Blog: 2011-11-08

Why I Do Two-Paragraph Book Reviews

I review every book I finish*. I do Two-Paragraph Reviews: one paragraph of mine, one from the book.

Why just one of each? Well, for starters, to keep my sanity. If I didn’t have that restriction I’d probably be writing a whole essay about each book, and copying out multi-page passages to show you. And if I did that, I’d quickly burn out and quit. Two paragraphs forces me to be succinct, and makes it wayyy more likely I will actually get it done. Know thyself!

But that raises the question – can you make a useful book review in two paragraphs? I think you can. At work, I spend a lot of time making personalized book recommendations for people. And what the book is about doesn’t seem to be the most important thing to most people. Just a little bit is enough. David Copperfield doesn’t need to be anything more than “a coming-of-age story in Victorian Britain.” Old Man’s War doesn’t need to be anything more than “a sci-fi story about a guy who gets his youth back in exchange for military service.” Or even just “a military sci-fi story.” An entire section of my bookstore can be synopsized as “somebody dies; somebody investigates.”

I think most of us have had the experience of getting excited about a book because of the description on the back cover, and then hating it once we start to read. Because what makes us love a book is not what it’s about, but what it makes us feel as we read. Anyone can write a coming-of-age story in Victorian Britain (in fact, I think a few people have…). But what sets any given one apart – what stands out, for good or bad? That’s the important stuff. David Copperfield is a great novel because of the unforgettable characters, Dickens’ sly humor, and the gleeful verbosity of his writing (which would, in turn, make me not recommend it to some people). Old Man’s War is great because of the fast-moving plot, clever premise, and snappy dialogue that just makes it damn fun to read.

Kinda makes you want to check them out – doesn’t it? And that’s why I feel like it’s…enough.


* There is an exception, and that is books written by my friends and family. I do list them on my blog and on Goodreads for completeness’s sake, but don’t review or rate them.

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