Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On book reviews


Regular readers of will have noticed that I frequently post book reviews on this blog. Sometimes the reviews have been written for "proper" publications like Protestant Truth or Evangelical Times and also posted here, but mostly the reviews have been specially written for the blog. The thing with being commissioned to write a review is that you don't usually get to choose the book under consideration. That can be a good thing as you could end up reading a helpful book that might not otherwise have caught your attention. On the other hand, having to read a book that doesn't much interest you is a bit of a pain when reading time is precious and you'd prefer to be reading something more beneficial. I'm getting a little tired of being asked to review books on the Reformed faith that are structured around the "Five Points of Calvinism". Not because I disagree with the "Five Points", but because the approach is formulaic and makes it seem that Calvinism is little more than a reaction to Arminian error. I propose that such books should be given a category all of their own, "Totally Unimaginative Low Interest Publications".

A good review will offer information and assessment. A prospective reader of a book needs to know what the title is about and whether it is any good. The reviewer will try to be fair to the writer and not wilfully misrepresent his intentions and also fair to the potential reader so that if anyone should buy the book they know what they are getting. The reviewer will make it clear where he disagrees with the author without pedantic nitpicking. Serious omissions in the writer's handling of the subject should be flagged up. For example, I recently read and reviewed a book on biblical eschatology that did not give nearly enough attention to the resurrection of the body. This lacunae would give readers a distorted and underdeveloped picture of the Christian hope.

I tend to read quite quickly so there is a danger of books 'going down without touching the sides'. The discipline of posting reviews  helps me to think more carefully and critically about what I've been reading, which can't be a bad thing.

8 comments:

James Miller said...

Well I'd love to be asked to review books on the five points!

Exiled Preacher said...

I know what you mean James, but you can get too much of a good thing, even when it comes to TULIPs.

Andrew said...

Thanks for this Guy. The steady stream of reviews here is one of the things which makes visiting and re-visiting worthwhile.

Steven Demmler said...

Hey! Between your post and Jason's at Per Crucem, I spent some more time reflecting on 'book reviews'.

http://youcantmeanthat.blogspot.com/2010/03/concerning-book-reviews.html

Check it out if you have some time, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

willow said...

I saw your comment on Blogger about your new template being so slow to load. Mine is the same. Any solutions?

Nice blog, btw.

Exiled Preacher said...

Willow,

I have dumped some redundant bits and pieces of the blog (HTML buttons and badges etc) and that has helped a little, but it still loads much more slowly than before the template change.

The load speed might be something to do with my oldish PC. When I accessed the blog on my son's new laptop it loaded pretty quickly. We share wireless internet (up to 10GB) so there's no difference in connection speed.

Also, I noticed that the blog loads faster on my PC when viewed via Google Chrome rather than IE8.

Hopefully Blogger will get things sorted out when the draft templates eventually become mainstream.

Gary Brady said...

The trouble with book reviews is that once you've read the book you are biased. Either one feels one has wasted one's time and so are harder on it than is warranted or is tempted to say something like everyone should read this. If only there was a way of reviewing without reading ...

Exiled Preacher said...

Gary,

"If only there was a way of reviewing without reading ..."

Where would be the fun in that?Being biased and opinionated is what reviewing us all about.