Do's and Dont's of reviewing books

Reading widely and writing book reviews either on your blog or at online bookstores serves your career and your colleagues well. But have you ever read a book review that was totally unhelpful?

Reading widely and writing book reviews either on your blog or at online bookstores serves your career and your colleagues well. But have you ever read a book review that was totally unhelpful? Think about these review comments:

"I thought this book was going to be about X. It was about Y. I was disappointed." (Such a comment reveals nothing about the book! It merely states that the reviewer had the wrong idea before he/she bought the book. The reviewer may have misread the title, misread the jacket copy, or failed to read the book's description, purpose, and table of contents.)

"Everybody could benefit from being more organized. This is a must-read book. Highly recommended." (Not particularly helpful with specifics when there are 357 books on being organized)

So if you plan to write reviews that get read, consider these tips offered from experience by Dianna Booher of Huffington Post who has been a book reviewer for a very long time.

With the following "Dos" in mind, you should be able to write a substantive review in 5-10 minutes. These guidelines work well for most categories of nonfiction and fiction.

Review Dos -- (It's not necessary to include all the following items -- but these are typical of most professional reviews.)

  • Execution IS the Strategy
  • Complainers and Energy Drainers

The goal in pointing out a weakness with a colleague's book is somewhat the same as the job applicant's when asked the clichéd question: "What is your biggest weakness?" Answer: "I'm a perfectionist."

  • Klout Matters

The upshot: Do your colleagues and yourself a favor. Read widely to broaden your thinking, and write a thoughtful review to continue the conversation.

Review Don'ts--

"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." "She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B."

Here are a few other famous put-downs that have lived on as part of the author-reviewer's reputation:

--Mary McCarthy about Lillian Hellman: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'"

--Truman Capote on Jacqueline Suzanne: "She doesn't write, she types."

--Gore Vidal: "The three saddest words in the English language are Joyce Carol Oates."

My guess is that you have more positive ways to build your reputation. Look for the best in the book or find a better book to share with your colleagues and friends.

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