Posted by: Andrew G | April 5, 2010

How I’m Going to Approach Book Reviews

The medium is the message.

Marshall McLuhan

I’ve been struggling a bit with the form I would use for my book reviews. But in some ways, the form has already been chosen for me; this is a blog after all. In my fussing about, thoughts of Marshall McLuhan came up in my head. I recently watched a panel discussion online and one of the experts quoted McLuhan, but extended the quote — “The medium is the message and the viewer is the content.”

And (thank goodness) this was even explained. Imagine a newspaper before you. There are several articles and advertisements. Not everyone will read each and every part of the newspaper. As the viewer, you will likely scan the headlines and only read what you are looking for, or what you are interested in. So, the viewer is actually working the content, selecting the content. Taking one more step back, the actual newspaper chosen is a further reflection of the viewer (the viewer chose it or bought the subscription or stolen it, I guess) as well as a reflection of the viewer’s attitudes.

Changing the example to TV, certain people watch FOXNews, certain  people watch MSNBC news, while others might watch the BBC or something.

In terms of blog, well here are two, no three, examples of how the medium is the message (and the viewers are creating their own content) (and also notice how the comments have been closed…):

Incendiary blog post

Title of the story goes here

Blog entry

So what does this mean for book reviews? Well, to put it plainly, I usually find in a book what I am looking for and tend to ignore things that don’t really interest me. And so, the book reviews will likely be more reflections of myself more than the content of the actual books.

It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s just a human thing.

I used to work with two female English majors and I think they were disappointed that I didn’t find Jane Austen as amazing as they found her. Don’t get me wrong. Austen is a genius (anyone that can practically write to both a conscious and an unaware audience at the same time, and win them both, gets my respect), but if I don’t find myself in the story, or don’t find a way to connect with the story, I’m going to find another story.

So here’s the tentative format for the book reviews:

Author – short summary and background of the writer

Technical Bits – size and scope, table of contents, sources used, style of writing, etc.

Commentary – what I found interesting, what was useful or new and maybe where this could lead the reader, etc.

Quotations – cool things I wished I had written

Recommendations and Final Thoughts – a wrap-up

If something else comes up or if someone has a suggestion, I’ll include and edit along the way.

Ok. So, onward to Jack Miles…


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