For as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve been reviewing books. There was a season where I consistently reviewed at least one book every single week. And I’m not talking a few sentences, either. I’m talking a substantive review, digging into the arguments and its effect on me.
But in 2015, my reviewing pace slowed down significantly. (I wrote about this here.) Since then, I’ve started to get back into reviewing a little more frequently. Right now, I’m averaging two a month, which isn’t too bad. But there’s been one book that has been sitting in my pile for ages, one I’ve been putting off reviewing for at least a year now, because the only thing I could get on paper was, “I don’t even know where to start.”
It was the book that made me want to stop reviewing bad books.
Now, it might not seem like a big deal to most people. In fact, most days it’s not even a thing for me. But whenever I pick up a book that I’m planning to review—especially if it’s a bad one—I have to pause. And I think that’s a good thing. Here’s why:
I know the work that goes into a book.
I’m an author, so I know how difficult it can be to write a book. I also know how to handle a critique of my writing (eat ice cream until I can’t feel my feelings, right?). So whether a book is by someone I respect or someone I find kind of silly, I frequently find myself pausing and remembering that a person is connected to these words I’m reading. Though they are not their books, their books are a part of them, and so I want to be sensitive to that.
I’m tempted to spend a bit too much time being clever and cutting.
At the same time, I can get pretty clever with my mockery because I can be kind of mean that way. And reading bad books does not help me with that even a little bit. I had one book that I was considering reviewing and had to choose not to simply because I found myself spending more time thinking of ways to make fun than to find something worth calling attention to that might be helpful or useful (and yes, it is the same book I referred to at the beginning of this post). And that’s not even remotely close to being okay. I’m not against being clever and witty (or at least what I think is clever and witty), but where I see a big red light flashing about my own attitudes, I need to pay attention.
I want to review what is praiseworthy, not call attention to rubbish.
Frankly, the only thing reviewing bad books does is give them press. At best, it gives you some entertainment. At worst, it makes you want to read the thing for yourself (even if it’s just to mock). And that’s not good, because as both run contrary to what I’m trying to accomplish. When I read and when I review a book, I want to give attention to something I think you’d actually want to read. These don’t have to be books I entirely agree with, of course. They just have to be books that have value.
Of course, none of this means I will never review a bad book ever again. If there were a legitimate need to do so, I would probably do it. But those are few and far between. Instead, I would prefer to focus on books that are good and God-glorifying. And thankfully, there are more than enough of those to go around.