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What sort of book reviews do You like?

By 11/10/2012writing
Which book of the 14 is missing in the picture?

Which book of the 14 is missing in the picture?

Over the next few months, I’m going to talk about a few books on this blog, sent to me by Random House, India. I guess I’ll call them book reviews, for want of a better term, but I’m not totally convinced I would be ‘reviewing’ them, just giving out my very honest, and very subjective, opinion.

I’m two things, a reader and a writer. More and more, I find myself being kinder to writers because I know the back-breaking work involved in writing a book. That sometimes affects my judgment as a reader, because if I find a book insufferable, I still plod on for a few pages before dumping it — poor author has worked so hard, let me give the book a few more pages to prove itself.

So, I’ll be a one hell of a conflicted  ‘reviewer’. These are the books I’m currently reading for review:

  1. –          Aerogrammes by Tania James
  2. –          Selected Stories by Saadat Hasan Manto 
  3. –          Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  4. –          Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  5. –          Quarantine by Rahul Mehta
  6. –          Wanted by Lee Child
  7. –          Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
  8. –          Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati
  9. –          Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup
  10. –          Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  11. –          Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam
  12. –          Cutting for Stone by Abraham Varghese
  13. –          Tell All by Chuck Palahniuk
  14. –          The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra

As usual, I’m reading 4 books at the same time, which means I’ll possibly come up with reviews randomly as I finish the books and the mood takes me. I haven’t decided on a schedule yet (I hate schedules) but I aim to read a book a week on average, and then post a review.

The 14 books are a mixed bag, from a Pakistani writer who wrote in undivided India and got tried several times for obscenity, to a writer of transgressive fiction, more than one Booker prize winner and shortlister,  a Dubai-based blogger whose book was banned for a while this year, a Pulitzer and Frank O’Connor prize winner, an Indian American novelist who has won some acclaim, as well as several New York Times bestsellers.

With the current controversy on book bloggers which I highlighted in one of my recent posts, I ought to be a little wary, but I think I’ve blogged long enough not to care. I may have damaged the reading world beyond repair already so no point in acting shy now.

I know I’m going to be honest, and pretty much personal in my opinions. And if I can’t finish a book despite trying, I’m going to say it. For me, I read reviews, but seldom base my book purchases on them — so I don’t expect anyone to be influenced by my opinions either.

But before I begin on my review series, I’m curious: what sort of book reviews do You like?


Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • manangbok says:

    I love assertive reviews, no wishy-washy stuff. If you hated it and slammed the book against the windowpane (oh the poor window!), then say it right out and be prepared to be hated by the people who loved the book … he he he 🙂

    If you loved the book, you can say something like, you can imagine yourself having sex with the main character. It would definitely get MY attention — that’s just me, I wouldn’t know for other less green-minded readers.

    I hate reviews that are “intellectual” and “obscure” — probably because I have blue-collar tastes and have no patience for technical term-paperish stuff. If I want to read a disseration, I’d go to the library — but you have to pay me first.

    I hate reviews that focus more on the author’s personal/professional/social/political circumstances more than the book itself. Hello! If I wanted to be impressed about the author’s advocacy about endangered walruses or something, I would go to the Greenpeace website.

    I don’t always judge a book by its review. If a reviewer told me in very strong terms that this book is the WORST BOOK OF ALL TIME, chances are, I would immediately look for that book (sometimes, even when I had to pay for it) and check if it really is the worst of all time.

    Have fun reviewing! 🙂

  • Damyanti says:

    Thankyou, everyone, for your lovely replies here. For a would-be reviewer, this is a lot of food for thought. I continue on my reading journey, reading four books at the same time (balancing the dense with the light, as I always do), having finished none, and given up one for a lost cause.

    Hopefully, I’ll have one of them finished by tonight, and be able to write a review tomorrow and schedule it.

    Wish me luck.

  • an honest review that gives insight into what the reader liked or didn’t, without telling me how *I* will feel about the book (I can decide that for myself). I don’t like reviews that say, “This book was crap” or “The main characters is annoying” but rather, “I didn’t like this book because _________” and “The character annoyed me when he _____________.” then I can decide for myself if this reviewer is like me and if their review should affect my purchase. Though 99% of the time, no review will sway my decision to buy a book one way or another. I’m more likely to read reviews AFTER I’ve read a book, to see who felt similar to me!

  • The Risqué Redhead Reads says:

    Great post! You got me thinking early in the morning with less than half my normal caffeine consumption.

