A year ago, I launched my biweekly book review column, The Write Stuff, in Tempo. Since then, I estimate I’ve read and wrote about more than 52 books for my column — a couple of weeks I reviewed three books instead of the usual two. If you throw in the books that I’ve read for my own pleasure or education, plus working on my own writing, that’s a heckuva lot words.
First off, I want to reiterate that I’m a book reviewer rather than a critic. I let readers know what’s in a book, so they can decide if it’s something they want to buy. I do make suggestions at times to the author and will offer points for improvement. But an outright bashing? It’s not good for my soul. Besides, for the authors, especially those who have published their books themselves, this is likely a labor of love.
The sources for the books I’ve reviewed have run the gamut from self-publishing authors to publishing houses of all sizes including university presses. Novels are in the majority. The rest are non-fiction, including some fabulous art and photography books. I’ve even tackled a few volumes of poetry.
Here’s my system. I read each book cover to cover usually in 50-page increments. Along the way, I use thin sticky paper to mark pages that might be useful to revisit or has a quote worth repeating in my column.
I write the review for the first book soon after I am done reading. I’ve done it enough times that it pretty much flows onto the screen. I use far more playful language than I ever would for a feature or news story. Then, I read the second book, rinse and repeat. I clean up the column, cutting words to reach my limit, plus come up with a headline. I work way ahead of my deadline to make things easier for Tempo Editor, Rick Romancito, and myself.
Sometimes a book’s review has coincided nicely with a reading by the author.
Have I read every book submitted for a review? No. There have been a few that I just couldn’t get past the first several pages. They were badly in need of a good editor or were of a genre, deep sci-fi, I couldn’t get my head around. I just received a book that is nearly 700 pages long I doubt I will have the time to read.
One bonus has been the books that were submitted. (I only review hard copies and not eBooks.) Most I have given away to people I know would love them or to the school for adult learners where I teach part-time. A few I’ve kept.
Do I have any favorites? Without naming names, I am grateful to those authors who made me think, laugh, and admire their way with words. I was glad to spread the word.
MY BOOKS: Okay, here’s a pitch for my two novels: The Sweet Spot and Peace, Love, and You Know What. Find them in two forms on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG
And if you read them, I’d be grateful for a review.
ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Pine cones bud on this evergreen on a neighbor’s land.