Monday, March 28, 2011

Popular Book Reviews

I've been talking for a while about how I have come to loathe popular book reviews. Everyone seems to review the same books--the NYT, Time and Newsweek magazines, all of the morning shows... Yes, I know that one major reason for the ubiquity of just a handful of the books published each week has at least a bit to do with the advertisement budgets and clout of major publishing houses. But that doesn't mean only the most expensive-to-produce books with the most PR behind them should be the only books the public reads and hears about each week. If I read another review for Jonathan Franzen or a book with the word "tiger" in the title, I may just scream. Or complain some more to whomever will listen.

As a librarian, I know there are all sorts of interesting, quality books that come out every week that suit a huge variety of literary tastes--not just the hardbacks with muted jewel-toned dust jackets or another memoir about someone who thinks he/she did something sometime (probably involving at least a short trip to Asia). I would encourage people interested in finding some of the less over-hyped new books out there to visit the library. Most libraries have pretty impressive "new books" sections, where you can see the latest titles in any and every genre. Most libraries also subscribe to journals like Booklist that will provide you with even more and diverse book reviews that you'll find most other places. Please, don't let the homogenization of book reviews turn into the homogenization of literature. Read any book that sounds interesting, regardless of its potential premature appearance on the major bestsellers' lists.

1 comment:

  1. What a great article! I used to be a book review junkie, but lately, they drive me crazy. Like you, if I hear about that damned The Tiger Wife one more time, I am going to lose it. We get it: the author is young and cute, and the book is quirky. That is not enough to make me want to read a book whose description makes me yawn.

    It's long been an issue in genre fiction that it's bizarre how these are the most read books in the country, but you never see them reviewed in major outlets. I used to think romance and mystery didn't belong in NYT, but I'm much less of a snob now. The best books in all genres deserve some attention. That's one of the reasons that Booklist is so fantastic. It covers everything. In high school, my local library used to give me all their old Booklists, and I was addicted to those things.

    Also, this article takes down Vendela Vida. And gives Philip Roth some grief. Thank God.