So, the other week, I explored the sordid truth around the books I don’t review. This post is to explore the other side of things; the books I do review. Again, it’s in no particular order, nor does everything apply to each particular decision to review, but one thing I can definitely say is that this post is a lot less embarrassing than the first…
- An emotional response. Good, bad, anger, joy, weeping on the bus. Whatever it triggers when I read it, I want to know more. I want to write about.
- It’s about something that’s never been done before.
- The PR person is lovely. Polite, friendly, realistic and it’s a pleasure to deal with them. They know my name. They know the sort of things I review and what I can review (ie: children’s. You’d be surprised at how many don’t). This means nothing to the content of the book review, but it means everything to that initial decision to read.
- The author is lovely. Polite, friendly, constructive. Again, this means nothing to the actual book review which is always as objective as I can get it, but it does mean everything to that initial decision to read. If you are nice, if you’re interesting, I want to see what you write like. Simple. I’m fascinated as to the stories that people hold and I want to find out what they are.
- The book is beautiful. You read with your eyes, so much, and if a book has been crafted and put together with love, it means that there are a lot of people invested in it. Hope. Money. Dreams. Artforms. A valued object that looks valued piques my attention. Production values matter.
- I have time to review them and do the work, the author and the publishers justice. I don’t ever want to skimp on my reviews nor do I want to rush them out. It’s a value thing; I value each and every book that reaches this point and I want to give it them time its worth. Another story in the world excites me, every day, and I can’t ever not pay tribute to that.
- Something different. Something that makes it stand out from the crowd. Again, this is difficult to quantify as it could be anything. But what I’m looking for is a book that knows its space, that knows exactly what it wants to be and where it stands in the world. My supervisor speaks a lot about knowing the context of your work and he’s absolutely right. Know the books you’re shelved with; know the authors, know the game. And carve out your own space in that game.
- Boarding schools. Pretty much a guaranteed pass to the first place in the queue.
- Ditto pony stories. My Thowra / Misty of Chiconteague heart is still in existence and I love these.
- If I’ve read a book by the author before and enjoyed it. Simple as.
- If I can talk about it and add something to the discourse around the book. Maybe something that’s been missing beforehand, something that my read can add to that book and benefit that book. When I review something, I want that book to do well. I want it to live and to thrive. And in the case of the Angela Brazil’s, the Brent-Dyer’s, I want the relevance of that book within the world to be reasserted.
- If I like it. If it makes my heart beat, makes me cry, makes me wonder how the world existed without it beforehand. If it makes me feel like it’s been in the world a long time. That’s what I hunger for.
- If it’s clever. If it plays with the page edge, if it does something interesting with the copyright notice, the front cover, or the bibliographic information.
- If it’s in the library. I don’t buy much as I think it’s important to support my library but I also would be be bankrupt if I bought everything I wished. That’s why I review a bit of everything; the contemporary and the classic. The books that came out quietly and the ones that came out with a bang.I review what catches my eye there, alongside the things I pick up and am sent from people.
Really, this all boils down to one thing. It is a GOOD book.
And we are so very lucky right now to have so many of them!