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Introducing Robert’s Raves and Reviews

Although it’s fun to link to lots of ebook deals (especially if I end up obtaining the ebook myself), I recognize that reviews are more useful to readers than deal announcements. So I’ll alternate my ebook deal posts with a column with links to many reviews (with a few I have personally written).

Book reviewers are saints, I tell you. Reviewing books can be a thankless task — especially if you are busy with your own writing projects. With the explosion in indie titles over the past decade, it’s become clear how many indie titles are being ignored by national book reviews. Amazon.com and other places have provided a platform for overlooked authors to receive reviews. Horray! At the same time, these amateur reviewers (much as people may castigate them) are in short supply –especially as the number of books released each year continues to grow.

Although I’ve written competent book reviews, I’ve never considered book reviewing to be my forte. To write book reviews, you have to do them regularly and with consistent standards. Also you have to get inside what the book is supposed to do — and sometimes that is a challenge.

You also have to finish books — something I’m bad about — even for fiction. I read a lot, but mostly for a specific purpose (i.e., research for something I’m working on). I am constantly interrupting my reading to read other things. Short story collections mitigate the problem somewhat because all you have to do is get to the end of one story before leaping onto another book. I like reading novels, but do it so rarely (hey, I’m working on that, I promise!)

Even when I get into some book, with all the interruptions it can take months to finish. I started Babbitt months ago and still haven’t finished it — though this is not the book’s fault. Should I review it? Committing to review something only adds to the burden of reading. Sometimes this burden is an acceptable one — especially for book titles which have been overlooked. On the other hand, does anyone really care about my opinions on Babbitt?

I grow weary of longish reviews by the professional book reviewer. Sure, it’s good to have some cultural context or background about the author’s previous works, but not every book requires a review essay worth being published on New York Review of Books. Reading reviews shouldn’t be an intellectual burden. Also, you don’t really need analysis until you’ve finished reading something. These sorts of reviews aren’t particularly helpful for the initial “Should I or Shouldn’t I read this?” decision. From a promotional and informational perspective, sometimes a 1 or 2 sentence summary of the book’s premise and style is all you really need to decide whether to go for it.

So I’ll try to write brief reviews when I can, longer things when I have more to say. But I’ll spend more time linking to book reviews by others — especially for overlooked/indie ebooks. I’ll also give a slight preference for Smashwords titles. (read my commercial disclosures here).

Book reviews are much less time-sensitive, so I’m not worried whether the review or the title reviewed is new. Here are some categories that suggest itself.

  • Book(s) of the Month
  • Genre
  • Public Domain
  • Texas
  • Poetry
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • others?

I’ve noticed that nonfiction books or topical books are easier to review; hence, I’ll avoid reviewing them (unless I can’t help myself).

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