When I View Reviews

Inside my local library in Montclair, New Jersey. (Photo by me.)

Book reviews! Whether capsule or full-length, I rarely read them before I read the book. Used to, but I’ve mostly stopped.

Why? I don’t want to know very much about the plot until it slowly (or not so slowly) unfolds in a novel’s pages.

I don’t want to see “spoilers,” which can sometimes slip into reviews.

I don’t want to be influenced by what reviewers think. (But if you enthusiastically recommend a novel in my blog’s comments section, there’s a very good chance it will go on my to-read list. πŸ™‚ )

Some reviewers may of course not be fans of a book, so, if I take those sentiments to heart, I might avoid a book I would end up liking.

For instance, I didn’t look at reviews of J.K. Rowling’s sixth novel starring private investigators Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott before enjoying the book this month. After finishing The Ink Black Heart (written under Rowling’s “Robert Galbraith” alias), I as usual THEN read various reviews. Turns out many people felt the 1,024-page novel was way too long for its premise and genre, but in my opinion Rowling is such an engaging writer she pulled it off. Glad I didn’t peruse the reviews beforehand and risk not reading The Ink Black Heart

I should say that, out of curiosity, I sometimes look at the aggregate average of “stars” a novel gets from reviewers before I read it.

I should also say that some reviews obviously approach the perfection of whetting one’s appetite for a book while giving virtually nothing away — and thus can be safe to read beforehand. πŸ™‚

All that said, AFTER I finish a book I do read reviews — at least 10 or 20 of them — to see what others thought.

So how DO I decide which books to read? As mentioned, I often rely on recommendations from commenters here — as well as suggestions from family and friends. Also, if I like a novel by an author, I’ll quickly or eventually read other titles by that author. (My previous sentence referred to standalone works; if I enjoy the first book in a series, I’ll of course continue with that series for anywhere from a few installments to indefinitely.) There’s also the occasional serendipity of looking for specific books in my local library and another novel not on my to-read list catches my eye. Perhaps I had heard something about that book or author and my memory got nudged.

Oh, another thing I usually avoid before starting a novel is reading any foreword or introduction written by someone other than the author. Too much risk there’ll be plot “giveaways.” (I double back to the foreword or intro after finishing the book.) I also sometimes hesitate to look at book jacket copy for the same reason, though I might give that copy a quick glance when deciding on which novels to grab in the library.

Anything you’d like to say relating to this week’s theme?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — containing “cameos” from Bruce Springsteen and The Eagles — is here.

141 thoughts on “When I View Reviews

  1. So-so opening lines ?
    The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Susex. ( possibly the dullest ?)
    There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
    It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. *
    Didn’t put me off, and many more, but a few years ago, newbie, I dared to try good reads, and only gave ****
    Fatal, because I knew the author, and have never dared review again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Esther, for all those interesting examples! Yes, some opening lines are better than others. I AM kind of partial to “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day” because I love the whole “Jane Eyre” novel. A good book can definitely survive a so-so opening line.


  2. Dave, I never read any reviews on John Grisham and Lee ( Andrew) Child books. When those books are available, the Library notifies me and I always borrow them.
    Grisham’s Latest one is ” Boys from Biloxi” is another legal thriller. Two boys who grew up together were baseball stars in two different teams.
    Then they grew up.
    One follows the footsteps of his DA father. The other learns to be a mob boss, a gangster.
    Somehow I didn’t care as the story unfolds, and I barely finished the book.
    Dave here I gave my opinion, if you ever read the book I would love to hear that.
    By the way the book was another of Grisham`s best seller.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Long long ago, when the earth and I were young, i wrote a few dozen reviews of pop music and some of its practitioners for a major metropolitan daily. The second one I ever wrote, and one of which I was especially proud, came rolling moistly up my leg during a windy shower the day after it was published, having been blown down the street as I walked.

    Sic transit, thought I.

    A good introduction to my legacy in print.

    I liked some things, didn’t like others, and I had my reasons, but early on I realized the big edge my opinions had over others: I could write an essay. Otherwise, my opinion was no better than the next guy’s, generally speaking, especially as my topics were well within the comfort zone of a great many pop music fans.

    Last year, a somewhat obscure musician died, and that paper, in its obituary of her, quoted from a review of a performance I had written in 1975, if I remember right.

