Book Reviews: Why do we read them?

The Millions posted an excellent summary of the recent book review crisis. I highly recommend giving it a read. Basically, the literary community has been up in arms lately regarding the purpose and tone of book reviews.

I read book reviews because they help me pick my next read. They help me find like minded individuals who are more likely to recommend books that I like, and most of all they put me in a position to better discuss books with everyone I know. I love it when people ask me what they should read next. I take it as a personal compliment when anyone comes to me looking for something inspiring….or fluffy depending on the mood.

There’s obviously a difference between book bloggers, and literary critics. We, the subjective masses, read whatever books we want. We say what we thought of them and compare them to books we’ve already read. Our value is based upon the fact that we read more than most folks, so our breadth knowledge is just wider. Not saying I’m better at reading than anyone, but I plow through books more than people who…you know…leave the house and all that non-agoraphobic goodness.

Literary critics are a whole other animal. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around literary criticism for years, and I just can’t get there. The idea is to study the evolution of language itself as it relates to literature. Huh? As an academic, I’m interested. As someone who devotes plenty of time to reading? Who cares? Does it make my reading experience any better to know which school of thought compelled my author of choice to write a certain way?


I’ve decided to start reading criticism and discussing it on this blog. I have no idea if it’ll make your reading experience better, but it’s worth a try, right?


Book Reviews: Why do we read them? — 1 Comment

  1. That’s an interesting question, and one that can be asked in many fields – does knowing what techniques were popular during the Renaissance make us appreciate Michelangelo any more? Maybe. But it also distances us from Michelangelo’s original vision. I wasn’t there to ask him, but I’d venture a guess that the technique didn’t matter to Michelangelo – it was merely a means to an end. A method of expressing himself to the world.

    When we analyze a story from a literary point of view, it can help us understand certain academic ideas and even even figure out what makes a story good or a writer talented. But never forget why we’re here in the first place: to be transported to a different world, or experience a different life. Although they’re both important, it’s easy sometimes to miss the forest for the trees.

    So to answer the question, I suppose it depends: why do you read in the first place?

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