I’ve been studying writing for the last four years at Susquehanna and in that time I am just now encountering the world of book reviewing. There are rules, regulations, standards of literacy which accompany all of these genres and I thought I had it down, at least in terms of the basics. Poetry is the flow of emotions from my soul, fiction from a place I’ve made up in my head and non-fiction from a place somewhere in between. Book reviewing is definitely a part of this language and what I understand the clearest is that to be successful, you have to be good.
Literally anyone can write a book review. That might be part of the problem I have with it because as a writer I understand that Amazon.com is not the place to find a good book review, but that the masses flock to those kinds of sites to get their information. A good book review can be found in The New York Times or other accredited websites and publications, but even then I feel uneducated on where to look or what reviewers to look for. In a way book reviewing feels even less talked about then poetry, but comes with a lot more rules and an understanding that you won’t even publish unless you’ve written a review worth reading.
I began to understand a lot about book reviewing by reading William Zinsser’s book, “On Writing Well.” In his book he writers down everything a book reviewer would need to be successful, but actually being successful feels like another thing entirely. Success is something that has to just haunt some writers at night, let alone a senior in her last semester of college. This kind of success takes flawless grammar and punctuation, sentence structure, content, style, and an understanding of who the audience could potentially be for the book your reviewing. On the surface it seems easy to just think you know what your doing, but if I’ve learned anything from attempting to write my first novel, it takes relentless practice and a painstaking meticulous determination. Maybe I’m just stuck on the part of success, which can be measured by all different standards. A successful book review needs to be combed over line by line and working to shape an understanding of a book which the audience would potentially read.
Clutter and Style stood out the most for me in Zinsser’s book. Clutter is when the reviewer is talking to much or using phrases such as “excuse my next overly pretentious comment but, Dan Brown is the worst author ever.” Clutter doesn’t help to prove the points the reviewer is making and they end up sounding like jerks. Style is very important because its the writing that comes from the reviewer which really sticks and etches their pathway for further reviews. Unfortunately finding an individual style is something else entirely and it comes from that idea of relentless practice. In theory the more you book review, the better you become…in theory.