Monday, November 2, 2009

Review, Recommend, Endorse, Critique

Recently, there's been some discussion about book reviews. If a review lacks any negative comments, it's immediately suspect. I'd like to share my thoughts, and then have you chime in with your opinions.

I decided to pull out Mr. Webster and my Synonym Finder to determine the meanings of the words in my title. Here goes:

1. Review - As a verb it means to amend or alter, to review an opinion. Synonyms: critical article, critique, criticism, commentary, editorial, evaluation.

2. Recommend - to present as worthy of confidence, acceptance, or use, commend. Synonyms: commend, mention favorably, promote, speak well of, put in a good word for, approve, sanction, condone, support, endorse, suggest, offer, propose, warn, caution.

3. Endorse - To express approval or support, especially publicly. Synonyms: approve, give one's stamp of approval, sanction, warrant, seal, vouch for, stand behind, confirm, authorize.

4. Critique - an article or essay evaluating a literary or other work. Review. Synonyms: review, notice, report, article, editorial, essay, blurb, commentary, analysis, pan, slam, swipe.

A critic is a person, who judges, evaluates or criticizes literary or artistic works. The definition of a reviewer is similar: a critic, commentator, evaluator, judge, connoisseur, assessor.

Looking at these definitions, would you consider yourself more of a reviewer or one who recommends a good book? I stand in the second camp: I recommend books I've enjoyed.

30 comments:

Jessica said...

Well.... LOL I could be a reviewer but I try not to do this too much because all the "flaws" I find aren't very uplifting to read. LOL And I quote flaws because it's subjective. But I do review for Thomas Nelson and I try to be honest on those. If I don't like a book, I try not to knock even though the critique is running through my mind. LOL

Cindy said...

I'm almost always in the second category, too. I read books I think I'll enjoy and I love recommending them and getting the word out about that author. I have, however, given a review for a book I did not enjoy and I didn't recommend it.

Karen Lange said...

Hi Susan - good food for thought! I think I am a reviewer when I am reading books for book companies to review. I suppose I recommend and endorse them when I like them, but perhaps am more of a critic when I do not. How's that for a definite answer? :) Blessings!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hey, Susan!

I definitely recommend books I enjoy. I don't want to bad mouth people--especially over the internet--even if I am speaking the truth about the novel. Besides, it's subjective! What I love someone else won't and vice versa. That's one reason I do a book "feature" on my blog... everyone knows it's one I'm going to rave about. And then I can be completely honest without worrying about hurting someone's feelings.

sherrinda said...

I am definitely more of a recommender, rather than a reviewer. I would have a hard time finding fault with any book, because 1) I know how hard writing a book is and 2) There is always something good in every book. I choose to find the good. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I've only reviewed one book for Thomas Nelson, which I liked. Although I'm signed up with several companies as a reviewer, I much prefer recommending books I've chosen from independent sources.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Cindy -

If I dislike a book, it's usually pretty intense. For me, it's better to give the book to a thrift shop and chalk it up to experience.

Sometimes a negative review will spur people to purchase a book. I wouldn't want to unwittingly promote something I found distasteful.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

LOL! That's one reason I've been staying away from reviewing books from the publishers. I don't want to slam books. I want to bring books to readers that I've truly enjoyed.

The best way I can do that is to choose books I think I'll like and go from there. When you take a book from a publisher, you're obligated to review it no matter what. Thankfully, I've enjoyed the ones I've read so far.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

You bring up an excellent point. I may love a book, and someone else will hate it.

In all the time I've been featuring (great word) books, only one person has complained about something I recommended.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sherrinda -

I feel the same way. Some of the books I've read and disliked related more to the content than the quality of the writing. What troubled me in those books might not cause a flicker in someone else.

Blessings,
Susan :)

quietspirit said...

Susan:

I find myself,as usual, being both a reviewer and an endorser. I lent a close friend a couple of books I had recently read. She had a hard time getting into both of them. I tried to explain that one of them was a first installment of a triology. I had earlier given her the high points of both books.

The second one was hard to read. The author seemed to have two stories going. I finally figured out the smaller story was about the heroine's past. But my friend really didn't like this one.

So, as I recommend books, I had to review them.

Heather Sunseri said...

I'm definitely one to say when I've loved or even liked a book. I don't like to criticize, especially now that I know how hard writing a complete book is.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

You gave an excellent example of how we might enjoy a book, but others would not share our opinion.

My Mom didn't like Nancy Drew as a girl. Yet, she's loved the romantic suspense novels I've given her. It's all a matter of personal taste.

