Art Kavanagh

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Critics respond to (slightly exaggerated) rumours of the death of the book review

BookMarks has responses from several critics to the Harper’s essay by Christian Lorentzen on the decline of the book review. The passage that caught my eye was Vox critic Constance Grady’s parenthetical aside:

I can certainly confirm that book reviews get the least traffic of probably any other kind of writing I do, and as book coverage goes lists do comparatively well—but on a purely personal note, I hate writing lists because I don’t write about any book without reading it first …

I’ll admit to being surprised that reviews draw fewer readers than other forms of writing (and also that it’s harder work to compile a list than to review a book or two). I’ve been thinking recently that reviews might not be the best way to write—even to write critically—about books, and this seems to offer some support for that view. I hope to have more to say about this soon.