Book reviews

Reading has always been a big part of my life, now reviewing is too
Created: 2003-11-03 Updated: 2008-06-07

I once hosted my reviews here. These days my book reviews are on Goodreads where they are more likely to be seen and commented upon.

my goodreads account

They rarely are, mind you. I’m not a top reviewer or anything.

But that’s okay.

It’s great, actually.

The practice

Because writing reviews has turned out to be a fantastic learning processing. Like programming, I find that I look back on old reviews and see the same immaturity I see in my old code. That’s a good thing.

And I don’t think I would have improved to the degree that I have if I weren’t doing it in public. Maybe only a handful of people will ever read a given review of mine. But the idea of the exposure still pushes me to improve.

Do it in public

I get that same motivation when I write (mostly technical) content for this website. Usually I’m teaching myself how to do things by writing about them. By imagining a public audience, I am forced to think more logically and clearly than if I were just cobling together notes for myself. The end result is far stronger (and more useful!).

It’s the same process with book reviews: I’m thinking out loud about what I’ve just read. I find myself less and less at a loss for words and I think I’ve gotten increasingly coherent.

I’ve had the same experience in improving my art by posting pages of my sketchbook to Instagram as I mention here. (Update: I haven’t "rage quit" Instagram, but am now on Mastodon and would like to transition entirely.)

Better reviews come from better readers?

I take way more notes than I did before I started writing reviews. (I write them on sticky notes and put them in the margins.)

I find myself thinking, "that’s going in the review!" as I read nonfiction. (Nothing but the story is going on in my head while reading good fiction.)

Additional benefits

I get to do my part to fill the world with the type of book reviews I like, which:

  • Contain no spoilers

  • Don’t summarize the plot (that’s a book report)

  • Back up opinion with examples or explanations

  • Are often semi-autobiographical

My reviews make excellent notes to myself - if I can’t remember a book I’ve read, I can just read my review and that often pulls it right back up into my memory. (Sometimes it doesn’t, which can be an amusing experience.)

Finally, it’s cathartic to scorch a really bad book and fulfilling to glow about a really great book.