Even though I call them “reviews” for categorization purposes, I don’t think that’s really the right name for most of the posts I write on this blog. To my mind a review is an evaluative assessment of a book, generally a newly released or newly available book, created for the purpose of advising consumers in the decision whether to obtain and read it. When I post about a new book, or a more contemporary book that is new to me, I generally am writing in this vein — and trying to avoid the dreaded spoilers.
But when I write about classics that need no stamp of approval from me, or books that I’m rereading for the umpteenth time with an eye to my evolving understanding of them, I don’t consider them “reviews.” Rather, they’re mini-essays that allow me to freely reflect on the content of the book along with my personal experience. I’m more likely to reveal more details of the plot or characters, because I feel I need to in order to say anything meaningful.
In a review proper I’m trying to be somewhat objective and to give just enough information to inform the reader of whether this is a book he or she might be interested in, based on personal preferences and tastes. (I only write reviews of books I can positively recommend. I decided when starting this blog that I would not spend time on negative reviews.) Of course my response is shaped by my personal reaction, but I try to let the work speak for itself to a certain extent.
In the other kind of post, which I’ll call a “reflection,” I’m more likely to talk about my thoughts and feelings while reading, or how my experience has changed over time. I’m trying to use the reading and writing to discover truths about the work and about myself, to make comparisons and connections.
Yet another kind of post is where I’m focusing mostly on the design — typography and illustrations — and not so much on the text (which is usually that of an undisputed classic). I haven’t done many of these recently, but I’d like to get back to them, because in the age of e-books I think that great book design deserves all the love we can give it.
Here are some examples of these categories, to show what I’m talking about. I’m pleased with all of them, but they’re very different kinds of posts. Is it confusing to call them all “reviews”?
Do you think all these different categories of posts should be lumped under the name “reviews”? Are there some that you are more or less interested in? How do you define a “review” on your own blog?