    It was the first time since that year my name had appeared within its pages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, jhNY — must have been an amazing feeling to see your review quoted many years later! That newspaper obviously had its act together in terms of accessing archives. πŸ™‚ I’m sure your several-dozen reviews were excellent!

      I wrote a couple of music reviews — about Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor concerts — during my first newspaper job after college. The editor doled out those assignments as a perk to young reporters who covered often-boring municipal meetings.


      • Was a bit of the old emotion, seeing myself quoted therein– sent to me by a pal with a subscription. Best best part: my prose, written as it was literally on a two-top in the back of the club in mere minutes, read pretty well.

        Funny coinkindink: Among those few dozen reviews, one was about Ms Ronstadt’s latest lp, and another covered a performance. Met her and Peter Asher then, and a few years later, met and and visited the home of Ed Black, a sideman in her band in that era. He regaled me with his collection of Dwayne Eddy and Bobby Fuller recordings…

        You and I might have covered the same tour!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Nice when one’s prose holds up well! And that IS a coincidence about Ronstadt. Great that you got to meet her and others! The concert of hers I reviewed, at the Garden State Arts Center (I think that was the name) in Holmdel, NJ, was in the summer of 1976, if memory serves.



    Gilbert Seldes, critic and editor of “The Dial” (published Eliot’s “The Wasteland”) didn’t care for F Scott’s books, except “The Great Gatsby”, but liked F. Scott. Algonquin Round Table habitue Franklin P Adams didn’t care for “The Great Gatsby” or its author overmuch. Mencken did, and liked Fitzgerald. Hemingway didn’t like Seldes, who regularly praised his books.

    Come to think of it, Mencken has got to be counted as a perspicacious judge of literary talent– not only for his early praise of Fitzgerald, but for having founded “The Black Mask”, that famous pulp magazine that launched the careers of Hammett and Chandler and Cain. The magazine started life as a money-making vehicle meant to defray costs of publishing “The Smart Set”– and it did– which, if its subscribers were members of said set, would obviously be smaller in number than the set who read “The Black Mask”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Generally, I pay most attention to criticism and recommendations made by other writers whose works and mind I admire. So, as I was very fond and intrigued by Ezra Pound’s attempts to make old things live in modern context, I paid attention to his literary enthusiasms, and was rewarded by a lifetime of interest in ancient Chinese poetry, read Dante, read Ovid. Pound championed several contemporaries: got Joyce’s “Ulysses” into print, edited Eliot’s “The Wasteland”, introduced Hemingway to the emigre writers of the day. Most recently, worked at reading Golding’s 16th century translation of “The Metamorphoses” because Pound had thought so well of it, and enjoyed the challenge, and its vigorous earthiness.

    Dorothy Parker is not generally on the top my lists as a writer of stories or poetry, though that may well be the limitations of my taste at work, but I do hold her opinions valuable, and more importantly, her way of arriving at them, when she reviews books, as she did for years in the magazine “Vanity Fair”. She had smart, admiring things to say about Hemingway early on, and Ring Lardner, and found vitality if no literature in Fannie Hurst, loved Upton Sinclair the man, but not so well his jottings, had no use for Sinclair Lewis’ “The Man Who Knew Coolidge”, while referring to “Main Street” and “Babbitt” as “invaluable historical documents”. Sadly, any summing up I attempt pales and founders in the face of her prose and humor and insight, but several of her reviews have been collected in “The Portable Dorothy Parker”. Well worth seeking out!

    As she has been for many years most famous for her seat at the Algonquin Round Table, here is a clear-eyed, unsparing and unblinking assessment of its habitues and the times that Parker wrote some years after:

    “These were no giants. Think who was writing in those daysβ€”Lardner, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway. Those were the real giants. The Round Table was just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were.”

    Sometimes the harshest critic is oneself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY! Makes a lot of sense to rely on what is/was liked by writers you admire for some of your reading choices! Ezra Pound certainly had valuable opinions about literature in addition to his unfortunate fascist leanings.

      Dorothy Parker was indeed quite a talent. I read a book of her short stories a few years ago, and found some of her tales quite memorable — often with more gravitas than her witty light verse. And, yes, she could be an excellent reviewer.


      • The fascist stuff came upon him during the Great Depression, worldwide edition, when a great many people from all walks of life were trying to figure out how to salvage whatever remained of the economic order, or to advocate something else. As an auto-didact, Pound proved to be a disastrous teacher on political economy– but he arrived, as he always did, at his own conclusions– by weighing such evidence he gathered for himself, certain afterward of his notions, and bitter in isolation in Rapallo Italy, where he eventually made some ugly and vicious broadcasts during the war. with the approval of Mussolini’s government.

