…like Sparknotes, academic articles, or other bloggers’ reviews? If so, why? If not, why not?
This is the January 2012 question for the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase. It’s my first time to join this blog hop, but it is perfect timing, being not only the beginning of the year, but also the commencement point for several new reading challenges that I hope to complete during 2012. Read on for my answer.
Do I supplement my reading?
When I was in college school, there was no question about the fact that I would have to supplement everything I read in order to (ultimately) write a research paper, answer classroom questions, or respond to an essay question on a test that required more than a rudimentary knowledge of the text. At any rate, I got very familiar with ferreting out expert opinions, but (not necessarily) familiar with coming to my own opinions & conclusions as I read. I don’t know if this was due in part to being young and less experienced as a reader of classics and other meritorious literature, or if was simply due to laziness.
In graduate school it was largely the same, with the big change being that I was now thinking more independently and more critically about what I was reading. My opinions were important, and professors were interested in hearing all of us flesh out our thoughts and put some meat on our critical thinking bones. Academic articles and supplemental information were meant less for coming to an understanding of the work than for supporting our theories, and giving us some solid intellectual ground as we ground out some (hopefully) fresh and original ideas. Whether or not those ideas actually gained any traction, the process of reading, discussing, studying critically, and applying our own perspectives to our literary pursuits made us…me…a much more confident reader.
Fast forward to now…
I almost never supplement my reading now, unless there is something about the book or the author that so captures my attention that I feel a need for some additional insight. Those incidents are not cases of lacking understanding so much as a desire to broaden my appreciation of what I read by getting some backstory. Sometimes reading a few blogger reviews fills that need, but there are times when I’m voratiously reading whatever information I can find. I never do (and never did) any supplemental reading ahead of time, and though this was not a necessarily conscious decision, I do believe that it is important to read and appreciate the text on my own before seeking out anything else. Most of the time that’s sufficient. When it’s not, I read & research until I satisfy the questions in my head.
Then I write my review, and I may or may not reference any supplemental sources. I want my reviews to reflect my opinions, my assessments, my critique of the writing and the story. In the end, I hope that they do.
Aside from the actual blurb and review, I’m curious what those who review books find pertinent or useful in a book review. Since I started reviewing books, I have typically included some indentifying info at the top of the review: title, media type, # of pages, ISBN, and sometimes other details provided by Amazon.com or Goodreads.com. Over time, I settled onto a set of things I included every time…all of the above plus my rating.
I read book reviews on a regular basis – from lots of different media – and I have seen a lot of different styles, types of information, formats, etc. So I am posing a question to you…READERS…about what details you think should always be present in a good book review. I want to improve this year, and you can help me!
Of the list below, what is critical to know? What absolutely must be included? What should be left out? What is not necessary? What can make a good review better? More enjoyable to read? What can detract or distract?
That’s all I can think of at the moment. If there is something that you believe is important that I have not thought of, please share it with me. I welcome your input!
Happy Reading…and reviewing.