Friday, July 12, 2013

Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory

Writing Reviews for Readers' AdvisoryWriting Reviews for Readers' Advisory by Brad Hooper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An expert reviewer shares the basics of book reviewing for librarians, using examples and lessons gained from his years of experience writing and editing for Booklist.

This is a small but useful book for any librarian who is new to the art of reviewing. Hooper boils the process down to answering two main questions: What is it about? How good is it? and offers rules of thumb, advice on avoiding pitfalls (like overwriting and negativity), as well as sample reviews.

Joyce Saricks contributed one especially useful chapter on evaluating and reviewing audiobooks. She packs a lot of information into a few short pages, and it's a good introduction to the topic. You may also consider visiting the AudioFile magazine online. The ALA also has a list of resources about audiobooks.

Hooper's word-count rules of thumb:
annotation: 25-50 words
short review: 175 words
full-length review: 500 words

Hooper includes a couple of appendixes: one on writing annotations, another on reviewers he especially enjoys, including John Updike's collected essays Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism and Eudora Welty's A Writer's Eye: Collected Book Reviews. He also suggests Nona Balakian's collected writings: Critical Encounters: Literary Views and Reviews, 1953-1977.

"Good reviews are good for several reasons, and even in short space they reveal a lot of things only about the book under review but also the reviewer. Even a short review is personal to some degree. Be mindful, then, that you are giving something of yourself away in a review!" - p. 54

"Just as dissection of the human body is an absolutely necessary requisite in a medical education, dissection of books or audiobooks is absolutely necessary for an education in reviewing. As indicated previously, it will not be the same reading or listening experience as before. You cannot simply sit back and enjoy. You must constantly analyze, forever dissecting the book or audiobook and identifying its component parts." - p. 56

"Annotations are not easily written; selecting the exact words and deciding which peculiar quality is most prominent and the most 'citable' - and thus characterizes the book most directly and meaningfully - is nearly an art. You cannot learn an art form in an evening." - 82 (Appendix A)

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