Writing

Some Thoughts on Book Reviews

When I write a book review I feel like I’m having a conversation with the writer. To ease my discomfort with this task (reviewing someone else’s work) I ask  the writer questions in my mind. I love searching for the places where I connect to the book, the lessons I might pull for my own life, and the combinations of words that I repeat–awed at how they are just right.

I’ve been writing these reviews for the Portland Press Herald, sporadically, for a little over a year now. I took a break this fall when I went back to school for clinical social work but I missed it so I’ve started taking a few more assignments. It’s important for me to remember that literature was one of the first places I looked to unravel the mind, relationships, and this human experience. Books continue to be one of the most insightful and nourishing places for me to explore these themes.

IMG_0197“Nichols is expert at shining a spotlight on private moments. A mother dances alone late at night in her attic. A boxer’s mind wanders just seconds before his fight. An alcoholic rationalizes each drink at the bar when he knows he’s meant to be home to greet his children at the school bus. In each instance, time seems to slow down and the character’s thoughts and movements betray weighty emotions.” – from my review of “Closer All the Time” by Jim Nichols

“In his canoe on the Temple Stream, Roorbach notes that “lines on a map don’t translate into anything in nature.” Instead of lines, Roorbach has mapped Temple Stream in stories: skiing across an old mill pond, swimming with his wife, throwing bottles filled with messages into the water, the naming of his daughter. In one of Roorbach’s most interesting encounters along the Temple Stream, a woman gives him an explanation for the time he spends there. “That’s what’s so important about spending time where you want to be: you meet people of like mind, or at least you meet yourself.”” – from my review of “Temple Stream” by Bill Roorbach

“There’s a density to Thomson’s sentences, and his paragraphs could be explored like poems. It’s a styleIMG_0963 that fits the tropical landscape explored through most of the book, where we find some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. And it builds the feeling of travel, where every detail becomes sharp, because everything is new and unknown.” – from my review of “fragile” by Jeffrey Thomson

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2 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Book Reviews

  1. That’s a good approach to reviewing. Too many people think a review is just consumer’s advice, recommending whether or not to read the book. A review should do more. A review should connect us to the world just like the book does.

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