A matter of respect?

I recently read somewhere that there are some reviewers who apparently don’t read the entire book that they’re currently writing about, especially if it’s a collection of stories from a single author. I have to admit that I was quite amazed (and not a little shocked) when I read that. To my mind, you only get to understand a book if you read the whole thing, not just bits of it. It just doesn’t make any sense. Apart from that, if I skipped bits of a book I was in the middle of doing a write-up about I would feel that I was disrespecting the author. Whatever I think about the book, or collection of stories, I will always make the effort of reading it all.

This harks back to a practise I came across when I was working as a CD reviewer. There were some other journalists who listened to the first couple of songs and then wrote the review. To some extent, I can understand this, as a lot of the music I wrote about consisted of 40+ pieces of music, and once you got the idea of what the album was about, you could generally write something very accurate about the rest of it. I always felt, however, that if I didn’t listen all the way through then I was sure to miss something important. There may have been a song that lifted an otherwise mediocre set above the humdrum, or that there may have been a particular passage that exemplified the opus much more clearly than any other part. Like words, music is a language that speaks to people: if you want to understand a speech thoroughly you listen to the whole thing, not just selected parts of it. The same goes for music.

And the same, inevitably, goes for books. It’s one thing to glean the general gist of a piece of music by listening to a goodly chunk of it, but another thing entirely attempting to glean the same thing by reading just the first few chapters and the last one. Character progression and development, important plot points and pivotal events would all be missed. After all, the author has spent a considerable amount of his/her time, and his blood, sweat and tears, getting it from thoughts to page to publication. It would just appear to him/her, that after all that effort, a reviewer were just dismissing his/her toil by just sampling  the book. Plus, in my estimation, the review is in itself incomplete.

So, if only to reassure those who send me books and PDFs for review on either Bookgeeks or Beyond Fiction, let me say here and now that I take the time to read EVERYTHING in a book – the introduction, the book, and the story notes. Hell, I would even read an index if I thought it was important. AND I make notes about everything – characters, themes, developments and overall impressions. I admit, as I have elsewhere, that I am not the world’s fastest reviewer, but I would rather be known to be a slow and good in-depth reviewer than a cursory and shallow one. This, in my book, is what every author deserves at the very least.

In other words, just keep sending those books and e-books in – I’ll get round to reviewing them eventually and I will always give you an honest appraisal. Guaranteed. Plus, if you’re at FCon this weekend, please feel free to talk to me about doing reviews of YOUR book. I am quite approachable. =)

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3 Responses to “A matter of respect?”

  1. I agree. As an former music journalist and musician, I’ve known plenty of reviewers that don’t listen to a full album, or simply skim through tracks, before writing their review. And hell, I’ve had music I’ve worked on get the same treatment. When I reviewer can’t even bother to mention a single song, it’s pretty clear they have no true grasp on what they’re reviewing.

    The same for books. Just read it! Then again, if it’s truly bad I can understand not finishing it. But at least state that in the review.

  2. It comes down to time. When I used to review music, I’d make a point of playing an album through before writing a review. But with a pile of singles with no pedigree and a deadline fast approaching, sometimes we’d sling CDs on the office player and if they didn’t grab us in the first ten seconds, off they went and no review! But then, if a single doesn’t hook you in the first ten seconds, it probably shouldn’t be a single.

    But I wouldn’t actually write a review based on the first five seconds.

  3. What kind of single hooks you in the first 10 seconds?

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