Tuesday, September 29, 2015
When NOT to Write a Book Review
Believe it or not, there are occasions when writing a review of a book you've just read isn't appropriate.
But that means missing a chance to give your opinion! And some poor, unsuspecting reader might be lured to the pit of destruction if you don't warn them!
No. No, they won't. And I'm sure if you think really hard, you can find something else to give your opinion on. I know I never run out of ideas. :)
Book reviews must always be written with professionalism, courtesy, and kindness: professionalism in evaluating the good and bad without fear; courtesy in giving room to other people's opinions on the matter; and kindness in making sure you're speaking the right words at the right time. If one of these key elements is missing, your carefully written review will accomplish nothing you had hoped it would.
So here are three situations where writing a book review may not be a wise idea:
When the author's been blasted enough.
I once read a book I really didn't like. (Only once?) It was written with good intentions, but the style and execution were far from good. But as I read reviews, I realized the author had gone on to write other books that were better, and everything I would have said had been said multiple times by multiple other people. It would not have been necessary, helpful, or kind to rehash ancient history, and it wasn't a matter of doctrine. So I moved on.
When it would damage a friend's experience.
You'll always be at odds with someone's opinion. As young George Emerson says in A Room With a View, you can't stand where you are without casting a shadow in someone else's sun. But you can do your best not to cast that shadow in an offensive or discouraging way. The book may not have meant much to you. But if, for one of your friends, it was the book, and you know that for sure, then go ahead and refrain. The world will be OK. The church of Christ won't collapse without your review. And you'll have done a good deed, which is much better.
When your own heart is not right.
It is possible to read a book with pre-conceived resentment and dislike; it's not fair to bring that into a review. When you look in your heart, only you know when you have an axe to grind. Don't grind that axe. I've had various paragraphs I've not included in my reviews that bring up very good points, simply because I can't say them with the right spirit. Also, don't target particular people in your reviews. You can target groups of people who hold to a particular thought, but never just one person. It isn't appropriate to attempt to rebuke or change the heart of a specific friend or author in a public setting. In all these things, God needs a pure and humble heart to work with, not a spirit of intelligent arrogance. Pray and search your heart before you click that publish button.
Book reviews won't be perfect. I know this blog isn't. There have been times where I posted something for the wrong motives, or didn't fully understand a book, or could have been more gracious than I was. And I'm sorry for that. But at the same time, it's OK to have a learning process. We learn kindness and graciousness as we go along. Striving for that professional kindness is the end goal: making these things the Grand Ideal that you don't always hit, but you try to.
Book reviews have power to shape opinions. Use that power wisely. Not every book you read is one you have to write a review about.