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!
The books I review come from various sources. Many are mine – or have been lent to me or been borrowed from a library – but many others are review copies sent to me by publishers and/or authors. It is mainly for this reason that I decided 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 nearly 30 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 commit to 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, to approve. My goal is to come away from a book having gained something from it. Why else would I have read it? (In other words, if I mistakenly start a book that doesn’t appeal to me, I don’t finish it – and I don’t review books I don’t finish.)
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 sending books for review 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 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, proof copies or unpublished manuscripts.