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Up for Review

2012 May 24

First of all, I want to thank you all for your kind comments on yesterday’s post. It’s much appreciated! I hope to keep up the writing, and hopefully it will yield more regular posting…we’ll see!

I began writing book reviews for Publisher’s Weekly’s online annex in January. So far, I have reviewed 6 books and am starting a 7th this weekend. It doesn’t seem like many, but it’s enough to keep me quite busy. Almost too busy.

Writing book reviews for such a revered and established institution in the book world is a great opportunity. I don’t get a byline (though if you’re curious, some of my reviews can be read here), but I do get paid a bit for each review (getting paid for writing!? Who would have thought??).  Though my name doesn’t appear beside the reviews, and I actively need to seek the reviews out because I don’t have a subscription to PW and therefore can’t see the whole site, it still gives me a thrill to see my words and thoughts in print for anyone to see.

Reading a book you’re meant to review is an utterly different experience from reading a book for pure pleasure. My books for review are filled with notes, underlined passages, dogeared pages, and post-it tabs. I find myself obsessively noting narrative details, plot holes, and particularly stirring sentences, wondering how I can piece them all together in a cogent, comprehensive, and brief review (so, so brief–reviews are kept under 250 words). It’s certainly been a beneficial exercise for me in terms of writing on deadline, editing myself, and working with an editor. And yet…

Like magic, a new book appears at my desk every 3 weeks, like clockwork, even if I’m still not finished with the previous book. This schedule can get a bit hectic, especially if the book is a lengthy one, as was the case with the book I just finished this morning (a 470-page literary thriller translated from Spanish–surprisingly my favorite book I’ve read for them so far). Combined with reading for my book club, which meets roughly every six weeks, I am feeling more and more as though I don’t read for myself anymore. And this is becoming a problem, especially with an apartment full of books yet to be read.

I like book reviewing. I wish I could do more of it. It certainly forces me to engage with books on a different level than I would otherwise. But is it worth sacrificing so much of my reading time, especially when I don’t truly enjoy most of the books I’m sent?

What do you think?

 

 

*Image via Life of Polarn Per

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. May 24, 2012

    Eesh, that’s a tough one. Reviewing for PW is fantastic and it’s wonderful to have a voice like that in the reading community. But if they’re not books you generally enjoy and see it as more of a chore, I’d be hard pressed to find a reason to continue. Is it possible to ask for books that are more in line with stuff you usually like?

  2. May 24, 2012

    i had a similar experience working for a publishing company that basically paid me in books! i had to write reviews on fashion books and tie them into what is going on in the fashion world currently. and while this seems like a dream, having to focus myself once a week and try to read or digest a book a week felt more forced than fun. i hope you find some time for your own pleasure reading soon!

    xo
    sami

  3. Raquel permalink
    May 25, 2012

    Like Annie said, it’s a tough conundrum. PW is a respected publication and writing for it is impressive. But I think you have to weigh the rewards against the work. And not just how much you are paid or whether you enjoy the books. You must also consider what you hope the reviewing leads to. If you just enjoy doing the reading work and the writing for the sake of doing it, then all signs point to continuing to do it for now. But if your hopes are that you’ll score longer assignments at other publications with a byline, or some other hope–professional or personal– then perhaps setting some goals will help: “Once I have X clips from PW, I’ll approach Y publication with them and ask about reviewing cooler books for them in a longer review with more personality.” Or, “Once I have X dollars saved from PW reviews, I will quit and buy myself that awesomely indulgent item.” Or even: “I want to keep challenging myself to write these reviews until I get so good at them I can do them in my sleep.”

    But if what you truly want is more of your own time to do pursue your own creative pleasures–reading for yourself, writing for yourself, doing something else creative–then it may mean it’s time to reconsider and make a pros and cons list. I’ve found that doing these “cost-benefit analyses” for various parts of my life, creative and otherwise, helps me make the right decision for myself.

    The fact that you’ve already started introspecting about your work as a book reviewer is a good sign that you’re figuring out how and if it fits into your bigger plan for your life. Whatever road you pursue, make sure it’s the path that feeds your soul and feels right–don’t discount the power of intuition. Things can look amazing on paper but may not nourish our souls–and vice versa. Keep us posted on what you decide–I love reading these entries where you share what’s going on with you!

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