Last week I mentioned I was reading The School for Good Mothers, and that I’d write a review here when I finished. Well I finished last night but not ready to write a review yet. I’m still processing. A good book does that – makes you feel something that lingers after you’ve closed the cover.
As I thought about writing the review, what I’d say – you don’t want to give away too much – I thought about book reviews in general, and what first came to mind are the book reports we wrote in elementary school. I remember only a couple I was asked to do. I think that’s when the SRA Reading Program began at St. Joseph Parochial School so the Sisters had other ways of knowing if we comprehended what we read. You remember the rainbow colored boxes with the stories and the cards with questions to answer?
One book report I do remember had something to do with Abraham Lincoln. We were to put our reports, (in our best handwriting), in a nice construction paper cover – you know, fold a piece in half and paste the report inside and decorate the outside. I think they were to display for some kind of open house or something. I don’t remember this because of the book; I remember it because this was the only time Dad ever did part of my homework for me. He sketched Lincoln’s face for the cover. I honestly tried, but I wasn’t much of an artist and I’m sure my attempt looked more like one of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are monsters. Dad took pity (and to save the fibrous construction paper cover from getting a hole from all the erasures) and drew the small image of our 16th president.
Inside, the ‘report’ is simply an anecdote from the book, not a report on the whole thing.
Do you write book reviews? I mean in a place like Goodreads or Amazon where others read them, especially the authors. Having gotten reviews for my book of poetry, I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end. It’s pretty wonderful.
Everyone appreciates having their hard work noticed. Yesterday morning after mass, Hubby and I went to Panera for my oatmeal with strawberries and pecans, and his egg white, spinach and cheese on a sesame bagel. The young lady at the register was the same one who’s taken our order the last three times we’ve been there.
Four weeks ago was her first week on the job, her trainer – James – hovered at her elbow walking her through each step. Her nervousness showed in her face as she concentrated more on which keys to tap than with making eye contact with us. She kept apologizing for her slowness. We told her it was no biggie; we’ve all been beginners at some point.
Last week she was at the register alone, but James-the-Trainer wasn’t too far away, ready to jump in when I asked that my sandwich be a wrap instead of a bagel – a special order. That Sunday she smiled a little more, especially when we mentioned we noticed her progress, how more relaxed she looked. But she still apologized for not being quicker.
Yesterday when we walked up to the counter she greeted us with a huge smile – like she recognized us. When I placed my oatmeal and special order she batted James away with “I got this.” when he stepped over to help. There were no apologies for her speed.
As we left, I thought about gratitude and pats on the back – how really easy they are to offer and what a difference they make.
Book reviews are important for the authors, not merely as pats on the back. They’re one way of connecting with readers and finding out where the author got the story right, where they may have missed the mark. And while reviews help with sales – because they lead others to buy the book – for mid-list authors they can make a difference in whether a publisher actually continues with them or not.
Just like the smiles and words of encouragement to our Panera waitress, writing a review really doesn’t have to take all that much time or effort – it’s like answering the brief questions from the SRA Program, the questions are just different. That little snippet from my Abraham booklet is one small piece of a review. Reviews can come down to 4 sentences and some dazzle:
- What is the book about?
- Why did you like it? (this is where you can include a little snippet from the book)
- Did you dislike anything about the book?
- Overall opinion of the book
- Add some stars
If you write them, what ideas do you include?
The other side is, do you read book reviews? If you do, do they influence whether you ultimately pick up a book or not? I’ve mentioned my reading group, the Rowdy Readers. We tend to read books covering all kinds of topics and crossing all kinds of genres – which is why I have so many books! Many of our choices have been reviewed in various journals – journals the other members read, not me – so the books come ‘highly recommended’ by someone supposedly in the know. Sometimes they live up to the hype, sometimes they don’t. I looked at reviews for books written by a couple of my favorite authors. All of them – seriously, ALL of them – averaged about a 3.5. Not a stellar rating. I’m glad I read the books before I read the reviews. Maybe if I add my thoughts, those ratings will go up.
I hate to admit I’ve been lax in writing book reviews, except here. I’ll post one for this latest read next week, but I’ll also be more attentive to submitting reviews to sites like Goodreads and Amazon. Because even if many folks don’t read them, authors often do and leaving a good word for them is like a pat on the back . . . and more.
Kim- I love the Lincoln Logs in the picture of the cover of your Lincoln review! Was that done on purpose? I also remember the SRA series. I loved it, but not sure if I got past aqua!
Hi Ev, yes, the photo was ‘staged’, just like the one of The School for Good Mothers on the tricycle lol. I’m having fun figuring out different ways to photograph the book covers. With you being a photographer, if you have some ideas I’m open to them! I have no idea what SRA color I reached. I just remember racing through the stories more as a challenge to see how many I could read, and the competitiveness to see who could read the most. I’m not sure that was the goal of the program lol.