The world of reviews is changing, I think we all can agree on that.
Newspapers are folding left and right, taking their book review sections along with them. Consonant with this, the internet has made everyone a reviewer, or potential reviewer.
Books, movies, theater, restaurants…how do we assess which are good and which are bad? Or, which ones you will like and which I will hate?
The latter is the goal of a review, to my mind. Not a blanket assessment of value, pretending that there is no such thing as taste, or a subjectivity factor, but rather, a tailoring of one reviewer’s likes, dislikes, and appraisal of value to a reader’s tastes. In an ideal world, I would hardly even have to read the review, except for my own enjoyment. I would know that Reviewer X’s tastes were so aligned with my own that I could buy or disregard a book based on her say so.
The rise of a vast web of reviews and reviewing will enable this latter approach, by simple mathematics. The increase in the number of reviewers will give more people a chance to find someone whose tastes reflect their own.
There can be a sort of wisdom of crowds approach to judging material. If a lot of people like it, chances are you may, too. And with many people reading, more books can be offered up for consideration. Again, simple mathematics.
The article speaks to some of the snags in this approach, but I also wonder about a few others.
A review utopia, where we all peacefully coexist with our likes and dislikes, can only exist provided we can find our way to truly good reviewers. Otherwise, no one will be able to pinpoint which material steering us to what is worth reading is in itself worth reading. The whole thing will disintegrate into a morass of unfiltered content.
To prevent that from happening, I thought I’d put out a few sources that I personally feel are of the utopian variety.
I have touted the great Oline Cogdill’s reviews for the Sun Sentinel–which are often picked up by other pubs–several times here. Oline coined the term “family thriller,” which describes my favorite type of book, and movie, too.
Recently I discovered a new-to-me review site, which I keep coming back to. If you’re a mystery lover this blog will steer you through uncharted waters without risk of capsizing–and with some wonderful exploration of texts along the way.
The Book Grrl always points me to someone I need to check out.
And I love to hear what Kaye Barley is reading as soon as she reads it.
Gloria and Theodore Feit offer reviews that are at once cheeky and substantive.
I am probably leaving out some sources I have already come to rely on, in this not-quite-post New York Review of Books world. As they come to me, I will put them up here.
What about you? How do you feel about the way the art of reviewing is trending? Do you have any reviewers you count on to bring you to the shores of a great, new read every time?