On reviews and book buying and nostalgia
Posted on October 6th, 2012
M and I have been discussing how to find good books via online publishers (he is a voracious reader of self-published and small-press/online fiction and I am extraordinarily picky and will usually only read fiction that has been favorably reviewed by the LRB, the NYT, or a trusted friend). M refers to my reading as “self-improvement reading.” I refer to his reading as “a lot of crap fiction.” There is some overlap, and yes, it works for us. Occasionally he finds a prince among the frogs, and I love that he supports indie authors.
In any case, we’ve been going back and forth about how we review books. I had been under the impression that, well, I’m a tough reviewer. (I mean, I wasn’t very nice about the last book I reviewed here, but then again, that was a sunny afternoon of my life I’m never getting back.) And I continued to think I was a meanie until I finally got around to organizing my Goodreads shelves…and realized I’ve only given out 12 one-star reviews and hundreds of three- to five-star reviews.
I also noticed I only write reviews if I really love a book or if I really hate a book — and that I almost never post reviews on Amazon (which would be the smart thing to do, if I were interested in doing a public service). Instead, I post on Goodreads* (and rarely here) where the audience is much more limited and no one is generally shopping for books. I’ve resolved to start posting to Amazon, even though it means I will post my mean reviews there, too.
(I make a point to read the worst reviews of a book or product on Amazon. Sometimes the reviewers’ disappointment makes me more inclined to buy, because they highlight something I’m looking for. Also, I think there are some authors who really could learn from their bad reviews. However, when they don’t and they flame the reviewers, it’s awful and tacky but OMG, so entertaining.)
Mostly I go on Amazon to buy books I already want (because of reviews). It’s very, very unusual for me to browse Amazon (although I did maybe 15 years ago) because it’s just too much. Too big.
But I miss browsing. I’m lucky enough to live in a city with Powell’s, which is a delightful place to browse, especially now that I can handle Pea’s boredom. “No, we won’t go to the kid’s section until after I’ve looked through the purple room and oh, look! A book about F-14s!” And she will sit down with the coffee table books in the aviation section, which is conveniently located next to naval history. Win.
I miss browsing stacks, though. I don’t mean public library stacks, but university library stacks. I need to get borrowing privileges at the university near Pea’s school. I am getting nostalgic for LOC classification.
And…recently I’ve missed talking to my father. He was often the only person I knew who would have read what I was reading, or would have read a review of what I was reading, or I could tell him about what I was reading and then discover he had a deep understanding of the subject matter and we could have an hour-long conversation about it. But that ship has sailed. It’s not the same, but I joined some new Goodreads groups.
Sigh. Anyway. I’ve got a cold and my brain is mostly mush, so this is as coherent as this post is going to get. I may delete it in the morning.
*If you want to be friends on GR, drop me a line (the.attorney.at.large AT gmail.com). I killed my AAL GR account, because it was silly to maintain two separate and yet identical accounts.