Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Have you ever bought a book based on a review you read?

The subject of book reviewing has been weighing on my mind recently, especially as I have seen a lot of discourse on the matter, including: there are not enough reviews being written, reviews are not in-depth enough anymore, does every book deserve to be reviewed, online reviews have more potential audience than print reviews, etc.

What I want to know is: if you have purchased a book based on a review, what was it about the review that inspired you to purchase the book?

To me, the key ingredients of a book review are:
  • Who is the author, perhaps a brief bio
  • If a poetry collection, sample poems or excerpts from a few poems, noting any underlying themes
  • If fiction, short outline of plot/storyline
  • If non-fiction, description of subject covered
  • Notes on what a reader will enjoy about the book
  • Notes on what a reader might not enjoy, criticisms

To me, those are pretty key. Especially excerpts from poems if it is a review of a poetry collection.

But another question I have is whether it matters how long the review is? Are you more swayed by in-depth "criticism & analysis" or are you as likely to be inspired to pick up a book based on a short description and a few excerpts?

I admit to being swayed by both, but that with my life as it is now, there's more of a chance of me reading a review if it is not a multi-page discourse serving not only to review a book, but also to highlight and illustrate the intelligence of the reviewer/critic.

Today I was influenced by a mere link to a selection of poems from a forthcoming collection.

I would love to hear from others their thoughts on the subject of what in a review influences them to buy or to not buy a book...


Greg said...

Speaking of poetry books only, I only buy influenced by a review if it's the review that informs me that a poet I consider essential (Charles Wright, e.g.) has a new book available. For non-poetry, a review might influence me to LOOK at and consider buying, but never go right out and buy unexamined.

I agree with your list of essential review ingredients.

jeannine said...

I am most likely to buy a book of poetry if the review also features one or two poems. And of course, I would have to like the poems.
Like Greg, if I find out that a poet I've liked in the past has a new book coming out, I'm likely to not be biased by the review, but go check out the new book on my own.

Karen J. Weyant said...

I do buy books depending on reviews -- but I don't make a buying decision based on whether or not the review was "bad" or "good" -- I tend to look at the poems included in the review.

giulia said...

Hi B.

Poetry books, almost never the last few years. I think that might be financial issue, not sure. Collected poem volumes, I buy those. But if I were to buy from review (I think twice in last 6-9 years), I'd already read enough (elsewhere) to decide. (So, really like Greg & jeannine above.)

But on other books, prose & non-fiction. Yes, upon occasion. I use same criteria & either type of review appeals to me, depending on the day/what's going on/what sort of book.

One thing struck me during a non-scientific survey here after seeing your query. Walking past bookcases, piles by bed, on chairs, tables, a veritable skyline...a trip to IKEA is planned, yes...I'd read them before. Before I bought them.

Turns out a substantial number of books were purchased AFTER I borrowed from the library (or friend) & loved them. Apparently, I thought some sort of 'book emergency' would take place. In the middle of the night. I have no idea. That's what I found most of all. (I'm not talking classics I don't have but want or new translations--which I do buy, as soon as possible.)

RE: the current debate in book reviewing vs. lit-crit reviews. There's some discussion of this & links over at Maitresse site in Paris (American writer). I depend somewhat on that blog (& her links) to keep current. Having gone to university in France, I have a high tolerance for this sort of neener-neener nonsense. Far too high a tolerance, in fact. (She's reporting, she is not full of nonsense or I would not read it. Just to be clear.)