    I review and keep a blog.I don’t do it for any purpose other than to entertain myself, possibly other and to have the chance to introduce a fellow reader to book they might have never looked at but because of my words they did. Actually, that has happened at it shocks me when I hear it.

    I don’t write technical reviews; I cannot stand those. I write from what I felt about the book. I am an emotional reader so good or bad you are going to get the straight truth. I have it set on my blog for author requests that if they cannot take criticism they may want to rethink asking me to read their book. That being said, I don’t find many that I can’t finish or find something positive about. But I am also very picky when it comes to what I read.

    I would never give a positive review of a book based on the author and their status. I recently received an ARC for a book that was just, meh, and required a helmet to read it because I had to bang my head against the table to finish it. I was honest in my review. I also would never slam an author or vice versa in a review; I review the content of the book. Not who wrote it.

    So….I guess I like reviews that are similar to mine. I usually don’t read them until I have finished the book to see if they picked up on what I did, liked/hated what I did. I want to read a review and get an overall feeling of the book and be intrigued enough to pay my hard earned money for it. I have a friend who goes to Amazon and reads one 5star review and a 1star review of the book to make her decision. Everyone has their deal I guess.

  • I don’t review many books, but I love the opportunity to do so on my blog. I have a few on the shelf, and they each get a post and rating on Amazon. I read for pleasure and then study the technical aspects. I’m very honest with my opinion, and if I can’t give a good review or finish a terrible book, I just don’t review it at all.

  • Very simple: honest ones. More specifically I like to see details about the good and bad of a book. Don’t just tell me you liked it or hated it, I want to know why. That will give me some idea if our tastes are similar and whether your dislikes / likes might translate into mine.

    I’m in the same boat with the writing, btw, so I understand your pain in this. I just finished a godawful book. As much as I want to tell the world to stay away, it’s close enough to a genre I write in where that could just look like me trying to shill a competitor. It’s a fine line to walk.

  • Ultimately, writers have to earn our attention and respect, no matter how hard it was for them to write the book. Writers don’t deserve the approval of readers simply by the act of writing. That said, there are bad books that appeal to my taste, and good books that don’t, and I try to keep that in mind when I review books. I try to provide both objective information, that might help someone say … “yeah, but I like that sort of thing even if you don’t” … and then my own perspective, because even an idiot opinion, and I’m sure I’ve dropped a whole bunch of those out there, is more interesting than no opinion. The only way to do no harm to say and do nothing, ever. Sounds like you’ll be just fine.

  • umashankar says:

    Congratulations! I’d be returning to read your reviews. Just a small note on that controversy you mentioned. To tell you the truth, I actually believe in what Peter Stothard said. And I am not saying this to emphasize my background in English Literature. I have met many Post Graduates of the language who are not worth standing next to. Then there are those indeed, who have a natural felicity with words.

    Blogging is so a stunning platform that I consider it almost a miracle. All one has to do is type is “Hello World”! and press Publish and voila! And this also is the only bane of the platform, and what a bane it is, almost like cancer! But then even the publishing world has come to be addled by several poisons -sleek, prurient, hackneyed, polished and tailor-made fakes.

    So, go on! Fire away. You will be only enriching the blogging and book reading community.

  • I love book reviews that focus on fantasy or general literature/drama. I am typically not affected by book reviews however, sometimes someone’s passion will come right through and that may make me curious about a book or make me stay away. By the way, The Life of Pi is one of my favourite books of all time.

  • Arlee Bird says:

    I enjoy book reviews that are informal and readable without striving for excessive pedantry or scholastic pomp. I want to hear the reviewers personal takes on a book, but I don’t want them to overly read into the book for political or social metaphors unless that is the intent of the book. Excessively detailed dissection of technicalities of the writing is something I find boring. Basically I want to know if the book is one I would want to read and a few simple reasons why.

  • A.M.B. says:

    I like book blogger reviews (not only because I am one!) because following someone’s blog gives me an opportunity to understand their tastes in a way that allows me to put the review in context and better evaluate how heavily I should weigh their opinion when deciding whether to read a book myself. I’m not a fan of reducing reviews to a star rating, and I only do it when forced (by Amazon, for example).

  • I look at books differently now because I do know the effort involved. I rarely review books – usually just post a star rating on Goodreads. (Unless I didn’t like it, then I just mark the book as ‘read’ and move on.)

  • roshni9179 says:

    nice 🙂

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