A Critical Career Choice

I have wondered how a person falls into a career such as writing movie or book reviews for a newspaper.  It probably takes a huge amount of interest in books and movies plus maybe having the distinction of being a person who is not an artist but merely an arts appreciator.  I used to feel some contention towards reviewers when I started reading reviews because I thought the reviewers were pretty lackadaisical about being highly critical of others while not really doing anything all that important themselves.

It reminded me of the adage about how those who can’t do teach.  That one seemed pretty true to me at times in my life too especially in regard to some of the high school teachers I had.  I have tried to write a new book review myself and it was thought provoking because I learned more what my own opinions actually were and I also found out how difficult it is to articulate opinions at times.  This must come pretty naturally to a few people and these are probably the folks who write book review professionally.

In order to effectively write reviews for your career you have to be a naturally critical person.  I am not sure I would want to be best friends with many reviewers because I would rather be friends with artistic sorts who don’t analyze everything but produce works of art instead.  I know it takes all sorts of people to make a world, another adage I tend to agree with.  So while the reviewer might not be one of my close friends it is still useful to see the critical opinion of another about a piece of work.  I always read the reviews of books movies and restaurants in any publication that publishes them.  It gives me a reference point from which to approach something.  I don’t always or even often agree with the reviewer but it still gives an overview of the story plus information around it.

Posted in New Book Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Experimenting With Writing Reader Reviews

She had a job for a big online bookseller. She was a programmer for part of the website. She told me that if I wanted to supplement my income I could independently write a new book review for the website and see if I wanted to write more after that.

She thought it could lead into a job where I could work independently from afar and write content for the online catalogue. I met a guy who did this full time and he made really good money and liked the job because it was fairly creative.

He got to write on several large topics such as gardening, outdoor survival and so on. I’d been working for lawyers and doing much less creative jobs so this sounded appealing.

I spent some time cruising their website and I settled in to write a book review. I chose a section that contained some art books I was interested in.

I spent a few hours reading other people’s book reviews so I could get a feel for it and then I tried to write a book review myself. I found the first one easy because I had actually read the book I was reviewing.

I decided the exercise wasn’t the easiest thing to do in the world, because when the guy who had the job writing content for the online catalogue wrote his content he would have the books he was creating blurbs for in a box in front of him.

A past job I’d had was as consignment buyer for a book wholesaler and I had been doing a lot of writing for their monthly newsletter that got sent out to all their active customers. I’d gotten used to writing reviews of plenty of products as I was also the sideline buyer. I bought incense, essential oils, candles and so on as well as books. I spent all my free time writing catalogue entries using the backs of books primarily.

Even though I was used to the process, I didn’t find writing book reviews for the website to be an effective way for me to show I could write effective content for the online catalogue. It did however, get me interested in some books via reading reader’s reviews, and I did review a few books myself because it was pretty fun. I just didn’t think it’d lead to a job.

Posted in New Book Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

He Had Strict Reading Rules For Himself

My friend’s Dad who was a scientist had a funny quirk.  He felt that if he started to read a book and even read the first couple of pages that he was then obligated to read it from start to finish.  He spent a lot of time buying and reading books and when he was the selector of course this idea worked pretty well.  He didn’t pick out any books that he wasn’t sure he wanted to read.  I watched him once after his best friend from high school gave him a book for Christmas.  It was a popular best seller, almost a romance novel but just slightly better.  He was sitting on the couch reading it and complaining about it while he read, about how much he hated it.

I asked him if he hated it so much why he was still reading it and that’s when he told me his rule for himself that if he started a book he had to finish it.  I laughed about this but he didn’t really think it was funny since he was right then reading a book he really didn’t want to waste his time on.  I didn’t understand why he was so specific about that, but I did understand why a person who was so controlling with themselves about rules like that would want to read reviews of books before starting to read them.

He always read the booklet from his favorite newspaper that contained the books review and he would write down titles that sounded interesting.  He spent a lot of time in bookstores too where he browsed and bought the books he wanted to read.  Since I first met this man I have met a couple of other people who inflict the same rule on themselves.  If you start the book you have to finish it.  I have never felt anything remotely like that about reading.  I usually read five books at once, I like to reread books I love and if something doesn’t pull me in I will definitely put it down.  I still thought that Bob, my friend’s Dad had made a silly rule for himself but I suppose it’s the quirks like that about each person that makes everyone an interesting and full person.

