What is the purpose of book reviews anyway?

Why should you be writing book reviews?

So, you've just finished reading a book that filled you with excitement, gave you chills, or offered a new perspective and new questions to ponder. Now you'd like to share your impressions with everyone, but what's the purpose, you may ask. Who cares about this book, let alone what I think about it?

You'd be surprised.


Book Reviews Have Always Been Important

Imagine a world without Amazon, Goodreads, book blogs, and book review columns in the magazines. At the same time, you have the same endless lists and infinite shelves crammed with titles old and new. How would you pick what to read? By the title? Or the cover? Nah, don't judge a book by its cover.

If you think about it for a minute – after you've left a couple of books on page four – you might wish to stick with classics. After all, the classics are good. But how do we know they're good? Thanks to reviewers of their time and those that came later.

Of course, we don't have to read a review of The Sound and the Fury, The Great Gatsby, Don Quixote, or the Iliad to know these books are good. But classic titles have nevertheless been vetted by competent readers who informed the world of the values they have discovered.


Today, Reviews Are More Important than Ever

Books are being written, edited, and published fast nowadays. While trying to find out how many books have been published in the last year alone, I've found some incredible numbers, like half a million self-published books in a year, on a platform other than Amazon. Truly overwhelming, if you ask me.

Everyone is free to say – I don't care, self-published books are rubbish – but that won't make them right. I know because I used to think so. I eat classics for lunch as a kid and teenager and then earned a degree in literature. That's a sure way to become a snob and believe me, it may take you years to realize that snob=lazy (I'll elaborate on this at some other occasion).

Self-published books can be pretty awesome. It's a matter of intellectual honesty. If you take some time to read self-published books with an open mind, you'll find some true jewels. I've found quite a few. That's why I reviewed them. If you've found a book worth attention – or an oversold title lacking value – I encourage you to share your thoughts on it. If necessary, let your review be the first one on that title. Throw that pebble and watch the waves.


You Are Competent to Write a Book Review

You don't have to have a name as a reviewer or to hold a formal degree in literature to post your first review. There are no definite rules on what a great book should be like, even though every generation (still) comes up with at least one. But there's a simple truth as old as the literature: a book is nothing without the reader. It can only exist in an interaction with the reader. As you read it, you are just as important as the author.

The fact that you've taken your time to read the book till the end, feel the way you felt, notice whatever you've noticed and thought about it a bit makes you the perfect person to write that review. It most likely means that you have just the right sensibility to appreciate the value of the book. Even if you didn't understand everything, that's fine. Perhaps there's someone with a similar sensibility who will get hooked by your words. You might make someone's day by posting that review. And you'll help the author whose work you appreciate. What's even better, in the internet age, you might be able to get in touch with the author and enjoy a kind of interaction that would be unthinkable just 100 years ago.


Be Careful About What You Say, Though

This still doesn't mind that you can say just about anything in your review. There are a few…well, I wouldn't call them rules…but okay, take them as a piece of friendly advice. Make sure you don't include spoilers in your review. I know, the value of the best books ever is not in the plot, but still, retelling the plot in a review is not helpful to the reader of your review and it wouldn't make your favorite author happy.

Also, try not to assume that the value (or an apparent lack of value) that you're seeing exist objectively. It is always a delicate synthesis of your previous reading experience, your expectations, taste, and how your day was – and, of course, the book itself – that makes the magic appear. Just keep that in mind, and let your review be as honest as possible. If you've never written a review before and don't know where to start, check out our [How to Write a Book Review] article.


Where to Post a Book Review

This part is the easiest. You can post a review on virtually any publishing platform – or you can start a book blog and write in your own virtual space. If you'd like to start a book blog, have a look at [this article].


To Review It or Not

Have you written a book review before? Have you published it? Or maybe you didn't realize writing reviews makes sense?

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