Thursday, March 8, 2012

On book reviews

I spend a good portion of the evening on the Internet and I come across a lot of book reviews by young Indian bloggers and it warms my heart that the youth of this country read so widely across many genres. These individuals then share their opinion of the book on their blog and if their followers like the review, they might loosen the purse-strings or let their wallets see the light of day and purchase a copy of the book. Thus marketers depend on the bloggers to get word on their books out to the masses and hope the books start selling. Didn't Harry Potter catch on by word of mouth?
Anyway, before this post changes direction to an analysis of the Tipping Point theory, let me say that the latest trend is for publishers to give away a few complimentary copies of the book to bloggers and let them put up reviews on their blogs within a week after signing for the door-delivered book. Then it's the blogger's responsibility to put up a well articulated, analyzed opinion of the book and let people know if the book is worth the money and more importantly, the time to read it.
But this is where things go awry. Some of the reviews I've read offer sincere opinions, a break up of the chapters and what to expect overall. All-in-all a good review. But some people act irresponsibly: they buy the book and do a sloppy review that offers no real critique.

Here are some things I saw covered in such reviews:
- The entire blurb of the book is shamelessly copy-pasted. Every online store offers the blurb right beneath the product description. Why pray tell would we need you to just copy the same thing? Atleast a good paraphrase would be appreciated.
- Completely inane things like the look of the cover, the feel of the jacket and the quality of the pages are discussed. Really? So much for judging a book by its cover.
-Giving away the ending. Yes, some people actually do a summary of the story and give away major spoilers.
-Never being critical or honest. Every book isn't a Pulitzer Prize winner and there are plenty I'm sure that doesn't deserve a second glance after an unfortunate first encounter. Be honest and lay out what's great and what isn't. Misguiding people into spending money on a crappy book is tantamount to slap on the face.
-Background about the author and the themes covered!  Every book has hidden gems by means of metaphors, beautiful quotes and solid characters and plots. Reviewers don't discuss what they felt about those elements.

To wrap up this post, I would implore the bloggers out there to show that they've done their homework. I want to see beautiful posts that really dissect the book and lays bare the themes it covers. Show us, the readers, what you think of the book. Give us a quote; a taste of what's to come. Show us what you've seen yourself. And yeah, if a book's poorly written, just come out and say it.

Have you read any book reviews by Indian bloggers that you really appreciated or that made you facepalm yourselves repeatedly? Share in the comments.


Saru Singhal said...

I guess you are right. Most of the times, it is either the blurb or just nice things. Not what they actually feel about the book. They don't want to offend the author, it seems. Honestly, not many are well read to appreciate or evaluate the work.

prateek mathur said...

"So much for judging a book by its cover"- ha ha...that precisely explains 90% of book reviews out there..I also see them as cheap trick to get hits on ur blog...