One-Minute Book Reviews

August 14, 2009

The Benefits of Reviewing Even When the Pay Is Terrible, the Books Are Bad, and the Authors Are Only Going to Hate You, Anyway – Quote of the Day / Rebecca West

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:52 am
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You could earn more per hour as a migrant grape-picker than you can by reviewing for many newspapers, and the odds are that an editor will ask you to write about a bad book and that the author will hate you afterward. So why volunteer for the work?

One of the best answers I’ve heard came from the novelist and critic Rebecca West in a Paris Review interview, collected in Writers at Work: Sixth Series (Viking, 1984) and in Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews (Modern Library, 1998). Marina Warner asked West if she enjoyed reviewing for the Sunday Telegraph, then as now a leading national newspaper in Britain. West replied:

“Yes, I do. I do. I would feel awfully cut off if I didn’t review; I think it’s such a good discipline. It makes you really open your mind to a book. Probably you wouldn’t, if you just read it.”

Many critics like the serendipity or reviewing, or getting assigned books they wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, and I do, too. But I also like having to focus on books in a way that I don’t usually do when I’m reading for pleasure. You have to look harder at books when you’re reviewing them – you can never skim, ever — and when you do, you see more. and


  1. An English professor of mine used to say that reading liberates thought, and criticism disciplines it. In that sense it can be a rewarding practice even if you’re not getting paid your pittance for it.

    Comment by pseudoswashbuckler — August 14, 2009 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  2. Very well said and I agree completely. I also find that criticism makes it a little easier to plod through a truly poor book by imagining what clever witticism can be used to convey the pain I had to endure with the hope that I can help some other poor reader avoid the same fate. By the way, I am really enjoying your blog.

    Comment by Chad Aaron Sayban — August 17, 2009 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

    • What a lovely comment! I struggle at times to maintain this blog because I also freelance to support myself and am writing a third novel. So I really appreciate hearing that people enjoy it. Thank you so much …

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 18, 2009 @ 12:45 am | Reply

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