“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


An Unintentional Review of Reviews

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I always hated writing book reports back in my school days. I never knew what they were supposed to be – a summary? – a review? – nothing more than proof that you read the book?

As an adult, I have no teachers to make me write book reports anymore, but a book review seems to be the grown-up version of a book report in some ways. The problem is that I really don't like book reviews either – at least not what I think of as book reviews.

In my (possibly warped) mind, book reviews are written by well-educated, hyper-literary people who could medal in the MENSA Mind Olympics in the literary category if there was one. They know all the rules, have read every book ever written, and remember everything they read. Their reviews are riddled with facts I don't care to know (like how many awards the author has won and what lists the book is on) and never really tell me whether or not I would like the book or not.

What I do like is reading what my friends think. Since these are the people I like to hang out with (or whose blogs I like to hang out at), chances are if they like it, I might like it too. I don't necessarily want to know if its the most brilliant piece of literature of the century. (Okay, if it really was the most brilliant, I might want to know that, but the truth is that brilliance is just so subjective.)

I guess you could say what I want is a friendly opinion of the book you read. The really nice thing about friendly opinions of books (as opposed to reviews) is that you find out the stuff you really want to know, like whether or not you fell in love with the characters; if you got so immersed in the story that you forgot to make dinner; if you would buy the book because you know that you'll read it a dozen more times in your lifetime – or in the next 6 months.

I guess this is what most bloggers write when they post a review on their blog, but for some reason whenever I see that someone is posting a "book review", I think of that warped, MENSA-member-written version of a review instead of the nice friendly version.

Anyway, I was planning to sit down and write my friendly opinion of a book I just read, but the moment I typed the word "review" I choked and wrote this instead. I guess the actually opinion-giving will have to wait.

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