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You’re Funny. Book Reviews Just Aren’t.

Look at all those responses on what books people find funny!
You are funny people, people.

If you are all relatively funny, why is there no such thing as a funny book review? Are professional book reviewers decidedly unfunny? Or do their editors say to them: “Whoa Jim, your kind of off the reservation with this humor. Could you tone it down chief?”

These are weighty questions.

I’m sorry, I thought books was a form of entertainment. We take what we read seriously, but not ourselves too seriously. Right?

The reviews I read are generally (1) terribly long (2) void of the coveted punchline and generally (3) safe and dry.

Well, I’ll take safe and dry in a thunderstorm.
But in a book review, well, it kind of sucks.

Okay, I suppose it all depends on what you are looking for in your book review.
Here’s what I am looking for in my book review: 1. Finding new stuff I don’t yet know about and 2. A quick take on whether it’s worth reading.

But Mr. and Mrs. Book Reviewer, you don’t do that. No, you do not.
You speak in euphemisms and cloudy language littered with buzzwords. The Guardian even made fun of you today, inviting people to play Book Review Bingo. Do you understand this? It means you talk a lot of crazy book reviewer nonsense.

I think Tina Brown is on to something with The Daily Beast–with her straight shooting tagline: “Read This, Skip That.”  Yep, Tina girlfriend, I am with you on that. (Although your choices in books stink, surprisingly. Weird.)

On Sunday, when I open the New York Times Book Review, I fantasize about reading something like this: “It is obvious that the author has incredible talent. Unfortunately, she apparently locked it away in the closet when she was writing this book.” Or maybe: “This book made me so crazy with appreciation I stopped an old couple at Costco and insisted they buy it.” It’s sad. Mostly because I need to work on my fantasies.

Listen. Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert (example: him recently interviewing Rebecca Skloot of Henrietta Lacks) are not going to win any literary criticism awards. But it’s books meets fun. And sometimes I kind of cringe when the author really keeps trying to talk about the book and doesn’t realize that Colbert is royally teasing. But at least it’s entertaining. That’s a place I like to be.

Every BookSnob I know personally names friends and families as their first source for books. Because your sister will say: “Blech. Stunk.” or your friend will start talking really fast and pounding the table as her coffee spills and says, “No, no, you have to read it. Really, it was awesome.”

But the reviewers, they leave me safe, dry, and, obviously, slightly bothered.
Maybe I am just hanging out with the wrong people, people.

What reviews do you read (by individual or publication) or do you mostly rely on friends and families recommendations?


46 Comments Post a comment
  1. Girl, that was a damn good read. I agree. Book reviews that are too precious make me annoyed. And by “annoyed” I mean, “not smart enough to understand what the hell they’re talking about.”

    March 18, 2010
  2. Diane Johnson #

    loved this posting katy! I did stop a stranger at Costco a made her but the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I would not put it in funny, but my new hero is in that book, I LOVED the book could not, would not put it down cover to cover. As for reviewers, I don’t read them. I go to friends, and you the booksnob.

    March 19, 2010
    • Yes, I have that habit too at my bookstore, unfortunately. Someone will have something in their hand and won’t even ask me, but I’ll say: “oh that was awesome.” or “I would skip that”. I rely on my friends and family mostly too.

      March 22, 2010
  3. Peter #

    While in law school, the school held a symposium on “hermeneutics.” Fair ’nuff (although, if you’re looking for dry, trust me, look no further). The problem was that all the texts and speakers were, well, turgid: to heighten how smart and important they were, they were dense beyond belief. It is the same with the books reviews you mention: aloof pomposity passes for “intelligence,” and, we, the great unwashed, are supposed to rise and fall with their every word. Phooey!

    I think the great unwashed are smarter than they are given credit. We know what we like and dislike, but, sometimes, we just need a good guide. Enter Katy! Thank you, BookSnob (although I’m still not comfortable with that title: reminds me too much of those hermeneutic folks!)!

    March 19, 2010
    • Mr. Peter : ), you are using words with lots of syllables that I have never even heard of!!!I am going to try and do postings with only single syllable words next… As for BookSnob moniker, yes, it was meant to be tongue in cheek a bit. But I hear you…

      March 22, 2010
      • Peter #

        I dare you to do it! I dare you! I do not think you can. The post must be on point, the post must not bore, the post must be “the right stuff”! Go girl! Whoops! Did I just use one syl lab le?

        March 26, 2010
  4. carole sinclair #

    Before relying on BookSnob for all of my book suggestions my source was the NYT Book review and dare I write it, oh what the hell. I would skim People Magazine and check out their selection of books AND music. Okay. I said it. I read People Magazine when I’m in line at the grocery store. But let me make myself clear, I DO NOT subscribe. ; )

    March 19, 2010
    • Ah, the confessions of a booksnob! I actually read their reviews from time to time. They are straight and to the point. I can appreciate that!

      March 22, 2010
  5. Mary #

    The funniest review I ever read was one of Kenny Loggins’ book about finding love with his hydrotherapist. How could it not be funny? The reviewer ended by saying that usually romance turns to cr*p, but this time it was the other way around.

    March 20, 2010
    • Thanks Mary. I would say my big revelation is that Kenny Loggins writes books! who knew?

      March 22, 2010
  6. As a blogger who attempts to write ‘funny’ I would certainly appreciate a witty review over a stiff one. Sometimes even positive reviews will turn off a reader because they will lump the book in with the dull review. lol I think I’d rather be trashed humorously.

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