        For his crimes, he was literally caged, and eventually sent to live out the rest of his vitality at St. Elizabeth’s in DC. Nearly 60 years ago, I visited the place, which was still serving the mentally ill. Desolate.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with all your approaches to reading 100%, Dave! My love of libraries, and reading, was instilled by my mother. She wasn’t able to spend most of her life with me, but that was a priceless gift. Getting my first library card was a thrill, and I still have a subsequent one of them in my memorabilia.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Like you, I mostly choose books by recommendation and covers rather than reviews. Too many reviewers lay out the entire plotline as though they feel the need to prove to the author they’ve read the book while ruining it for future readers.
    But, I WILL highly recommend Kristin Hannah to you. Her books are expertly researched, full of heart and soul. Excellent reads!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jacquie! Yes, book recommendations from people we know and trust are so valuable. And, yes again, some reviews do indeed give away much too much. You make an excellent point about how some reviewers want to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they read the book.

      Re Kristin Hannah, I did read her novel “The Nightingale” a few weeks ago and thought it was powerful and depressingly terrific. Which of her other novels have you liked best? I will read one of them!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Dave, as mentioned in a response, I only started reviewing books in 2016. I have subsequently developed a review plan for both poetry and prose books which I try to follow. I look at a short character analyse, a short overview of the beginning of the book, insights into obvious themes and ideas, and then a general summary of my impressions of the book. I try to make my reviews useful and interesting. It is an ongoing process for me. A great post as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have always maintained that “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, but that’s generally the reason you pick it up!!! I look for intriguing titles, e.g. “Through a Glass Darkly” or read about the author and synopsis on the cover. Otherwise, I listen to other people’s recommendations if I’m not familiar with the author. On the contrary, I’ll read anything by Fannie Flagg because I LOVE her style and her vivid imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, lulabelle! That’s an interesting, cleverly stated point about a book’s cover. A cover rarely is a major factor in me deciding to read a novel, but once in a while… πŸ™‚ Same with a title — a “convincer” for me only occasionally. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a great title and cover!

      Like you, I’m a big fan of Fannie Flagg and would read anything she writes. I owe that to you, who recommended I try her work. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

          • Quoting from memory seems in my case to be a process of paraphrase. here is the correct lyric of the first verse and chorus:

            You can’t judge an apple by lookin’ at a tree
            You can’t judge honey by lookin’ at the bee
            You can’t judge a daughter by lookin’ at the mother
            You can’t judge a book by lookin’ at the cover

            Oh, can’t you see
            Oh, you misjudge me
            I look like a farmer
            But I’m a lover
            Can’t judge a book by lookin’ at the cover

            There is genius resident in “I look like a farmer but I’m a lover”, as it more or less sums up Bo Diddly– but the words and music come courtesy of his stablemate and sometime producer at Chess Records, Willie Dixon.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. For me, a good review (whether positive or negative) is one that talks about the craftsmanship in putting together the tale, whether characters are drawn convincingly and whether the plot is logical or at least plausible — related in a way that lets me decide for myself whether to invest gray cells in appreciating the work. That’s rare in reviews anymore, and I don’t even bother with the crowdsourced reviews on social media. There, the work in question is either the best ever or it’s abominable and the author should be shot into the sun, and no hint of why I should agree or disagree or invest time in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Don! Your description of what a good review should be is excellent — telling the reader a lot without giving away anything that might lessen the “discovery” and enjoyment of the book.

      I’ve seen some book reviews on social media that are quite nuanced (along with those that are not, as you humorously describe πŸ™‚ ) and have also seen terrific book reviews by bloggers — including some who comment here. (I realize the blogosphere is a different animal than social media.)


  11. Thank you Dave for your interesting question! For me it depends quite a lot on the language I read in. As far as English is concerned, you and other great blogger friends have lately given me very good ideas, such as Three Apples Fell from the Sky or Cat’s Eye and The Midnight’s Library:) Sometimes I also take up beloved books I read ages ago such as Jane Eyre and reread them with friends. In German I know many books, which I would like to read and in Italien and French I often get good advice from friends here around. In any case I wish you all much pleasure in reading good books from around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I meet with some friends once a week to discuss what we are currently reading. That is where I get most of my book recommendations. Before investing my time in a book, I look at the one-star reviews and compare the comments with my own book rubric. If the comments are in my one-star category, I usually don’t read the book. Life is short – I want to read good books.