Thanks for your comment. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Heather -

As writers, I think it's too easy to be critical. Perfection belongs to God.

Unless I'm specifically asked to give a critique, I don't feel the need to do anything other than offer my reasons why I enjoyed a book.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Becky Lange said...

I've not had much experience in the review/critique/recommendation of books arena. It would be fun to do one on a book I already love, so I suppose I would recommend it, but with me there are always things I notice that are not as I like them, so a bit of a critique might creep in also.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I'm a reviewer to the core. I was just discussing this with a friend. Both of us experienced events in our childhood that have given us a deep love for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. As a result, I don't feel comfortable endorsing a book without discussing BOTH its strengths and weaknesses.

Because I'm conscious that this may not go over well in a community in which many people are endorsers rather than reviewers, I don't review fiction. That way, I won't offend people, but I also don't have to violate my own vision of what it means for me to do a book review.

I don't have a problem with people who want to endorse and not review, but I am very conscious when I read an endorsement that this is not a "review" in the same way that a movie review in the newspaper is a review. An endrosement is not an attempt to evaluate the quality of a product. Therefore, for me, it is not helpful when I am trying to decide what to read.

I do wish we had more profesional reviewers of CBA fiction. Reviews are a chance for all of us to grow and learn. Reveiews improve the quality of work, if we can take them for what is productive in them.

Jeanette Levellie said...

When I reviewed for Thomas Nelson I felt I needed to be honest, not only the good points of a book, but an overall analyzation. It was hard, but a growth experience for me.

Now I recommend books I think others will enjoy. It's more fun.

When my books come out, I know I need to be prepared for both criticism and applause, but I hope there is more of the latter. So I plant applause seeds today for other authors.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Becky -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

You can always recommend a book you like on your blog. I think everyone understands that books are not perfect. Hopefully, people don't feel obligated to point out something negative if they've enjoyed a story.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rosslyn -

Thanks for your comment. I understand your position even though I recommend rather than review books. Because evaluating a book is so subjective, I think there's room for both opinions.

You'd obviously be violating your conscience if you spotted something you didn't like and didn't report it.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jen -

I haven't reviewed for Thomas Nelson or others in a while. I don't think it's a matter of honesty at all. I simply do not expect perfection from anyone.

Why wouldn't I want to extend grace to someone if there was a minor issue? Anything major, I simply wouldn't review it. If this happened with a Thomas Nelson or big publisher book, I'd return the book to them.

If I recommend a book, you know I've read and enjoyed it. You might or might not agree with my assessment depending on the genre, author voice, etc.

There are a couple of hugely popular authors that I refuse to read because their content is a big turn-off.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Stephen Tremp said...

I don't have time to critique, but I reonize a good book when I read one and refer it to others.

Stephen Tremp

Jill Kemerer said...

I might "review" a book with a friend, but I would only recommend books in a public platform. My goal is to lift others, not tear them down, and I simply would not mention their book if I couldn't recommend it. That's only my personal habit. I'm all for others reviewing books!

Sharon Ball said...

Susan, I'm definitely in the same camp as you. I really recommend vs. review. The only exception is when I write a rare review on amazon.com. Then I do give my opinion based on my observations.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Stephen -

Welcome to my blog! I post here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

While I think there's value in reviewing books, I think we can get carried away with dissecting them.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jill -

You echo my sentiments exactly. I have friends, who ask me to critique their work. We've come to trust each other and know the various sensitivities.

In a public forum, I choose to recommend books I myself enjoy.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon -

Thanks for weighing in on what seems to be a hot topic. I think there's room for both the reviewer and the recommender. Hopefully, we'll all do so with kindness.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Deborah said...

When it comes to books, I'm #2, I recommend books I like. I don't have enough time to read many books, so I'm pretty particular. I generally don't finish a book I don't like, or I skim through it.
As a songwriter, I have an easier time with giving a lyric critique, with suggestions for improvement, because I want the same in return.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Deborah -

Thanks for stopping in and commenting. I post here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I usually finish books, even if I don't like them. Off hand, I can think of two that I literally threw in the trash without completing.

You'll also never see a giveaway for a book I didn't enjoy. I won't pass on something I didn't like.

Blessings,
Susan :)

jean Fischer said...

I'm both a reviewer and an endorser. When I review, I try to be honest while avoiding subjective comments.I also try to review with the target audience in mind and decide whether the book meets the needs of that particular market group.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

I think your comment on target audience helps clarify the review process.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Blessings,
Susan :)