Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The "Why" of a Good Book Review

I've been conspiring with several friends about setting up an Internet site to publish book reviews. I've sold a few book reviews, but I haven't the expertise to call myself a book reviewer. This provoked me to think about why I might seek out a book after reading a review.

Personally, I think I react more to the reviewer than the review, but, of course, I have sought our books even if I have no familiarity with the reviewer. Surely there must be a central element within a book review that might convinces me I must read the book.

But I don't know what it is ...

I did read an interesting review today in the Washington Post, one which makes me believe I would be fascinated by the book, if for no other reason than the reviewer reveals how the book touched her in a beautifully written paragraph.
One of the most powerful passages in the memoir comes after Braestrup has accompanied the wardens on a grueling, hours-long search for a man who vanished while on an ice fishing trip. "First light revealed not only an open patch of dark water in the inlet near the boat launch, but also a neat set of snowmobile tracks leading right to it." After the missing man's frozen body is recovered, she accompanies a lieutenant who has been a game warden for 32 years to tell the new widow of her loss. Braestrup explains, "Mrs. Levesque will put me to use as witness, as crutch, as Kleenex, as proxy for Jean-Pierre -- a temporary substitute for all the neighbors, church folks, friends, and family members who will soon come bursting through her door to share her grief. I am a transitional love object . . . . What a strange privilege it is to be so used."

I asked "What kind of review would make you read a book?" on a writing discussion list.

One person said "I don't read them," noting she wants the experience of a book unfiltered. Another said he relates to the negative reviews, realizing if the reviewer can do no more than pick nits that the book is better than the review might credit it to be.

All I know is that after reading "Just a Closer Hike With Thee," Jane Ciabattari's review of HERE IF YOU NEED ME: A True Story, written by Kate Braestrup, I will seek out the memoir.

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