A Book Reviewers' Lexicon

Filed in Gather Books Essential by on March 23, 2009 0 Comments

I seem to have sidled into the book review business. Well, not business exactly, because no one is going to pay me, but a few people asked me to review their books, and I volunteered to review a few others, thinking . . . Who knows what I was thinking — I don't have the slightest idea of how to review a book.

After having read more than 20,000 books, few seem original to me, fewer captivate my interest. So why do I read? Better to ask why I breathe. Even polluted air is welcome to oxygen-deprived lungs. But that doesn't help the author who wants a review. "Not quite as polluting as others I've read recently" isn't the most endearing review an author can receive. I considered writing curmudgeonly reviews, but unless they become popular, which would give the author a reverse (or perverse) sort of respect, they could only hurt. And I don't enjoy bestowing hurt. I also considered using my own rating system, perhaps one Z for every time I fell asleep while reading, so a ZZZZZ rating would be a great book for an insomniac. The problem with such a system is that it would make me seem a) old; b) tired; c) sleep disordered. And that is not the image I am trying to portray.

I am not an effusive person, and I especially can't gush about a book that barely impinged on my consciousness (or lungs if we keep up the air metaphor). So how can I write a review? By cracking the reviewers' code. Now I can write an honest review using all the typical buzzwords. For example: when reviewers say a book is funny, what they really mean is that they think it's funny the book was picked for publishing when their own was rejected. Here are some other words from the reviewers' lexicon:

Fast-paced — Flipped through the pages at a very fast pace so I could be done with it.

Good read — Like a good feed, a good read goes in one end and out the other with little discomfort.

Impossible to put down — I carry it around everywhere hoping for a miracle to help me finish it.

Page-turner — Couldn't turn the pages fast enough to get to the end and be done with the torment. (See also fast-paced.)

Side-splittingly funny — I'd rather commit seppuku than read one more strained quip.

Sizzling romance — It really burns me that I wasted my time reading such tripe.

Sharp dialogue — lots of white space on the page making it easy to cut through the trite comments.

Witty — full of remarks so obtuse that you know the writer was trying to be clever though he or she didn't quite manage it.

So, if I write a review that says a book is a side-splittingly funny page-turner with sharp dialogue and sizzling romance, you will know what I mean.

And if I say simply that I like it, without any effusion, you will know that I mean it.

About the Author ()

My crime contest entry, More Deaths Than One, is available from Second Wind Publishing. (http://secondwindpublishing.com). For those who don't remember the story, Bob Stark returns home after 18 years in Southeast Asia to discover that the mother he

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