There’s a bit of a lull in my book review schedule as the ones I am slated to review don’t start hitting bookstores until January and I don’t like reading a book too many weeks before it gets published. As a result, I’ve been pretty much reading whatever strikes my fancy lately and it’s brought to mind something I’ve noticed over the last couple years: I think read differently if I’m going to review a book than if I’m “just reading.”
Don’t get me wrong. The books I review are ones I have an interest in so it isn’t like I’m being “forced” to read them. In fact, I receive a number of unsolicited books that I don’t even open simply because they don’t interest me. (And I figure I have no obligation to read and review a book that arrives unsolicited.) But I still think I approach review books from a different perspective.
Character development, plot, writing style and the like factor in to the enjoyment of any book. Yet we aren’t normally expected to explain or provide examples of why we like or dislike various things in a book we’re “just reading.” Even though our emotional and analytical reactions are (hopefully) the same, our thoughts about a book read for pleasure are likely entirely internal. With a review, however, we need to be able to translate those thoughts and reactions into words.
Knowing I am going to be writing a review probably makes me a bit more conscientious or attentive when it comes to themes, point of view or dialogue. I also think I take a bit broader view, not limiting things to my personal reaction but also items such as how a book fits in or departs from genre elements might impact someone else’s decision to read the book.
I’m not saying one approach is good and the other bad. I’m just again recognizing there is a difference.
A critic is a reader who ruminates. Thus, he should have more than one stomach.