Really it’s just my way, but the title makes it seem more legitimate.
Although I have not generally written reviews on this blog, as a reader constantly searching for new books to read, I have often contemplated what the perfect review structure for me would be. And so I have decided to apply some logical processes and the scientific method to create a review format that I think meets all the functional requirements of reviews and also gives me something to do on here because I am out of blogging ideas. So it begins:
When coming up with a review format, there are a few questions we need to consider:
1. What is the purpose of a book review?
2. Who is going to be reading these book reviews?
3. Why should they care what I have to say?
These are the three general questions that can be applied to all non-fiction, of which book reviews are a subgenre. The first is a question of purpose, the second of people, and the third of platform. (Actually, the second is of target audience, but having three “p” words sounds better and is apparently a marketing strategy.)
So, some answers:
1. The purpose of every book review is to help readers find books they will enjoy. This is the prime directive. There are a few other options: To encourage people to read books you want them to read. To shed some light on little known books. To spread the word about books that are relevant to a certain political/social justice goal. To sell an author’s books. That last answer is not the kind of purpose I will be talking about. People write reviews to achieve that goal, but that doesn’t make it a legitimate goal of a book review.
2. The people you are trying to reach are going to vary depending on what books you review. If you’re reviewing books in a certain genre, then your main audience is going to be people who read in that genre. They could also be general readers, readers that are part of a community that you belong to, or readers with a tendency to avoid reading the kind of book you are reviewing. Your approach is going to differ depending on which kind of audience you are reaching out to.
3. Your platform is what gives you the authority to review books. By authority, I don’t mean the right. Everybody has the right to write book reviews. I mean it’s what lends weight to your opinions. Everyone has an opinion, and not all of them are equal. (In order to avoid the whole philosophical debate, I’ll go into more detail on that in the second part of this discussion.) Your platform is there to help readers decide whether they think your reviews will be helpful in finding them books they’d like to read.
That’s the overview. Over the next few days, I’m going to expand on these ideas in individual posts. The first is scheduled for this Wednesday, and will tackle Question #1 in more detail. I’ll expand on the various purposes for writing a review, the reasoning behind those purposes, and whether they are good or bad or in the middle.