Class Notes: The Art of the Book Review

Picture of a bookThe first session of this class went well! Nisi Shawl was a terrific guest speaker.

In talking about reviews, we talked about good reviews and what they do. Here’s the notes from that.

  • Provide a sense of the reviewer, their styles and biases.
  • Explain what makes the reviewer say something is very good or very bad.
  • Provide a sense of the book’s context and comparable books.
  • Make you want to read the book but without creating unreasonable expectations.
  • Alert the reader to problematic things without providing preconceptions.
  • Be diplomatic but honest.
  • Provide an educated impression of the book that tells the reader whether or not they should invest time/money in the book.
  • Delve into what about the book created a particular impression.

Other topics we touched on: how you get started doing book reviews, what limits to have regarding spoilers, how to write a negative review well, promoting yourself and your reviews, networking, how to evaluate reviews, and the best way(s) to get better at reviewing. I thought it went really well and had plenty of interesting conversation and questions.

The next Art of the Book Review online class will happen Sunday, March 30, 9:30-11:30 AM PST. Nisi will be appearing as a speaker for the class in this session as well.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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