Skip to content

Review policy

There is a difference between a book review and a book recommendation. (Publishers Weekly blogger Bethanne Patrick)

As I’ve been writing this blog for a few months now, it’s probably about time I wrote a review policy. My policy doesn’t differ much from those of other bloggers (to whom I am grateful for support, encouragement and help, including Lisa at ANZLitLovers, Kimbofo at Reading Matters, and Tom at A Common Reader) but I guess it is still worth putting my own stamp on it here!

Most of the books I review are mine – or have been lent to me or been borrowed from a library – but I recently received a few books for review from a publisher, thus prompting me to go a bit more formal, policy-wise that is, not style-wise! First off, a bit about my background:

  • I am not a professional reviewer, but I have been reading for as long as I can remember
  • I have been a member of various bookgroups (in person and online) for over 20 years, and so have thought long on what makes a book tick (for me), why I read, and what I look for in my reading
  • I am a (retired) librarian/archivist, though I spent most of my career working with audiovisual media, not books
  • My degree – albeit completed over 30 years ago – was in English Literature

When it comes to reviewing, I see myself as an analytical critic rather than a critical (in the modern negative connotation of the word) analyst. In other words, I like to explore, understand and describe what makes a work tick rather than look for things to criticise. I like most of what I read. This is partly because I try to choose books that I think I will like – I can’t see the point of wasting my precious time on reading something that is clearly not my cup-of-tea. It is also because once I start reading a work I look to understand and appreciate it. I might find things to fault, things I don’t like, but I also tend to always find things to enjoy. My goal is to come away from a book having gained something from it. Why else would I have read it?

That said, my reviews are my honest opinion – I am not going to enthuse where it is not warranted. I honour and respect authors but I also honour and respect readers. I aim to be fair to both – after all, my opinions are just that, my opinions and are framed by my specific likes, dislikes, preferences and, I suppose if I’m honest, biases. All my reviews should be read in the light of this fact…and, probably, the more of them you read the more you will discern my preferences and biases! I would call my reviewing style semi-formal – it’s personalised but essentially traditional in structure, and is sometimes supported by a little research.

I am happy to accept books for review, on the following basis:

  • they are the sorts of books I like to read (that I would normally buy or borrow)
  • they will be read within reasonable time but their priority will be depend on other commitments at the time
  • their source will be acknowledged
  • they will be retained in my library, or passed on to others (by my choice)

Publishers who would like to contact me regarding reviews can email me at wg1775(at)gmail(dot)com

The sorts of books I read are:

  • Australian literature – classic and contemporary
  • Literary fiction, in English language, of any nationality
  • Literary classics, from the 18th century on
  • Biography and autobiography, including travel literature
  • General, not academic, history and theory of literature
  • Social commentary and history, particularly relating to Australia

It would be rare for me to read outside this group. I rarely if ever read crime (true or otherwise), science fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, thrillers, sagas, or books in series. Neither, I’m afraid, do I read self-published works.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Louise permalink
    September 26, 2009 8:08 pm

    I’m intrigued as to why you have a blanket ban on self-published books Sue.

  2. whisperinggums permalink*
    September 26, 2009 8:24 pm

    Good question, Louise. To be bald about it, it’s because I don’t have time to read books that I have no notion of whether they are likely to appeal to me. It sounds ungenerous I suppose but a book that is “formally” published has gone through some external (to the author) selection and editing process which implies that some sort of standard has been met – and if it is published by a publisher I respect, I have a good idea of just what that standard is. Does that make sense?

  3. August 27, 2010 9:22 pm

    Dear Colleague,

    Here is a short excerpt from my new book aimed at helping students negotiate the difficult passage from high school to college. If after reading it you would like a copy for review, you will find contact information below.

    Yours sincerely,

    Philip Yaffe
    Editor-in-Chief, UCLA Daily Bruin (1964-65)
    The Wall Street Journal

    During my senior year, I tutored writing to make a bit of much-needed cash. I remember one case in particular. A girl came to me with a note from a professor: “Young lady, I advise you either to drop my class immediately or prepare to fail it.” Obviously she was bright enough; after all she was a student at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). So where was the problem?

    I read a couple of her essays that had gotten such poor marks. There was no question that she had a lot of interesting things to say. Equally, there was no question that she was saying them badly.

    It very quickly became apparent where the problem lay. She simply was not fully using one of the fundamental principles of good writing, because she thought that consistently applying it was just too much trouble. It took a couple of sessions to convince her that it wasn’t too much trouble — in fact it was crucial. Her writing immediately began to improve. At the end of the term, not only didn’t she fail the class, she had pulled her grade all the way up from a certain “F” to a gratifying “B”.

    This was not an isolated case. When students were having writing difficulties, it was generally because they were: 1) unfamiliar with a fundamental principle, 2) inconsistently applying it, 3) improperly applying it, or 4) not applying it at all.

    I am not saying that to be a good writer, you should first study journalism. However, because it was the antithesis of the poor writing I had been doing previously, journalism gave me a flying start. Over the past four decades I think I have added some insights into good writing that I didn’t learn from journalism. Or at least I have made explicit certain key ideas which previously were implicit, and therefore poorly applied.

    The title of the book is The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional. To request a review copy, please contact me at: phil.yaffe@yahoo.com,phil.yaffe@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 811 other followers

%d bloggers like this: