Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Reviewing

When you work as a librarian, there are plenty of opportunities to learn the art of book reviewing. After all, we spend a fair amount of time reading reviews if we do any book selection work. Library Journal (LJ) often needs reviewers for specialized genres or subject areas.

In 1988, I was invited to join a group of librarians who wrote reviews for a School Library Journal column known as "Adults Books for Young Adults". Publishers sent vast amounts of books to one of the local private schools; we pored over them and chose titles to read and review those we thought had teen appeal. I believe the first book I reviewed was Rich in Love by Josephine Humphreys (review accessible on Wilson Library Bulletin was also one of the magazines I was privileged to write for. Now I write reviews for Library Journal, usually in the area of women's fiction. My most recent LJ review was for The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Having to synthesize plot and appeal factors into a short review of 150 - 175 words is a good exercise and helps build discipline. Writing short reviews is a voluntary (unpaid) activity. You write the review from a galley, and later on may receive a copy of the title once it is published.

I've never been to the Library Journal offices in New York, but like to imagine my editor, Wilda Williams, sitting before a desk piled high with galleys, dashing off books to reviewers all over the country, and picking the goodies she wants to write about herself. I recently learned about a delightful LJ blog called In the Bookroom. It is an insider's look at what's new in books and publishing.


The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. - Elizabeth Hardwick

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