Book Reviewing—A Thankless Job

If you can’t say anything nice,
Say nothing at all.

lame old folk wisdom

Peace and joy.

From time to time, Your Uncle Jerry will hear a young camper resolve never again to write a negative book review. This is a mistake.

It’s a mistake, my friend, because a book review is supposed to be negative. That’s why they call it a book review.

A good, vicious, unfair, uninformed response from an ill-tempered reader is just what most books and most writers need. It’s like Uncle Jerry’s mom (Grandma Jerry) always used to say as she dragged him by the wrist to the woodshed: A proper thrashing actually makes a person stronger. Why? It stiffens the spine, thickens the skin. Even if you don’t deserve it? Listen, camper: you know you deserve it, if not for this time, then for times before when you didn’t get caught.

And, think about it: a bad review brings just as much attention to the writer as a good review. They’ll thank you later. Your Uncle Jerry always writes negative book reviews for just this reason. There are writers all over the country who are speechless with gratitude for Your Uncle Jerry. 

Often, Uncle Jerry will review a book that he hasn’t even read. You may be surprised to hear it isn’t necessary to read a book in order to know what you think of it. That’s only because you don’t read School Library Journal. For a professional reviewer, knowing just the title or the author is usually enough. Take a glance at the cover online, if you need to feel all research-y. 

And negative reviewing is good not only for the writer; it’s good for the reviewer, too. Sharpen the pencil, sharpen the mind. If you want to improve your own work, spend some time destroying the work of another.

But remember, Camper, insulting someone in public is a thankless job. It takes practice, dedication. Fortunately, a book review is a perfect venue for practice, because your target cannot retaliate without being accused of sour grapes. 

Now, some may call it chicken to trash another human being while hiding behind cheap cover like “it’s only my opinion.” But let’s face it, as a reviewer, you need any protection you can get. 

Chapter Twelve is ready for your review.

Joy and peace.

1 comment:

  1. You sound a little bitter, Uncle Jerry. I wonder why that is?