    On the other hand, when I have been asked to review a book, I give the author my book rubric, so that they know the criteria by which I evaluate writing. Funnily enough, they often say, “never mind.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, vanaltman! Wonderful that you have that weekly meeting with friends; a GREAT way to get trusted book recommendations. And I totally agree with your “life is short” sentiment; trying to increase the odds of reading a book we love or at least like is a good thing. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I completely understand your aversion to spoilers and the desire to avoid being influenced by others’ opinions before forming your own. It’s always a wonderful feeling to go into a book with a blank slate and be pleasantly surprised by the unfolding of the plot.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m on the fence re: reviews. If someone who knows me suggests a book I might like, I’ll definitely take it under advisement. Yet I must say I do like reviews that cross reference other books of the same ilk. Kinda like streaming services that offer a “you may also like” recommendations. Often a review is very much like a caveat emptor warning; however, I’m just the kinda person who buys alot of gadgets and gizmos based on reviews and most of them have turned out to be real disappointments. In fact, my house is the house where these sorts of things go to die. Ha! But my library gets the benefits of any books I didn’t enjoy. So its a win-win thing. Currently, I’m still not reading because of my double vision, and a great majority of audiobooks include reviews as well as summaries *sigh* I appreciate a review that isn’t a spoiler. In fact, other then genre, author, and voice there’s not much anyone should ask for. Yikes this is longer than I anticipated; however, it reminds me of certain humorous book reviews: TLDR. Great post Dave, thanx. Susi

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susi! Yes, a book recommendation from someone we know can be worth its weight in gold. And you’re right that reviews do have various kinds of potential uses — and the shorter the better, usually.

      I chuckled at your description of your “gadgets and gizmos” situation. πŸ™‚

      Sorry about your continued double vision. 😦 Very much hoping that will go away soon.


      • Thanks Dave. I miss reading, although there are some audiobook readers with great voices. As far as reviews, I love to watch podcasts reviewing products esp. when they fail. Some of them are hilarious. I like to read funny book reviews too esp. by the haters of goodreads online page. One guy’s review of The Bible: Too much sex and violence for me. BTW, your library is beautiful. My library is very dark and creepy. Probably haunted, too.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Glad audiobooks are an option in your situation, Susi!

          And funny reviews — whether the humor is intentional or not — can be VERY appealing.

          A creepy-looking library can also be appealing in its haunted way — πŸ™‚ — but I’m glad my local one is bright and cheery.


  15. I have never considered myself qualified to give my unasked-for opinion on someone’s pride and join. On the few occasions when I’ve been asked and cannot get out of posting one on an internet site I’m sorry, but I use a pseudonym.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Daniel! I hear what you’re saying; spending a relatively short amount of time reviewing a book the writer worked on for months or years can be fraught. Still, many authors appreciate reviews. And if one is uncomfortable, I see nothing wrong with using a reviewer alias.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Certainly an interesting read and I must admit to looking for Misty in that photo. Reviews are tricky and my own variations are just on Goodreads. The fewer stars I assign the shorter my comments.

    What-to-read recommendations are far more reliable than what-to-stream ones. In either case, bots seem to be doing the assembly. Looking forward to your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kathy, for the interesting thoughts! I can see the connection between fewer stars and shorter comments.

      I’m not on Goodreads; I guess this blog, and reading other literature blogs, is/are my online book focus.

      My local library probably wouldn’t want Misty roaming around, but I did love the book “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.” πŸ™‚


  17. I find most books through blogs now, and most of them are by indie authors. I also prefer to read reviews once I’ve engaged with or even finished reading a book.
    I’m always surprised by how many poorly written books (typos, awkward sentences, even accidental shifts in tense or point of view) get many 5-star ratings and enthusiastic reviews. Some may be from friends of the author, but I suspect many people read quickly or even skim over dull sections, and are happy to write a short positive review if the ending feels good.
    Your blog always reminds me of the classics and other worthy books I really ought to read. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Audrey! Blogs are SO valuable and interesting. Makes one wonder how we all lived without them before they became a major “thing” 15-20 years ago.

