Allyson Floridia ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Two of the most well-known places to learn about new books, aside from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, are The New York Times best seller lists and reviews. The best seller lists are up-to-date on the latest and hottest books across all genres and are supported by arguably the most well-known, revered news publication in the United States. The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, NPR, and others, are all well-respected sources for reviews. Their literary critics’ analysis are so respected they can make or break an author. Of course, sometimes the poor publicity actually boosts sales simply from exposure.
Despite the esteem given to these sources, a common complaint among readers is the high criteria by which literary critics judge books and the limited selection that are reviewed. Many reviews by these publications are hesitatingly positive and frequently negative. It seems difficult for authors to live up to critics’ high expectations and of the authors who are reviewed, a large number pen literary fiction. This leaves little room for indie authors or writers of genre fiction. In order to open the internet to discussion, independent book bloggers have grown in popularity.
Anyone can set up a blog and they don’t need to have strict credentials as a critic for a magazine or newspaper may need. While some may say these bloggers don’t have the level of knowledge/experience to be reviewing books as lit critics do, they may relate to everyday readers more. Most readers don’t look at books in the same way as critics. They either like something or they don’t, each for their own reasons. Book bloggers can relate to readers and give reviews that reflect a general audience’s reaction. So and so loved this character because he/she reminds them of […], rather than, “Even the heaviest scenes of financial angst and other tensions go down easily because of the novel’s short, brisk chapters. So does Winter’s writing style, which is full of tightly packed sentences that build on themselves, often ending in a kicker” (Perri). While successfulness of the writing is important, it may not be the first thing readers come to when deciding whether they like a book or not. At the same time, many book bloggers write careful analyses, spending time evaluating character development, plot, organization, etc., just as much as literary critics.
Reviews by publications like The New York Times also lack one key thing book blogs do: connection. One reads the review in paper or online and can mail in or leave a comment on the website, but the reviewer is an elusive staff member readers can’t get to know. Book blogs on the other hand make reading reviews a much more personal experience. Unhindered by word count or deadlines, bloggers can write longer informal reviews that allow their visitors to get to know them, thus becoming an online friend they trust.
Some blogs will also invite authors on tours and interview them about their latest work, inspirations, and challenges. Others will host giveaways or contests to receive a copy of a recently published title by a favorite author. And others will open discussions to their subscribers to create thoughtful discourse about a book. In this way, book blogs are interactive experiences for readers, further bringing a fictional world to reality.
On this note, bloggers can review any title they want. They aren’t confined by limitations such as number or type of book. Blogs for specific genres are consequently popular and readers of whichever genre a site focuses on can discover books otherwise not publicized by major publications. If a blogger reviews a title a reader likewise enjoyed, there’s a higher probability of the reader enjoying future books reviewed by that person.
Growing in popularity, book blogs will no doubt become a steadfast resource for discovering and discussing new works. They provide a personal, interactive experience for readers that traditional book reviews don’t. Additionally, they can be a source for the latest book news. While there may always be a division between the age-old reviews in known publications simply due to the history behind those publications, book blogs are just as worthwhile. Be sure to check out some of the most popular blogs like BookRiot, The IndieView, or Here There be Books. And of course, there are thousands of more out there.
Perri, Camille. “A Debut Novel Grapples With Work, Marriage, and Fertility.” The New York Times. Aug. 1, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/books/review/jessica-winter-break-in-case-of-emergency.html