As I work through the latest book I am planning for my book review I have been thinking about why I want to do book reviews and what this adds to the idea of writing.
I have read a number of quotes from authors that talk about the importance of reading a lot in order to become a better author. I think that this is important, but do they really mean just to read a lot? Or perhaps, and this seems a bit more likely, we need to read a piece a little closer and truly begin to read like a writer. If I read a book as a reader I often find myself overlooking things because I am just reading for the enjoyment. When I take the time to read like a writer – and this is what I do when I am reading for my book reviews – then I find the clues that lead me to better writing.
Does this mean never to read a book for enjoyment again? Absolutely not, but when you read enough books with the critical eye you tend to hold on to these details a little better and they find their way with you when you read a book for any reason. Why did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle write Sherlock Holmes the way he did? What clues did he weave into the story that Doctor Watson (the every man for the purpose of explaining the story and clues to the audience) explains to the reader? How did the authors of the Nancy Drew series (and yes, Carolyn Keane was the name, but there were many who donned the hat of this pseudonym) maintain the character so that it felt like the same author was telling the story?
These are a couple examples, and while they are specific to the mystery genre, there are other stories that we have to ask the same kinds of questions. What was the author thinking and why did they make the choices they made. Digging a little deeper helps us ask the questions like what was it about the book that drew me in? Was it the author’s style of writing? Was it the personality of the cast of characters? Were there certain things that turned the reader away from the story?
These are some of the reasons behind doing a book review – it is far easier to train our minds to catch the clues and ask the questions when we make ourselves do it. I also find that when I do a book review I am able to add my own perspective and the questions I ask – what kinds of questions do you find yourself asking after reading someone’s book review? Do you scroll through Goodreads and wondering if you and the reviewer read the same book? Or perhaps you find yourself wondering who came up with the synopsis on the back of the book?
Once we take the time to read a book with the critical eye we see so many things that helps us learn to write better, as well as things that we learn to stay away from. The mindset and perspective I gain from writing book reviews helps me to see where I can change to be a better writer, hopefully this helps others gain a new perspective as well.