      Great that you read many indie authors (and that you’re of course an indie author yourself)! I regret not reading more indie authors; by the time I read enough somewhat older or much older novels to feed my weekly blog and its premise, I have little time left. 😦

      Yes, many reviews of indie authors accentuate the positive, and I feel that’s a good thing. When I used to write reviews fairly often of indie and small press books by authors I personally knew, if I didn’t like the books I just wouldn’t post anything.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Audrey, you have effectively answered a question I’ve always have about reviews. I must admit, a few typos don’t bother me and I see them in all books from all sources. An unusual and interesting story with a good storyline will earn a robust rating from me.

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Interesting the ways in which we select the books we choose to read. There are so many great books available that I’ve found reviews and recommendations of invaluable help. In addition to recommendations from bloggers like yourself, I also learn about new authors/books through the Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers, the two magazines that I subscribe to.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Rosaliene! Yes, bloggers are a GREAT source of book (and in the case of your blog) poetry recommendations. And I appreciate you mentioning those two magazines, which sound very valuable. I’ve certainly heard of both but somehow haven’t looked at them much over the years.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. This is an excellent topic of discussion, Dave. I find it fascinating to see how people chose the books they read.

    First off, I admire those who can craft a book review. Book reviews are not easy to write. Liz Gauffreau and Robbie Cheadle are brilliant reviewers and I look forward to reading their recommendations.

    I am going to take a risk when I say that I believe, in many ways, books found me. For example, Pascal Mercier’s book β€œNight Train to Lisbon” found me through this quote:

    β€œWe leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

    I was in transition and this book came at the right time.

    For me, the key is the author. I research the author’s biography and consider the author’s message and values. Their message and values may not align with mine, but I am very interested in hearing their thoughts and insights. They may change my thinking!!!

    β€œA Gentleman of Moscow” came to me when I met an old acquaintance on the street during the pandemic. (I did not recognize her at first because of the mask) She was passionate when she told me β€œYou must read this book.” She gave me no details other than those words, but I knew this book would be on the top of my stack of books when I saw she had tears in her eyes. Those 5 words made for a passionate book review.

    By the way, I LOVE the photo of your library. I could feel the energy of the books through the WI-FI!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you, Rebecca! Liz and Robbie are indeed among the fabulous book reviewers in the blogosphere — as, in a different way, are you and your sister Sarah in your book podcasts!

      A memorable, evocative quote from a book can definitely draw us in like an ultra-powerful magnet. πŸ™‚ As can a compelling author bio.

      When someone we know says we HAVE to read a certain book, we are wise to listen. “A Gentleman in Moscow” is one of the novels I’ve read during the past few years that I’m most fond of. It’s superb.

      Glad you like the photo! For a building built in the 1950s — perhaps not one of the more architecturally renowned decades — my local library is a very nice structure.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Rebecca, thank you for your kind remarks about my reviews, I try to give people the flavour of a book without sharing spoilers. I also enjoy Liz’s reviews. I mainly read classic books and Indie books written by people whose blogs I enjoy. Blogs give me a good indication of the nature of writers and their interests and passions.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Hi Dave,

    Using this email address because I can’t find the address I must have had 10 years ago during the ’troubles’. I’m writing to ask you if you would like to join our letter-to-the-editor group. I think asked you some years ago and you declined because you were still doing the Clairvoyant strip and it would have been a conflict of interest. We take turns writing, a letter every 6 weeks, submitted to the Ledger, the Record and your local paper (Montclair Local, West Orange Chronicle, etc). Any topic from a progressive point of view. Call me and we can chat and I can give you more info.

    Best,  Jim   


    Liked by 2 people

  21. I don’t read reviews before reading books, and I tend to avoid launch posts for new books that include excerpts. Sometimes, I just skip the excerpt.

    In my own promotional posts, I try to avoid introducing anything that would be a spoiler. I have struggled with this because it’s difficult when you’re working with a series. Almost any detail about Book-n offers spoilers for Book-(n-1).

    Still, on the other hand, I am trying to write reviews more often, because a lot of people do like reading them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Dan! Interesting thoughts! I think reviews and launch/promotional posts can be very valuable, especially for indie authors — and if one doesn’t read those reviews and posts before reading a book, those reviews and posts are certainly there to possibly be read after.

