On Book Reviews

I had this great idea. I was going to write a book review for every single book I read, as soon as I finished it, while it was still fresh in my head. After all, I’ve read almost 150 books in the past three years alone. Surely that would have generated a respectable number of book reviews by now. But alas, it didn’t happen that way.

In the first place, how many times did Mom drill into my head that if you didn’t have something nice to say about someone, it was better not to say anything at all? It is difficult for me to write anything less than a 4-star review. Three stars is about as low as I go.

And secondly, who am I, who is anyone for that matter, to decide what is good and what is bad? There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to books. Our tastes in books are personal, as unique as we are ourselves unique as individuals.

It was my cancer survivor’s writing group, which utilizes the techniques and philosophy of the Amherst Writers and Artists Methodology, which pointed the way to how I might resolve this dilemma. In our group, we don’t critique each other’s writings, per se. We listen in silence, non-judgmentally, and only after the piece is read do we comment on what we heard in the writing, what stayed with us, what did we remember?

This gave me a new direction for my book reviews. Why not make them more like book commentaries instead? Write about what I learned from them, what stayed with me, what moved me, what was useful, entertaining, or enlightening? In that spirit, I think I’m ready to write about books again!

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