In a clear and concise manner, Brad Hooper shares his expertise in reviewing books, both pre and post publication, in his 2010 American Library Association publication, Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory. In fact, after reading and studying (yes, I did take notes) his book, I should not have a bit of trouble writing this review.
Hooper begins his instruction by carefully explaining to the reader the difference between reviewing and criticism. Unless we are professional scholars, chances are we will not be writing criticism, rather, we will be providing "an assessment of something new on the market" which is "broader, more encompassing and less specific." (pp. 8-9) Hooper follows this with the two questions any book review should answer: what is the book about? and how good is the book? And of course, the answer to the second question is entirely subjective and should be dealt with in a generous, but honest, manner. (p. 23, 59)
Hooper reminds us of the five elements of fiction and hopes that non-fiction will be clearly about something (if we cannot figure it out, we should perhaps not write the review). To help the reader understand the techniques for writing reviews, Hooper provides multiple examples which are illuminating. Perhaps my favorite tip (and something I have wondered about) is that you should review narrative non-fiction in the past tense because it did happen. Fiction, on the other hand, never really happened and should be reviewed in the present tense. (p. 64)
Anyone who reads and reviews books should study Hooper's book. As the current Adult Books Editor for Booklist, Hooper is certainly well-versed in reviewing and his suggestions for good book reviewing is invaluable.
TITLE: Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory
AUTHOR: Brad Hooper
RECOMMEND: I recommend this book to everyone who writes reviews to promote books, whether these reviews are personal or for the library community.