My friend Joyce recently sent me this article about the nature of book reviews and the people who review books, and it’s had me thinking about why I like to review the books I read, and how, exactly, I see myself in terms of a “critic.”
I remember being seven years old and reading Heidi, and then writing a book report about it just because I wanted to. I’ve been an insatiable reader since I first learned to read, and I guess on some level, I’ve also always enjoyed thinking about, talking about, and writing about the books I’ve read. As an adult, I tried on a few occasions to keep a “book journal” in handwritten form because I like the idea of somehow keeping track of the books I read (I’m a little on the Type-A side) and being able to go back and revisit the impressions certain books left on me. I was never good about keeping up journaling about anything in handwritten form, though I’ve always loved to write almost as much as I love to read. Eventually I discovered GoodReads, and I started writing about the books I was reading on my blog, which eventually evolved into a separate blog devoted to talking about books. And here I am.
I do this for fun. It’s a hobby. It satisfies my need to keep track of things (did I mention I’m a little on the Type-A side?), and darn it, I just like to talk about books. I’m not a literary scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t have any credentials, and I don’t see myself as anyone who has clout in this area. I think I’m a decent writer and recognize decent writing. I read mostly what I want, and I’m opinionated – and sure, I want to share my opinions. What I write about the books I read are probably very much what that article describes as “customer reviews” rather than true literary critiques. Take ’em or leave ’em.
It has surprised me, therefore, when I’ve actually been contacted by (a) disgruntled authors and/or fans of authors who have taken some less-than-glowing reviews I wrote on my humble little blog very personally and very seriously, and (b) authors and publishers who have actually wanted me to read and review their books. I’ve never been paid for a review, and I have no desire to be any sort of professional book reviewer, but still, it’s very flattering to know that a certain select few apparently believe that what I think matters.
Several months ago I was contacted by the editor of Literary Mama who asked me if I would be interested in writing a review of The Shape of the Eye by George Estreich for their Father’s Day issue. It turned out that Jennifer Graf Groneberg – the Jennifer Graf Groneberg, author of Road Map to Holland – a beautiful book that meant so much to me at a particularly trying time – had recommended me – me! – for this gig. I could hardly believe it. Literary Mama is an e-zine devoted to writers who are also mothers, so this is an opportunity for my writing to be noticed (and judged) by people who actually know something about writing.
I’m honored . . . and a little intimidated. I’m hoping to get a draft written and submitted this week. Wish me luck!