Stinky Book Reviews

I can’t stand book reviews. Nah, that’s not right—I can’t stand
personal book reviews. Wait, that’s not right either…I can’t stand
personal book reviews which are so blindly biased that they ignore what
the author is saying and think that a book is nightmarishly bad because
they don’t agree with it. Okay, that sounds about right.

When I go on Amazon (or BN or CBD) to look for a book, I pretty much
know what I want already. If I don’t know exactly, I have a rough idea
of what I’m looking for so I’ll spend my time looking at book
specifications. These book specifications are normally found in the
last bit of the annoying blurb (ie: softcover, page count, what
edition, etc.)

Oh those annoying blurbs. Underpaid copywriters with no source material
underneath the cracking whip of some marketer looking at the bottom
line while shouting “write this blurb to hit [X Demographic Age] with a
slant to [Random Seasonal Shopping Time] by  [absurdly short
deadline]”.  You can understand why I ignore them—but one step
below (or over) that is member reviews.

Sure, it was a good idea at first. Community pitching in and helping
each other out, writing about the good, bad and ugly from what they’ve
read. Even a little button to give something wretched a single star and
something spectacular five shiny golden stars, oh the joy of it! It was
like being in Kindergarten all over again and self-proclaimed pundits
and unknown intelligencia crawled out of the woodwork, hopped online
and posted their important thoughts. (Wait a sec, that’s starting to
sound a lot like a blog…moving right along…).

Thing is, helpful book reviews are few and far between. Most of the
time it’s some person saying that a book is great because they agree
with it or trashing the book because they disagreed with it. “This book
was horrible. This author proves his stupidity again by going against
what I believe. Don’t buy this book or you prove that your just as
blind, stupid (and heretical, depending on the topic) as he.”

Why do reviewers have to do this? If you want to revel in your superior
point of view—start a blog. Don’t bother commenting on Amazon or a book
review site adding to the other assenting or dissenting voices in the
slim hope that someone will rate your rant as helpful. Then move over,
let the good reviewers post.

Good Reviewers, I’m talking to you, keep doing what you do best. Review
how the author presented his argument regardless if you agree with
him/her or not. Explain how the author uses his materials without
telling me how you would use the same or different materials. Discuss
the reading level without touting how smart you are or how stupid other
readers might be. If you’re going to give a star rating you don’t do it
on how close the book is to your point of view (5 stars meaning
perfect, just like me!).

You might look at this and wonder where it’s coming from. Honestly, it
started years ago in comic book stores. You would go into
this dimly lit storefront in the search for the latest Spidey. In the
back there would be several guys of various sizes loudly discussing how Quasar is better than Green Lantern or how
DC sinks Marvel’s battle ship anyday. They would fall into a hushed
reverential silence whenever a female would enter into the store, but
then, in hopes of gaining her attention, they would increase the level
of their conversation talking about the merits of McFarlane’s art over
Larson’s. None of them could draw a straight line, and there they sat
offering their opinion while the unsatisfied potential customer
would leave the store purchase-less and date-less.

If you review books—leave the comic book store mentality behind. It runs rampant in SciFi titles all the way over to Theological
Journals. Give me the reason the book stinks or soars without it having
anything to do with your positional stance on the topic. If you’re
going to say “Another kickin’ title by [theologian name]! Like all his
books, this is good! Buy now!” don’t bother—I’ve seen it before…be it
in 5 or 500 words, it’s still comic book store thinking.

BTW, read that Green Lantern link over at MCF’s blog. He makes some
great points (even though Hal Jordan GL still beats Quasar because Hal
Jordan is the man).

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply