.

16jseger9000
tammikuu 16, 2012, 5:09pm

#15 - The other thing is that I really didn't know how else to review it.

Well, everything that follows that sentence would work as a more detailed review.

17jseger9000
tammikuu 16, 2012, 5:14pm

I write my reviews for other potential readers. I avoid anything I see as a spoiler (as subjective as that is), while still trying to describe what I liked about the book or what the problems were.

If there is a major issue with a book, one that changes the rating, I will explain in detail, while trying to be as non-spoiler-y as possible.

Like BTRIPP, I am chatty and conversational. I'm too unprofessional to do anything else. But I do try to keep my reviews from running on too long. I've found myself getting bored in the middle of other's reviews and don't want that to happen to me.

18dekesolomon
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 16, 2012, 6:10pm

> 16 Maybe so, but it wouldn't have been as much fun.

19Cecrow
kesäkuu 14, 2012, 8:18am

For the me the dichotomy lies between writing for those who have and have not yet read the book. I would like to share my thoughts with other who have read it, to see whether they drew the same conclusions, and by speaking to what puzzled me or impressed me. I would like to encourage or warn other potential readers about whether to read it. Generally I think it's possible to address both at once, but it can be a fine line depending on what stood out to me about the novel.