I’m Reviewing for Booklist Online Now

I’ve been rather silent on this blog lately. That happens sometimes. In this case, I’ve been worn out from working on projects around my house. Totally worth it, though, because I now have (among other things) a whole floor-to-ceiling wall of built-in bookshelves!

Bookshelves
Pardon the wonky persepctive—I swear these shelves are actually straight & true. These are hand-built from a design that (as far as I know) was created by my dad. I grew up in a house with shelves just like them and I’ve always wanted to build my own. They’re a bit over 9 feet long and close to 8 feet tall. My wife & I used to have around a third more books than this, but I got rid of a significant portion of my collection when we moved from Chicago to Kansas City. Movers charge by weight, after all.

I’m also excited to announce that I’m now reviewing for Booklist Online. My primary focus for them will be adult SF with an occasional nonfiction title thrown in. So… not all that different from the kind of books I review here.

My first Booklist review was posted on Monday: The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel. (You may need an account to login and read the full review.)

I had some concerns when I first signed on to review for Booklist Online:

  • Their reviews are around 175 words. That’s it. And that’s not many. As you’ve probably noticed if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I tend toward the prolix. I wasn’t at all confident that I could restrict myself to 175 words.
  • Throughout my life, I’ve always had difficulty making myself read books that get assigned to me. If it was an assignment, I just didn’t want to bother with it. I was worried that being assigned books to review would awaken a similar response.
  • I’ve only ever reviewed books that take my fancy. There are many books I read each year that I just don’t feel like reviewing. I wasn’t sure how I would handle writing reviews on command, as it were, even if a book doesn’t pique my fancy.
  • Booklist Online wants me to review an average of two books per month (less in the summer, but more during some months) which doesn’t sound onerous… but I’m not a fast reader. I get through books at a decent pace because I spend a lot of time reading, not because I read quickly. I average 4-6 books per month, so my Booklist assignments will constitute one third-to-half of my reading each year now. I was concerned that the burden of reading books for review would take away too much time from reading other stuff.

Still, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I love reviewing and this is a fantastic opportunity for me to jump into the world of Readers’ Advisory. Booklist provides a useful service for libraries and I’m proud to be a part of it.

As it turns out, my concerns were essentially all for naught.

As of this writing, I’ve read five titles for Booklist Online. Only one of them gave me any trouble meeting the deadline (not because I didn’t enjoy the book but because life stuff got in the way). I find I thrive on the challenge of being required to write something about each work and the short format brings out an entirely different aspect of my writing. It provides me a good opportunity to “practice a habit of brevity” (as I put it to my editor). I think that makes me a better writer.

Mostly, though, I love being surprised by the books they send me. A couple of them so far have been titles that I doubt I ever would have chosen for myself and wouldn’t have read otherwise. But I really enjoyed them and I’m happy I took the time to read them. It expands my horizons as a reader.

And let’s be honest—I love getting to read books before they’re published.

When I write my own reviews (here on this blog or on my Goodreads account) my goal is critique. But with Booklist, my focus changes:

I try to figure out who each book might appeal to, and why.

It’s a very different way of appraising what I read. It encourages me to step past my own perspectives to see the work through different eyes.

And that makes me a better librarian.

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