The essence of a competent book review, to me, gives a spoiler-free plot summary, a sense of what the author was attempting to accomplish, and addresses the literary technique and method the author employs. Thematic and subtextual analysis is an added bonus, as is contextualizing the work in the wider genre or literary landscape. I have read reviews of books (and other assorted media) where the reviewer absolutely hated the work they were reviewing, but they did such an excellent job of describing the work, that I bought the book/cd/saw the movie. I am not a fan of the “hatchet job,” though there are exceptions.(I often find that “hatchet jobs” are the result of lazy reading or are more about the reviewer than the work in question). The best reviews summon, to quote Barthes, “the pleasure of the text.”
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