Reviewing books

There is a publication called Library Journal that consists mostly of book reviews. It’s extremely useful for libraries that are trying to decide whether to buy a particular book. It’s especially useful for expensive stuff, like reference sets. The best thing about it is that the reviews are written by librarians, for the most part. Librarians know what other librarians need to know when it comes to purchasing decisions.

I follow Library Journal on Twitter, and back in the fall I saw a tweet that said they were looking for new reviewers. I emailed them, and they got right back to me and sent me the application forms. I had never written a formal book review, and I told them that, but they said that was fine.

Right before Christmas I got my first book to review. The way it works is they send you a book and give you a certain amount of time, about three weeks, to read it and write your review. They have strict guidelines for the reviews, and the toughest part of it is keeping the review to around 175 words.

I read the book over the holiday, using little Post-It notes to mark passages that I thought I might want to refer to, then I wrote out my thoughts and notes on the passages I had marked. That document came to over 1500 words! Needless to say I had to leave most of it out for the review. But yesterday I finalized the review, coming in at 181 words, and sent it off.

It made me nervous! I used to think that book reviewers had to be English majors, with special training that taught them how to tell a good book from a mediocre or bad one. I guess that’s true in some cases. My only training is that I’m a voracious reader. I know what I like, but I never thought that my opinion could be held as valid, I guess. But maybe it can! I suppose that Library Journal could get back to me and say, “You are the worst reviewer we’ve ever had; thanks but no thanks.” Ack! But I thought the review was pretty good, and it fit their criteria…so we’ll see. It will be a couple of months before it gets published. The book I reviewed won’t be published until February, so I’m guessing the review will appear then or shortly thereafter. I can’t say anything public about the book yet because it hasn’t been published.

The best thing about the process is that we get to keep the books they send us. There is no compensation, it’s purely voluntary, but we do get the books. To me, that makes it worth it.

I can’t wait to see it in print. It’s kind of like waiting for Christmas.  🙂

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