Sunday, February 05, 2012

Why I Review

Over at The Blue Bookcase, Ingrid posted about why she reviews and how her reviews have changed over time.  It got me thinking about what made me start to blog more and why I decided to start reviewing the books that I was reading.

About eight years ago I was traveling between St. Louis and Minneapolis every week.  This went on for three years and during that time I did a lot reading in airports, airplanes, hotels, cars and public transportation.  Sometime in the second year I bought a moleskin notebook and started taking notes about the books that I was reading.  I did this mostly to keep track of the books I'd read and to capture a general impression of the book.

When GoodReads came along, I started tracking what I was reading, but not really reviewing anything.  I liked having a pretty list of all of the things I'd read along with a star-rating.  I'd followed a few book blogs on and off, but never thought it was something that I could do or that I wanted to do.

Last year for Christmas, my wife surprised me with a Kindle.  For the past four or five years, I'd read fewer and fewer books, mostly due to the small business we ran and then later because I became a parent.  I still read a few books a year, but it was nothing compared to the volume I used to consume in my younger years.  But this Kindle changed everything!  I read the first book within a week.  And then another and another and another.  I found myself wanting to keep track of everything I was reading and I started looking around for places to talk about these books.  That's when I started reading a lot of book blogs.

I started trying to write about the books that I had read.  These first reviews weren't great and I was working out my voice as a writer and reviewer.  There are several unpublished reviews that read a lot more like something Alice, Meg or Amanda would have written.  It's a fun (and funny!) way to write, but in the end it wasn't me.  Since then I've just worked to honestly talk about what I've read and the voice has just sort of matured and become its own thing.

But why do I review?  I review because I like to have my opinion out there in the world.  I review because I love the discussion with other readers that agree and disagree with my assessment.  I review because I love the community that I've entered.  Finally, I review because it forces me to think critically about books.  I love books and I want to have a thoughtful relationship with the books that I read.

I've noticed a few things about the books I've reviewed.  For the most part they've been pretty good and even the books I didn't like so much weren't all that bad.  They have all been fairly well written.  The quality of the prose of just about everything I reviewed was pretty top-notch.  I've also fallen in love with the smaller indie presses like Atticus BooksBellevue Literary Press, New Directions and Melville House.  I've become very publisher-aware - and that's a good thing!

I've loved writing on this blog and having the opportunity to share my reviews with all you.  I've enjoyed meeting new people (hi Mary Beth!) and becoming part of a community of readers and writers.  Thanks to the readers and the commenters for reading this blog and thank you to the authors and publishers for getting these great books out into the world.

I've two reviews in the pipeline for next week!  Stay tuned!

Finally, here's a silly picture:

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