Book Reviews

I’ve written about a hundred book reviews in my life (I haven’t counted exactly) beginning when I was 22. I believe the book review is a valuable form and not easy to do well. I would encourage everyone to do them and take them seriously. It’s important in a book review to convey accurately and succinctly what the author has to say before offering any evaluation. Few books are perfect and many are defective in one way or another. When it comes to criticism two points are paramount: (a) make your criticisms as honestly and forcefully as is appropriate, (b) try to find redeeming features in even the worst performance. Point (b) is very important: hardly any book has no good qualities. Whenever you read a review by someone that contains nothing positive at all, but only criticism, be suspicious–the reviewer has an agenda or a vendetta or wants to look tough. A good reviewer must above all be fair, even when highly critical; so he or she should try to be positive as well as negative. This is not to say that that will always be possible compatibly with honesty.

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