That was quick. I wasn’t sure about doing another review anytime soon. But, I happened to be reading Newt Gingrich’s new book, Breakout, and decided to post something on Goodreads at the last minute. Not thinking about reviewing for the last few days must have helped me improve over my last experience. Maybe that creativity driver that suggests letting the information percolate in the subconscious a bit was a factor. I’ll have to look into that further. This could be a thing.
In any case, I did find the book to be an interesting read. As a bit of a disclaimer, I am a Gingrich fan. I’ve always liked his feisty debate performances and streams of ideas, even the weird ones. He’s always channeling something big. So I’m interested when he puts something new out there. Follow my tweet to the review (mine is dated March 20).
This won’t get to be a habit. I don’t have the time to read as much as I’d like, but I will consider recording a few thoughts when I do manage to get them in.
I might even learn something.
What do you think about reviewing books by people you admire?
I’ve written my first online book review. I’m not sure what to think about it.
Until a couple of weeks ago, I had never voluntarily read with a commitment to give public feedback. I had never shared what I liked or disliked about a book. It always seemed presumptuous on my part to analyze someone else’s work, or even to click stars. Who am I to criticize another’s labor? Who would care about what I thought? Why should I put this pressure on myself?
My thoughts were the price of an opportunity to download a new e-book on effective storytelling. This is a skill that most people take for granted and think themselves better at it than they are, so I decided to presume guilt for myself.
It couldn’t be that hard. I’ve read probably hundreds of reviews over the years, on the web or in publications that I subscribe to, often by authors I respect. Articles on how to write them are as numerous as stinkbugs in spring (Google returned a mind-boggling number of links when I searched how to write one). Everyone else who has ever been on the Web has apparently already done this.
But actually sitting down to write it was something else.
I figured to compose a review just like those I enjoy reading–with cultural context, historical references, broader discussions of ideas. Get into the whys, connect the dots, dissect the relationships, clarify the Big Picture. I would tell the author things about his work that even he didn’t know.
So heavy research would be involved. No problem, I could do that. These people have all obviously been at this for years. So long experience would help. Fine, I’ll get there, I’ve read a lot. Insightful prose was needed to tie everything relevantly together. Writing ability, working on it.
Yep, this was going to make me look like a backbencher, at best.
Still, I looked forward to reading it. There was an interesting subject. I wanted to give an honest review. And since it was my first try I’d likely remember it, so it counted.
With all that in mind, I read it straight through. By straight through, I mean as time allowed in the small flashes of free time one gets every so often today. In actual time, it took more than a week. Since it did not occur to me that a second, more measured attempt was unlikely, I had not bothered taking notes.
So I had no idea what to write after that. No insights, no engaging observations, nada. I learned a lot and enjoyed the work, but the blank page just stared back at me, daring me to make sense of my jumble of thoughts.
I managed to reread most of it in bursts, intent on stumbling across some worthy bit that I hoped someone else wouldn’t think to post. Might have found a couple. In any case I missed the deadline that was asked for in the confirmation, because I was too busy swiping the pages faster than I could read more than a couple of words on at once.
I ended with three mediocre paragraphs, and the same feeling I used to get in school every time I turned in a blue essay test book. Maybe I passed, and maybe I didn’t.
In any case, I can’t wait to try it again. Maybe something a bit less complex next time, like Hop on Pop.
This is the book I reviewed. It was quite helpful and well done. My feedback is probably somewhere among the middle of the Customer Reviews, or if they were watching, removed by now as Least Helpful.
I did get something out of it though. The experience did force me to read much more carefully, and make an effort to fully understand. That can’t be bad, even with a blank review page staring at me.
Have reviews ever affected your decision whether or not to read a book?