Book Reviews and the Coming of Wisdom

Having always been an avid reader, it wasn’t until I started publishing my own books that I realised the importance of having them reviewed on sites like Amazon and Smashwords. When I started writing reviews of the books I read, the early ones were either books I’d wanted to read for a while, or those already on my bookshelf. However, I soon realised that it was indie authors who really needed reviews, rather than those with huge publishing machineries behind them. With that in mind, I included a section on my website where writers could request a review, while highlighting that indies would be given preference.

One of the problems of offering your services as a reviewer is that everyone and his dog are soon throwing themselves on your mercy, bleating about how their particular book will improve your life, knock you over with its unbelievable brilliance, or be exactly what you’re looking for at that exact moment in time.

Being taken in by witty blurbs and imaginative covers, I initially agreed to review many dozens of books on that basis alone. Unfortunately, as I soon realised, blurbs and covers do not a cracking good read make. Very soon, I found I’d agreed to read a seemingly endless pile of utter tripe that (all too often) exhibited badly written, poorly plotted stories, crammed with enough grammatical and other mistakes to make my eyes bleed.

So, what to do about it?

As all authors and the book-buying public know, buying books in a shop is straightforward – you see a book with an interesting cover, you pick it up, you read the blurb on the back and then (and this is the important bit) you read a few pages to see if it interests you. Thankfully, Amazon and most other book selling platforms have a look-inside feature so you can do this exact same thing.

So, I made it a rule to never buy a book (unless it’s by Stephen King) without at least taking the time to read a few pages. That way I can get a sense of the writer’s skill and ascertain if it’s good enough to match my ever-rising high standards.

 Aside from those writers who are so skilled they can knock out the first few pages in a way that makes them seem ultra-talented and then write the rest of the book as if they’ve only just learned to read, this habit works quite well. Occasionally, I still buy books that initially sound good and then turn to crap, but as I always read the first few pages, I’ve only myself to blame.

The other thing I started doing a couple of years ago is to stop reading if I lose interest in the book. With so many excellent authors out there, why waste time on those who are too stupid to learn how to write well?

Age, as they say, brings wisdom. In my case it’s also brought a huge bag of irritations to go with it. Writers who haven’t heard of the ‘show don’t tell’ rule, or are incapable of writing a sentence of dialogue without adding a ridiculous dialogue tag (he rejoindered, with an angry glare of irritation), continue to annoy me, as do those who include exclamation marks after every sentence, or insist on using the word ‘whom’ in a sentence of dialogue spoken by a London cockney with a lisp, simply because it’s grammatically correct.

What bothers me most, however, is that some of the authors at the so-called top of their game, also include such foolishness in their work. As I’ve always endeavoured to improve my own writing with every new book I write, I have to wonder why other authors don’t do the same.

As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus didn’t used to say, “Hey, hey, hey – let’s be careful with that writing stuff.”

NB This post first appeared on Portable Magic.

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  2 comments for “Book Reviews and the Coming of Wisdom

  1. 30/05/2023 at 6:46 PM

    Hi Colin, I also only started writing book reviews after I published my first book although I’ve always been a big reader. Writing a review on Amazon never even occurred to me before I started blogging. Your post did give me a smile. I’ve read a few dreadful books too.


    • 30/05/2023 at 7:36 PM

      It was the same for me, Robbie – only after publishing my own books did I realise how important reviews are to authors, particularly indies.

      Liked by 1 person

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