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markk

markk

Why do YOU review books?

One of the reviewing sites that I check on from time to time is The Neglected Books Page. If you're not familiar with it, it's a site run by a guy named Brad Bigelow that features his reviews of books that were once popular or notable (or written by popular authors who have since fallen out of fashion) but have since faded from our contemporary memory. It's a great project, though I tend to fall behind on the regular pace of his reviews.

 

Because of this, I didn't encounter his post on the #1920 Club until today. In it, he made a statement that set me on edge:

But every time I go into the university library and wander down the aisles of English and American literature, I have to wonder: Does the world really need yet another bit of writing about Edith Wharton or D. H. Lawrence or F. Scott Fitzgerald? These writers are like those hotels with 10,000 reviews on Tripadvisor. Checking today, the current count on Goodreads for The Age of Innocence stands at 134,391 ratings and 6,378 reviews. Stop. Just stop. Will yet one more opinion make any difference?

Now I understand why someone who runs a site featuring neglected books would feel this way, and it's a fair point that a book with 6,000+ reviews already has more than a few for people to choose from when they're trying to decide whether to read the book for themselves. But there's something just so reductive about his view of reviews to me, though perhaps I'm in the minority in this respect.

 

It really boils down to this: who do we write reviews? Obviously the desire to promote a book we enjoyed or even loved is a factor, as is the desire to steer people away from a work that isn't worth the time. But I know that a lot of the books I read are geared towards a specialized audience who are unlikely to even encounter my reviews, much less base their reading decisions on them. Increasingly, though, I enjoy revisiting my reviews because they help me to better recall the impression the book made upon me, even to relive the reading experience without having to re-read the book itself. The same is true as well for my reviews of restaurants, hotels, and everything else I've assessed in a few short paragraphs: it's a subjective online diary that I'm willing to share with others, which is why I really can't condemn the Goodreads user who wants to write the 6,379th review of  The Age of Innocence.

 

But that's just me. Why do you review books on social media sites? And — to give Mr. Bigelow his due — do you tailor which books you review based upon it?