The fulfillment one derives from writing about a book is as satisfying – if not more – as the delight one gets by reading it. In fact I personally feel that reviewing a book is just a natural corollary, an obvious extension of the reading process. The whole experience of having read a book is rendered redundant or obsolete even, till such time such an experience has not been transposed onto paper, or in keeping with contemporaneous tends, onto a word document or a blog. For a faithful book reviewer, even if a review is not intended for public consumption, the act of a review in itself and in isolation, is uncompromising. A book review thus represents a culmination, a closure even. A book does not come to an end upon the covers being closed. The loop is closed only the final punctuation appears signifying the completion of the book’s review.
A book review in addition to being an essential medium for spreading awareness about the utility value packed within a good book also instills the precious habit of reading. A well written review might not just pique the interest of a reader in the book, but also trigger a love for reading, a love that has every potential to transform into an obsession! A book review also serves as both an acknowledgement and a warning to the authors themselves. A book that is so magnificent in its sweep and majestic in its wake, should not be crying out for acceptance. It must be embraced willingly, widely and warmly. An appealing review goes a long way in furthering such a cause. This is exactly what is expected from a reviewer. It is thus, more a duty than a noble gesture of altruism.
Similarly, any author who thinks he can hold his readers to ransom by exploiting a reputation, however painstakingly cultivated, needs to be extremely wary of the reviewer’s ire. A pen that knows eulogy also has the wherewithal to spot mediocrity. For example, in the recent past there was published a book by one of the world’s foremost leadership experts. The primary postulation of the book, in a nutshell was “all those who rise early, exploit their career for the good”. A philosophy that could have been summed up in a tract, pamphlet or a brochure even! Instead the book rambles, trudges, sputters, blabbers, and prods along for almost 300 pages. The reader experiences perceivable PAIN in ploughing through what is absolute balderdash, and malarkey. No sincere and eager reader ought to be put through such an excruciating agony. A reviewer is beholden to point out such a travesty to fellow readers in an impartial and civil manner. While it would be doing injustice to call a spade by any other name, care also ought to be exercised in ensuring that censure, even though caustic, does not become a euphemism for abuse.
A reviewer thus in more aspects than one, is an implicit gatekeeper keeping a writer honest. Lest the reader may misconstrue, keeping a writer candid is not akin to policing him. A reviewer is the bridge that exacerbates the relationship between an author and his readers. In so acting, the reviewer also embellishes his repute and enhances the quality of his focus, attitude and outlook. Reviewing a book can be a humbling experience. While the genius of a writer may warrant extolling, getting carried away so as to dilute the very essence of the book is a danger to which a reviewer must always be alert. After all no author is bigger than the art of writing and no character is bigger than the story.
Finally, a reviewer’s dream is to see his work being acknowledged by people who have been genuinely influenced, impacted and inspired by a reading of such reviews. This is the pinnacle of purpose that lends the most invaluable degree of pleasure and satisfaction to a reviewer. This is the core of every reviewer’s aspiration as he goes about reviewing a book. Such a delight is neither Narcissism nor vanity. It is a pure and unadulterated sense of fulfilment that arises from a task well accomplished.
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As a book reviewer I identify with the points you’ve highlighted here. If I can influence even one person with my review, my job’s well done.
Your point of not being done with a book unless you have expressed what it made you feel is exactly why I feel I haven’t completely understood a book unless I have written about it. I’m loathe to do reviews but I do keep a personal excel with my thoughts.
I can totally relate to what you are saying. Even though I am a preternatural reviewer, the point is that we just need to put pen to paper even though its for private consumption alone, to bring the loop of book reading to its logical end. Thanks so much for the comment!
The thing is, Reviewing is a thankless job. .
A writer gets reviews, gets to work on shortcomings and improves to further their craft. A reviewer rarely has that arc. And here, it’s usually one way traffic.