A book review is something of value. At least, it tells you something about a book you haven’t read.
Let’s be candid: if you don’t know anything about the book reviewer, the value--not necessarily the quality—of the review is diminished. (I’d love to have an encyclopedia of the multiple reviews of reviewers who do it for a living.)
Book reviews aren’t as old as the hills.
In 1665 the Journal des Sçavans in Paris was a precursor of published book reviews, with non-opinionated summaries focused principally on publications dealing with biology and technology.
What we think of as book reviews can be dated to the 18th century, when magazines (also a new publishing concept at that time) began offering essays about books. An increasing number of books were being published in that era, and this created an audience for the reviews.
The words “book review” made it into print as early as 1861. Harvard professor Jill Lepore notes that “In the 19th century, an age of factories and suffrage, literacy rates increased, the price of books fell, and magazines were cheaper still. A democracy of readers rose up against an aristocracy of critics.” Book reviewing found its niche.
Fun fact: Edgar Allan Poe was a notoriously caustic reviewer in the middle of the 19th century.
In 1900 an anonymous “Veteran Book Reviewer” wrote a piece for The Independent that was titled “Up-to-Date Book Reviewing.” Book reviewing had become a craft.
Today, with universal access to the internet, anybody can be a book reviewer. Fer gosh sakes, some folks think that worthwhile book reviewing is in decline because there are too many books to review.
I’d like to say there oughta be a law.
Ain’t gonna stop me from reading.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.