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Hallo again to all.

Our parish book club has recently picked up a new book for the year. A short, light piece by a prominent Christian author that spans genres from Christian inspiration to feminist theology and political commentary, we looked forward to digging into it. Instead, what we found was what we could only consider to be a badly-edited cash grab which the publisher knew would be popular based on the past performance of the author. This is not to say there weren't valuable tidbits, small nuggets of intrigue, so to say, but they were few and hidden within lengthy rambling thoughts and incomplete chapters. Coloured ink and quips on current events made us question the roughly £15 spend on the hardcover edition. The book has mostly positive reviews from reviewers and mixed reviews from readers.

A few weeks ago a colleague of ours was, as is often the case, sent a book to review. They asked several of us how to word what they felt needed to a be a negative review. Should the review be written at all or should they decline? Should the book's failings be bluntly stated or gently alluded to, or skipped over entirely? Many of us, either from personal experience or through friends, know of the many concerns that come with writing a negative review. Graduate students have found themselves blackballed in their early careers, and one author even went so far as to stalk a reader who reviewed a book negatively online.

There is a fine (and occasionally not-so-fine) line between 'trashing' a book and writing a helpful piece to guide potential readers as to whether or not a book is worth their time. One of our favourite book review sources offers suggestions of 'Buy, Borrow, or Skip' along with traditional reviews. Both time and money are precious commodities for those of us here at Anglicans Online, as we are sure they are for you as well. We don't have time for sources that only give positive reviews. We were grateful our colleague chose to address gracefully the concerns they had with the book they were asked to review while also emphasizing its strengths. Even the book club piece we named a 'badly-edited cash grab' above had some strong take-aways.

We wonder how some classic works would have fared in the world of Booklist, Goodreads, and Amazon reviews. Would reviewers have complained about the winding nature of the Odyssey, or the verbosity of the letters of Pliny the Younger? Would they have found Augustine's The City of God too esoteric? Perhaps the best review, rather than written prose, is the longevity of these pieces over time, that thousands of years later, we still read them and find value in their stories, lessons, and truths. Regardless, we hope that your reading adventures in the new year are fruitful.

See you next week.

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31 January 2019

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