Posted in Books Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Window Into Something New

I opened up the Sunday booklet from one of my favorite newspapers to see if there was a new book review.  I don’t usually purchase any of the books I read about much but I enjoy keeping up on what’s new.  I like to see what the current bestsellers are and who has written something recently in the group of authors I like best.  It’s a pretty small group of people who belong to that list. The reviews of children’s books are the ones I tend to read the most because it seems that this is the area where new writers emerge most often that might be a match for what I like to read.

It’s funny to me that a few people make their living publishing their opinions on the artistic works of others.  I wouldn’t be able to do this myself.  Sometimes when I see a movie or read a book I try to imagine reviewing it and I think that I would probably do a weird job that might not give the reader what they were hoping to get when reading a new book review or new movie review.  Seeing a movie or reading a book is an intensely personal experience for me and I can’t always easily translate my reaction to words or simple thoughts about what I think the person accomplished in their art.

I guess the main reason I look at a new book review is to see a short synopsis of story or style to see if I’m interested in a writer I haven’t tried before.  With authors I love I don’t mess around much reading reviews because I already know I want to read more of the author already.  Sometimes it surprises me how many opinions reviewers seem to have and how critical they can be of the art of another person.  Sometimes it just seems like marketing to me.  I suppose it is mostly just marketing in this commercial world we live in, but still it gives a window into a project by which I can see if I am initially interested enough in something to order it, or go down to a store and check it out.

Posted in New Book Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Some New Possibilities

I was reading a newspaper the other day.  I found myself in the arts and entertainment section where I was drawn to a books review.  It was a few paragraphs about new children’s books that were coming out for the holidays.  The books sounded pretty interesting and I wished I could go to a bookstore and look at some of them.

Sometimes if I do go find a book that I read about in a books review, I discover that I don’t completely agree with the reviewer.  I guess it’s about the same thing as reading movie reviews.  It is helpful to get a short recap of the general story and theme, but you may not agree with the emotional responses of the reviewer.  Actually, I usually find that I don’t agree when it comes to movie reviews.

With a books review it’s a little different because it tends to be more in depth like the original of a movie review, but the reviews don’t get cut down into small blurbs like movie reviews do.  So I guess it’s more like reading the back of a book in that it tells you about the form of the plot and the general story.  I hardly ever really use the review of a book to inform what I will buy.  I know what authors I like already and I find new authors I like by going to the library and trying out authors.  I do like to look at children’s books and see what’s new, but going to a bookstore can take care of that.  The day that I was reading about some new children’s books coming out though, the review did really perk my interest in a few books partially because of the beautiful illustrations that were exampled in the newspaper.  I ended up in a bookstore while I was doing some holiday shopping and I checked out a couple of the books I had read about with my niece in mind.  She’s five years old.  I still loved the illustrations but I decided to get her some stickers to play with instead.  The books were a little out of my holiday budget, but I wished that wasn’t true and I could buy some new books for her.

Posted in Books Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bookworm Memories

Reading weekly city newspapers with their restaurant reviews and blurbs about movies, music, and books is one of my favorite leisure activities.  What I really like best is reading the long and short restaurant reviews that are split up into neighborhoods.  It helps me keep track of my city and what’s new and what has changed.  A lot has really changed recently and I live in the country now but it is still interesting to me to see where I could go eat if I still lived in the city.  I always check out the neighborhoods I lived in the most.

If I lived in the city still I would want to live in the last neighborhood I lived in which is the Scandinavian center.  I am Scandinavian and though I grew up in rural areas in the Midwest, I still feel the most at home in that part of the city with it’s mix of ages and shops that sell Lutefisk and European chocolates.  I have occasionally used the weeklies to pick a restaurant from their reviews and I wasn’t disappointed.  Another thing I keep up on in the weekly newspapers is the list of readings and author appearances.  I used to go to my favorite city bookstore to see free readings whenever I could.

The newspapers also review a book now and then and I always read the book reviews too.  I used to actually use those book reviews to see if I might buy something new at my favorite bookstores in the city.  The economy has been in a slump of late so unfortunately this landmark bookstore I mentioned may be moving or going out of business.  I wish that I could go support them by buying books but with where I live it’s not possible anymore.  They gave me a lot of good memories of some of my favorite authors.

I read a lot and I have tried to review a book or two myself in the past.  My Mom used to make me do that with the books I read when I was a kid.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as reading, but she thought it would be good for me as a writer.  It fell apart kind of fast because it wasn’t really comfortable for me.  Even though a lot of it is personal opinion I am still glad that folks out there do review books and publish those reviews in the free weeklies.

Posted in Books Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment