I have become aware of some new reviews of my books in recent days and this has spurred me on to share some musings regarding book reviews.
Firstly, while I accept that not everyone will like my books, I am human and do experience some discomfort when reading negative comments or a negative review. Not that I consider my books to be above criticism. Both are “short introductions” to broad and complex subject matters; particularly my book concerning attachment and attachment disorders. Both were written in such a way as to be accessible to the broadest audience possible. It follows that both books can be criticised for what is not covered and for simplicity of explanations of the subject material.
However, I doubt that there are any books that are entirely without merit that make it to publication stage with known publishing houses. In a markeplace it makes no sense for the publishing house to distribute rubbish, and published works are (in my experience, at least) subject to a number of layers of editorial review. If one accepts this then one has to wonder at the motivations and insight of those who write purely negative evaluations or reviews of published works.
Entirely positive reviews are very welcome and good for vanity! However, the most useful reviews are those that make realistic appraisals of a book’s positive and negative aspects, before settling on a final summation of the book. I know this as the “dialectic” approach to formulating an argument that was taught to me in high school. I thought that this was the “gold standard” approach to conducting evaluations and reviews but have since learnt that it is not always used by reviewers.
However, I was recently extremely pleased to read a review of my book on resilience by Asfia Qaadir in Metapsychology Online Reviews. I would refer the reader to this review by following the link. This is a good example of the dialectic approach to a review.
For other reviews I would direct the reader to the “book reviews” page of this blog. I will endeavour to add all reviews I am aware of over the next little while.
I agree that reviews vary in worth and fairness. This probably has quote a lot to do with the motives and agenda of the reviewer. But I think reviews also vary according to context.
In my own journal (well, the one I edit!) – CCYP, for children’s counsellors – I expect reviewers to be brief and to make sure the reader has sufficient information to make a judgement about purchasing the title, for practical reasons, in pursuit of their own professional development as practitioners.
Whereas in Therapy Today, which has a very large and disparate audience of practitioners, the reviews are much more erudite, often comparing previous and current books, and almost offering mini articles on the subject. All very interesting, but I wouldn’t know if I needed to buy the book! So I think context is everything in determining how a review should look. But obviously, it needs to be fair within those parameters.
Thanks Eleanor. Last week I received a review that appeared in The Transactional Analyst. I found it somewhat perplexing as the reviewer wrote almost exclusively about their own professional journey and perspectives, sparing only a couple of sentences for comment on my book. And those sentences were quite bizarre and seemingly unrelated to the content of my book, such that I wondered if the reviewer had even read it! 🙂