When I talk to writers about being a good literary citizen, one of the things I recommend is writing book reviews. It not only helps to keep one’s critical skills sharp–useful in evaluating your own work–but also it spreads the word about books by other writers, and that’s a good thing for the literary community. Although venues for book reviews in print are disappearing, the online book review world continues to expand, so there are lots of places to publish reviews, and there’s nothing wrong with posting reviews on your own blog if you don’t want to go to the trouble to place it elsewhere.
There is no single formula for “how to write a book review.” In graduate school, I did take a class on book reviewing, and I’ve been more or less following the process I learned there when I write reviews, but I’ve read all kinds of reviews over the years. Trust me. There are lots of ways to skin a book, and I highly recommend reading other reviews to get a sense of the variety.
The real reason I’m writing this post, though, is that I just updated the Publications page on my website and added all (or most–I may have overlooked a few) of the reviews I’ve published over the past few years. I surprised myself at how many there were (and why the heck wasn’t I updating the list all along?). Recent venues include Washington Independent Review of Books, Peace Corps Worldwide, and Best New Fiction.
If you’re interested in a [semi-]complete list of my reviews, with links where available, check out my Publications page and scroll down to Essays and Reviews.
Yes, the concept of being a good literary citizen is to be applauded. Review other writers books and attend their readings. Read manuscripts for beginners, and listen to the woes of writers who are blocked. Don’t worry about your slice of the pie. Let’s all make the pie bigger.