Do I actually know anything about how one is “supposed” to write a book review? Absolutely not. But I like doing them anyway, and here’s why.
I used to read a lot. I always enjoyed non-fiction, but probably the majority of what I used to read was fiction. Depression definitely makes reading harder. Concentration is a challenge, and committing to a whole book can feel like a lot. A lot of things don’t generate any interest in me, and fiction is pretty hard to get into. Choosing to do book reviews for the blog has been a good way to push myself to do more reading, and limiting it to mental health-related books boosts the likelihood that a book will be able to capture my attention. When I know I’m intending to review a book, I’m much more likely to persist rather than give up a book isn’t really grabbing me. Sometimes that just gets annoying, but mostly it’s a good thing.
Since my memory isn’t that great, I take a lot of notes as I’m reading a book that I intend to review. The notes might consist of quotes, ideas, or opinions. Taking notes helps me to better absorb the book’s message, and putting those notes together into a coherent review helps deepen that understanding. Overall I think I usually get more out of a book I’m reading to review than one I’m not.
One of my favourite kind of reviews to do is books written by fellow bloggers. I’ve gotten so much support from across the blogging community, and I like to have the chance to support other bloggers in what they’re doing. It’s also a great way to get to know some of my fellow bloggers better by learning more about their experiences or creative inspiration. By now I’ve read several books written by bloggers about their experiences with trauma. Each time, I feel truly privileged as I read them. Privileged to be allowed into the dark places that all too often are kept hidden. Privileged to bear witness to their journeys towards healing. Privileged that they have been willing to share their vulnerability with me as a reader.
There are several different ways I get the books that I review. Mass market books I borrow from the public library, either as a paper copy or an ebook. Books by bloggers I generally get on Amazon as a Kindle ebook, although occasionally I’ll be given a free copy. Recently I’ve started using NetGalley, which allows you to request reviewer copies from publishers of books listed on the site. I have a Kobo ereader that’s not compatible with Kindle books, so those I read on my laptop using the Kindle reading app. My Kobo is getting pretty old and I’ll probably buy a Kindle fairly soon. In many ways I prefer reading paper books, but ebooks are just so much easier.
I realize that a lot of the people who read my reviews won’t end up reading the book themselves, but I want them to still be able to benefit from the books, so I choose to work in more about the content/message than I think might typically appear in a review. If I’ve gotten something meaningful from the book, whether it’s an idea that works for me or doesn’t work, I want to be able to share it with people.
Outside of the blogosphere, do you do much reading? If so, how do you approach it, and what’s the most important thing you get out of it?
You can find a list of my book reviews here.