One Book Reviewer’s Pet Peeves

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Image by Geralt [CC0] via Pixabay

On the whole, as I wrote yesterday, reviewing books over the past five years has been a great experience. I do have a few pet peeves though.

  1. Unsolicited requests to review books utterly unrelated to my reviewing interests. Mercifully they have been few, perhaps because of the link to “How I Choose Books to Review” in my “About” page.
  2. Publicists at publishing houses who don’t respond to requests for review copies. Even a note saying, “thanks, but our review copies are limited to…” or “thanks, but we have already sent our allotted review copies.” I’m a person and not a bot and am interested in reviewing one of your books and talking about it with my network.
  3. Books with important things to say, that unfortunately are said badly. One person commented yesterday, “I’ve wondered if reviewers get books that they just really have a hard time reading, whether due to writing quality, subject matter, or for some other reason, but they have to slog through regardless to produce a fair review. It would take a lot of the joy out of reading.” Yes.
  4. Books that really should have remained articles but were padded out. Ten chapters that are variations on a theme with different stories. OK, I get it, already!
  5. People who ask questions about a book without reading my review. They don’t want to spend a couple minutes actually reading the review. I wonder if it occurred to them how much time goes into the reading of a book, and then writing a review that distills a book into a couple minutes reading? I’m happy to take time to respond to questions and comments about a review someone has read. But it seems insulting to ask me to take time to tell them what they could have found if they took the time to read the review.
  6. I don’t like it when people try to hi-jack comments on a post to promote their own blog, or book, or make off-topic comments. No one likes people who do this at a party. What makes people think it is OK online?
  7. There are people who argue with you about a book whose point of view they don’t agree with. It’s fine to engage me when you disagree with my assessment of a book. But if you disagree with the content of the book, your argument is with the author.
  8. Finally, I’m not a fan of e-galleys, especially the ones that expire. Worse is when they mix capitalization and lower case and weird formatting to prevent distribution. dO yOu like ReadIng senTences like thiS? I don’t have a tablet other than a Kindle. If you send an e-galley in an Adobe Digital Edition or epub format, the only way I can read it is by squinting at my phone. A print copy, even an advanced review copy, costs more, but it tells me you value the publisher-reviewer relationship. An e-galley doesn’t.

Apart from the last, most of these things happen rarely. E-galleys seem to be becoming more the rule than the exception. Most publicists respond quickly, usually positively and graciously when they can’t send the book I’m requesting. Most commenters read the reviews and take the conversation I’ve started in my review further. I enjoy most of the books I read–relatively few are a slog.

I think, on balance, book people, whether they write, publish, sell, review, or read, value and respect each other as well as sharing a common love–books! I think all of us realize that we need each other to sustain a reading culture.

Pet Peeves

In our book group this morning, all of us found ourselves wrestling with the tension of reading a work with worthwhile ideas that were elaborated both so densely and extensively that the reading was tedious.  So in a brief post, I will share five of my pet peeves with books:

1.  Authors who make the grasping of their ideas more difficult than need be with dense prose and complicated sentences.  If I can summarize their ideas simply, why can’t they, as the originator do so?

2.  Authors who use unnecessary jargon that may impress those of their own academic guild but leave everyone else thinking “what is s/he saying?”  I secretly wonder whether the members of the guild understand either.

3.  Books that should have been an article, where every chapter after the first is simply the effort to spin out an article length article into book length.

4.  Sidebars or other insertions into the text other than illustrations or figures necessary to the flow of the argument. I find these distract me from the argument.  Maybe that is the point–to distract me from an argument that isn’t very good.  Either that or this is material that seems somehow related but the author couldn’t figure out any other way to incorporate it into his/her argument.

5.  Books that purport to be making a serious argument for a disputed contention that fail to deal with the thoughtful objections to that anyone with a brain in their head would raise.

So those are some of my pet peeves.  What are yours?  To better writing!