Are book reviews important?

Book reviewsGiven the content of this blog, it’s pretty clear where I stand on this. But there are writers who question the point of a book review and can be scathing about reviewers.

In this article in The New Statesman, Chris Power defends the point of the review.

“Reviews don’t matter. ‘I never really trust reviews,’ said Karl Ove Knausgaard in a recently published interview. … When considering the criticism of criticism, you needn’t look hard to find equivalents to Michael Gove’s comment, from June 2016, that ‘the people in this country have had enough of experts’.

“Of course reviews matter. That’s easy and predictable enough for someone writing a review to say, but it can be proven. Reviews matter in two ways: as filters, and as shapers of opinion. In his 1991 book, U & I, Nicholson Baker describes ‘book reviews, not books’ as ‘the principal engines of change in the history of thought’; because no one has time to read all the books they want to, reviews must sometimes stand in for the thing itself. The more contentious point, about influence, can be divided into two questions: do they influence and if so is that influence beneficial or malign? …

“Despite the modern quantification of criticism – exemplified by the Tomatometer score formulated by the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes – which can give a false impression of objectivity, a review is only ever an opinion. This is why good criticism always refers back to the work under review to support its points.”

Read the full article, What’s the point of book reviews?.

Photo: Thad Zajdowicz

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