On writing book reviews

As someone who enjoys writing the odd book review, I was struck by this statement (re-)posted over at Mike Crowl’s blog:

‘Over the years, I have come to find writing book reviews even more distasteful than reading them. Part of this is my own fault, for being one of those old-fashioned holdouts who still believes that you should actually read the book before reviewing it. Sometimes I am only into the first 20 pages of a 500-page book when it becomes painfully clear that this one is a real dog. The rest of the ordeal is like crossing the Sahara Desert – except that often there are no oases. True, the reviewer gets to slaughter the author in print at the end of it all, but this merely appeases the desire for revenge, which only real blood would satisfy’. – Thomas Sowell, Some Thoughts about Writing (Stanford: Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, 2001), 21.

Can’t say that I’ve ever felt like ‘slaughter[ing] the author in print’, but there’s still a pile of books on my desk awaiting review, so …


  1. If you were a professional book reviewer, I’d agree that you should finish the book. If you are not, if you are a blogger who reviews books for fun, why make yourself miserable? Give yourself an hour, if you aren’t enjoying the book, tell your readers how many pages you read and why you aren’t reading more.


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