There it is. That’s the ten word answer my staff’s been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer?
President Jed Bartlett, the West Wing S04E06 “Game On”
Has anyone ever watched the West Wing? You should.
Joking aside, that quote articulates the fundamental problem I have with reviews, of any kind. Bartlett is talking about the 30-second soundbites that make up politics. They make it impossible to articulate and define the vast complexities that make up our daily lives and our world. Which makes total sense.
This concern highlights the main problem with book reviews. Or reviews in general, actually come to think of it. Reviews tend to be short, concise expressions of thoughts on a particular work. The problem is that since most people don’t go into any depth about the plot or characters or story (especially with regard to spoilers) it makes it particularly hard to articulate whether a book is any good.
This problem can generally be overcome if there are enough book reviews available that a prospective reader can get a decent sense as to whether they should expect good things from this book or not. This concept is generally referred to as word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth is a concept that I would like to go into at a separate time.
Back on the topic of book reviews, one of the problems that I find most egregious is not the lack of details about a book, which are imperative to understanding if the book is good or not, but rather the length of the book reviews. Most reviews that I come across, for movies or comic books or books, tended to sit at around 500 words. This particular length is useful for giving a general synopsis and even more generalizations about whether the author of the review thinks the book is worth it. However, this format is not useful for going into any details about why this the case.
Rarely is a books grammar or pacing problems articulated. I feel that without going into detail about why the flaws exist in the book, you can’t hope to give a potential reader any accurate prediction as to whether or not they will like it.
One major problem with reviews is that they tend to be too subjective. Ultimately, nothing can be done about that problem. Every reviewer has tendencies of bias, as do all readers. However, that said, I think that expectations play a prominent role in determining whether a reader will enjoy a book or not. The author of the review needs to be able to back up their claims and in a 500 word limit where you have to generalize virtually every core concept that you’ve come across in a manuscript that is usually 300 pages long that is a joke. And an expectation that it’ll work on any reasonable level is a joke and certainly a disservice to the readers and people who are serious enough to click on your article and see if they want to read the book. We need to use the subjectivity of humanity to our advantage to know that this is the kind of book you’re gonna wanna read.
So the flaw with book reviews is not that it’s too subjective. It’s that they’re too short. We don’t give the reviewer the time to stretch their wings and explore the books they really want to explore. Instead we live in a day and age when we have to have reviews up on a daily basis or weekly basis. We just sit there and we give absolute shit instead of a good review. I know I tried this when I first started this blog, now down to one a month, and I hope they’re worth it. I hope I learned from those previous reviews. I hope the readers get something from my reviews.