July 31, 2011
Amazon Book Reviews
I'm finding Amazon's book reviews a great help in picking which books to shell out money for and which to leave on the shelf unbought and unread. When there are just a few reviews you might as well read them all but when there is a surfeit, one has to be selective.
Helpful Critical Review
Amazon groups reviews under two titles: "The most helpful favorable" and "The most helpful critical" reviews. Most "favorable" reviews are no better than the "acclaim" the publishers print on the dust-jacket of hardcover books and innumerable pages in softcover ones. One wonders if these are written by friends of the author or as professional "favors." I scratch your back, you scratch my back. Start with the most helpful critical reviews. You might find enough good reasons to skip the book.
Helpful Favorable Review
If you are not turned off by the critical reviews, it's time to look for the "meaty" favorable reviews. A favorable review that simply states that it's "A must read" is a total waste of time. What was the criteria for the "must read" recommendation? Instead, look for longer reviews that discuss the contents and possibly the writing style. In addition, if Amazon offers it, read as much of the contents as are available for free on the website.
With this preparation you should be able to pick books that will be worth the time and money you spent on them.
If you find reviews helpful, you might return the favor. The above criteria might be a useful guideline for writing them.