Importance of Book Reviews

Posted October 2, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 12 Comments

I consider myself a reader, but I am not well-read. (Will I ever be well-read?). I have only been a reader for eleven years and in that time, I have slowly discovered my literary tastes. I know I want to learn something from the literature I read, and I know I prefer to read books from around the world. When I started my reading journey, I used the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die book as a guide to try out literature and discover my tastes. I had this idea that maybe I would read every book listed but now that I have a better idea of what I like, I have abandoned that plan.

I have often written about my reading journey, because I find it useful to track the way I have changed as a reader and as a writer. However, now that I have not written many blog posts for a while, I have noticed just how valuable they are for my own personal reminders. I want to become more than a book reviewer; I want to improve my style as a both a writer and a book critic. Recently, I have discovered how useful book reviews have become for my own personal reflection.

In this past year or two, I have not written many reviews and I now I am paying for it. When someone starts talking about a book, it is useful to reflect on your own thoughts. I have friends recently read Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan (which was translated from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker). I have vague recollections of enjoying it, but that was hundreds of books ago. Without a review, I struggle to recollect my thoughts to discuss the novel with others.

This might be useful when it comes to re-reading a book. I am currently in the middle of a re-read of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky but this time I am reading the Oliver Ready translation. I have a review of the David McDuff translation of the book from 2012, which means once I finish my re-read, I can look at my old review and see how much my thoughts have changed. I can see the different themes that worked for me, maybe even see how my own literary analysis has changed. I have discovered, one of the joys of re-reading translated classics is the fact that you can test out new translators and have a completely different experience with the text.

While I have a YouTube channel, and host the Lost in Translations podcast (I even recently joined TikTok), I am not a fan of my own voice. Which means, I am not likely to go back and see my thoughts on a book if my review is in a video format. Also, I do not think I am making good content on YouTube. Although, I think the advantage of the podcast is having a discussion with someone else. These mediums are not great for going back and reflecting on my thoughts on a book. I think I prefer the written word as a way to record my thoughts. My YouTube channel was created as a way to practise verbalising my own thoughts, but I have doubts about any improvement. The podcast was just a fun way to talk with others about translated literature (and I am looking for guests if you are interested) and with Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, I think it is just a way to be more social about translations. My main focus obviously needs to be the written word, since it seems to have the most value to me and my future self.

12 responses to “Importance of Book Reviews

  1. I’ve been going back through my old reviews to fix broken images from a WP transfer that didn’t go so well, and it’s interesting to see how much I’ve grown/changed. I have to get my thoughts down in written form because I mostly remember how a book made me feel, not specifics about plot or anything. So I’m totally with you on feeling unable to have much, if any, discussion with others about past reads.

  2. I agree entirely. I don’t think there’s any doubt that we think differently when we write… our thoughts are necessarily more coherent when we write them down, with a bonus that we also remember them better. I’ve been blogging reviews now for 12 years and keeping a reading journal before that since 1997 and it’s an invalable record of what I’ve read and how I’ve changed as a reader.
    The more we read, the more we need those reminders about the books!

  3. Hang on, how did I not know about your YouTube channel? I’m off to subscribe now.

    Oh and I completely agree with your comments about the value of your own reviews. I love seeing how my reading tastes have changed over the years and I hope I’m better at reviewing now than when I first started out.

  4. I totally agree about the importance of book reviews.
    Though I have noticed for myself that the mere fact of takings notes as I read, in order to write a review, helps me remember better the book, even without going back to read my review, usually. I say usually, because I recently discovered on Goodreads I had read a book I have no recollection whatsoever. I had even written a review, and still, couldn’t remember a thing about the book!! It even sounded like sb else had written that review (NB: I have been book blogging for 10 years). So either I’m really starting losing it, or there is an extra important criterion that makes me remember a book or not, with or without my review!

  5. I prefer the term ‘widely read’ for readers who read books from various categories and genres, it’s feels much more inclusive and friendly and you most definitely seem widely read. I’m a firm believer in reviewing first and foremost for yourself, reviews feel much more engaging and passionate. I rarely venture into the Booktube world but really like the idea of podcasts, looking forward to checking it out. Perhaps a happy medium if you would rather not rewatch your videos might be to transcribe your videos using a voice to text converter? I think whichever path your reviewing journey follows, as long as you’re reviewing for yourself, the sky’s the limit!

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