Friday, July 28, 2006

How to Eat a Book Review--One Word at a Time

The title is a rip-off of a poem I vaguely remember from grade school by Eve Merriam called How to Eat a Poem. It starts off like this:

"Don't be polite. Bite in. Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that may run down your chin. ..."

So, Eve alluded that reading poems was like eating watermelon. Since I don't like watermelon much, this may be the reason why I'm not too keen on poetry, either. And while I'm not too keen on reading poetry, (except for Shel Silverstein's or the Psalms of the Bible,) I do love to a good book. I'm absolutely crazy for books. Devour them, if you want to continue this eating analogy. I want my last meal with a book (preferrably War and Peace, or some such volume many years long.)

Most people, when they pick a book to read, pick it because they like to read a certain genre, and maybe someone has told them,"Hey, I loved that book! Ya gotta read it!" (That's how they would say it here in Indiana. Just like that. And we read a lot more since they made the state championship basketball tournament a class tournament--boring--and switched to daylight savings time, thus confusing our cows, and we can't get to sleep either because of all that light still shining on our eyeballs at 10 p.m.)

When I read a book, it may not even be because I want to. Well, I want to read books,just not necessarily all the books I have to, or need to, read. Because I do reviews (less now that I gave up a column in a magazine,) sometimes I read a book in order to write a review of the book to help other people decide whether they would like to read a book. So, essentially, I rip the book apart, and then lace back together enough of the book so that others can make a decision to either buy or borrow a book.

I think that this is the best way to figure out if you want to buy/borrow a book to read--by reading a published review, other than asking a librarian for a recommendation. Your friend, who voraciously reads every book in the library and has all the bestsellers reserved from here to the end of the world, may be crazed, and actually likes Steinbeck. (I worked in a library for 3 years, so I have observed a lot of types of readers. If you tell me you actually like Steinbeck, and revel in his darkside revelations of the human condition, I'm gonna be looking for a side door of escape, just in case...)

That friend may know intimately what he likes to read until dawn,and then bleary-eyed and word-stricken-blind drives to work on the same roads you may be on (that's an "ACK!" you heard from me,) but he doesn't know you in your dark recesses of your brain where you actually think about things (unless your friend is a) a librarian b)an editor who knows his books c)God. )He just tells you what he perceives as his enjoyment (or edification--whatever.)

A librarian is a good source, but while she/he might like to, can't possibly read or know about all the books being published and in his/her library (I say his/her because my male cousin is a state librarian, writing a book about hangings in Indiana, and my good friend, Judy Gann is a librarian and has written a book called, The God of All Comfort: Devotions Of Hope For Those Who Chronically Suffer . Great book, by the way. I gave it 5 stars and two thumbs up and I'm not crazed--much.)

And there are tons of places online to read reviews, but what are the key things to look for in a review to know if it is a book right for you?

Continued tomorrow...

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