      And, yes, it’s a good thing to write reviews — say, on Amazon, or elsewhere online. I’ve done quite a few in the past (mostly for indie or small-press authors I know personally) but guiltily have done fewer the past few years as my work schedule and family life have gotten much busier. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dan, I never wrote a single book review between leaving school and becoming a blogger in 2016. I saw that other people blogged book reviews and I enjoyed reading them. I also realised book reviews were important to writers so I started writing them. Now I write about two a week and sometimes more. I currently have four to write.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I finally relaunched my feature Two Review Tuesday. I am aiming for one post a month. I hope I could get to two, if I can read and review enough, but one was hard enough. I squeezed one in for February. I think I’ll be able to manage one for March. I know they’re important, and this gives me a little added incentive to write them.

        Liked by 2 people

  22. If I like the premise. I’ll read the book. I may stop after a few chapters if I don’t like the writing. I’ve actually done that with two books lately. When I checked, the reviews were absolutely glowing. I guess different things appeal to different readers. If I have liked one book by an author then I am delighted to have found a ‘new’ author. Review wise…..? This is an excellent post and I thoroughly recommend to book lovers everywhere FOLLOW DAVE ASTOR’S BLOG. *****

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Back in the long-ago time, I kept a folder of book reviews by professional reviews from the review section of the newspaper. I still have that folder. In a drawer. Somewhere. Now I choose books mostly from blogs. If a book has an intriguing premise paired with a compelling excerpt, I’ll be prompted to read it. I normally choose a poetry collection based on hearing the poet read aloud from it.

    Liked by 5 people

  24. Frankly, I never read reviews. There is so much to read which is outside the purview of contemporary critics. Case in point, I’m reading George Eliot’s collected works. It cost me $1 (one dollar) to download to my e-reader. There is no paper or magazine willing to pay a fee for the review of a $1 collection of world literature. It simply isn’t pushed by publishers. Which is not to say that book critics are not to be taken seriously. Just that they are irrelevant to my approach as a reader. (Not having had much time to read at all, lately, or comment on this wonderful blog, even if I read every installment. But that is off topic).

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Dingenom! So true that review quantity tends to apply more to new and recent novels than to older classics, though older classics do of course get some contemporary reviews and we can look up reviews from long ago — such as Henry James’ thoughts on “Middlemarch.”

      Wonderful that you’re reading George Eliot’s works! She’s one of my very favorite authors; I love “Middlemarch,” “Daniel Deronda,” “The Mill on the Floss,” “Silas Marner,” and “Adam Bede.”

      And I appreciate the kind words about this blog. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  25. This is interesting, Dave. I think my first consideration is whether I’ve liked other books by the author (as you say) and my second is recommendations by friends who have similar taste in reading material. But I DO read reviews, usually two or three, perhaps in a newspaper or on a website, perhaps on Amazon. And I also look at the number of stars a book has on Amazon. Then I do my best to give any book I start a fifty-page chance (if I can make it that far). I know beginnings can be slow, and I like the idea of giving writers that much of an opportunity to grab me. If I’m not caught up after fifty pages, that’s it. Too many books out there waiting to be read to waste any more time.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I rely heavily on recommendations, and I was lucky enough to have a friend who knew me so well that he could recommend books to me with almost 100% accuracy, whether he enjoyed them or not πŸ™ƒ

      I, too, like to give a 50ish page chance to books: yes, I know that folks often cite classic opening lines, like β€œCall me Ishmael”, but I’ve often wondered if we’d appreciate them so much if we didn’t value the books so much? (Thought I can’t help grinning every time I pick up the book and read β€œIt is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.β€œβ€¦)

      Liked by 2 people

      • If someone were to ask me if I could name a few first lines of novels, those are probably the two I’d think of! Also, for me, “When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” I don’t know how many times I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, Kim and Endless Weekend!

          It sounds like you both have a variety of excellent ways of deciding what to read. Endless Weekend, amazing to have a friend/book recommender almost exactly on your wavelength.

          And I like that 50-page rule. I also now (didn’t use to) abandon a novel after a few chapters if it’s not at least halfway compelling. As you say, Kim, so many other books out there to read.

          As for opening lines, yes, the power of a great start to a book is at least somewhat connected to how great the book is as a whole. “Moby-Dick” and “Pride and Prejudice” (as you cited, Endless Weekend), “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Jane Eyre,” “Anna Karenina,” etc.

          Kim, I’ve only read “To Kill a Mockingbird” twice, but it’s definitely ultra-memorable!


    • Thank you, Ashley! I can see the logic of reading some reviews when one doesn’t know about the author. And I agree that the opening lines of a novel are quite important. But if those lines are only so-so, it’s not a deal-breaker for me if things get interesting enough in the first few dozen pages. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

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