Thoughts on reviewing books

Published June 13, 2020

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With the coronavirus shortening my work commute into a walk down the hall, I’ve been able to read more in the mornings. Now that I’ve been gifted more time in the day, I am finishing about a book a week (I’m privileged to have at least an hour a day for reading, and that time quickly adds up). It has been amazing to return to my teenage reading habits when my parents feigned exasperation at my perpetual nose-in-book lifestyle - “is that kid reading again?”. In these tumultuous times, books have also been a welcome respite (well-documented positive effects of reading on mental well-being probably don’t hurt).

Reading more, I couldn’t help but notice book reviews everywhere. Inspired, I wrote a few, but found myself asking what I wanted to get out of the creative energy I was channeling into them (after all, I’m not a professional book-review-writer and my time is limited). In order to think clearly about the topic, I sought inspiration in the work of other writers.

How do other writers approach book reviews?

With the question “how should I write about what I’ve been reading?” in mind, I started compiling examples of book reviews and categorizing them by style:

With a general overview of possible styles loaded into my memory, I switched to thinking about what I was hoping to get out of the process.

What do I want to get out of book reviews?

After consuming diverse, different review styles, I realized that I could reduce my motivation for reviewing books to two goals: retention of what I learned (in the case of non-fiction) books and writing something other people enjoy reading.

Thankfully there is a large body of knowledge about how to accomplish the first goal using spaced repetition.

Spaced repetition is also called SRS, and there are many sources about how to use the system to increase retention:

Unfortunately, making book reviews enjoyable for other people is a more difficult problem, and the best path is being inspired by others. If you find a great review send it my way!

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