One-Minute Book Reviews


What is One-Minute Book Reviews?
One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent blog devoted to short reviews of new, evergreen, and forthcoming books. Its editor-in-chief is Janice Harayda, who has been the book columnist for Glamour, book editor and critic for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. The site is also the home of the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books, published annually on March 15, and the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides. You can find all the guides by clicking on “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” in the “Categories” column at right.

Why have a blog just for short book reviews?
In the past few years, the number of Web sites and blogs about publishing news, trends, and gossip has surged. There are far fewer independent sites or blogs just for reviews. I wanted to help to close the gap with sophisticated and witty reviews, including artful and persuasive takedowns of overrated books and appreciations of underrated books.

Can you really read any review on this site in a minute?
You can read my one-sentence summaries of each book in less than a minute — maybe two or three seconds. You can find the summaries by clicking on the “Books in a Sentence” category. I also try to keep the regular reviews short enough so that you can read them in a minute or so. But I include extra text for people who have more time. At the bottom of each review, you’ll find my choices for the best and worst lines in the book. You can skip these and the other extra material.

What kinds of books do you review?
All kinds. That includes new and older fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and books typically bypassed by the review sections of newspapers, such as self-help manuals. Nothing is off limits.

How often do you post reviews?
As often as possible. On days when I don’t post a review, I often post a quote on a literary topic, usually from a book. Reviews of books for children and teenagers appear on Saturdays.

Why do you post readers’ guides, too?
Publishers haven’t created guides for many books that groups might love. For example, they often don’t publish guides for new hardcover nonfiction or for classic works of fiction. The guides they do post are part of a marketing plan intended to sell books. They may appear to be objective, but they are far from it. Publishers’ guides do not quote unfavorable reviews or, in most cases, encourage you to compare a book to others or suggest that you are reading anything other than a flawless work. On that level, they don’t promote the lively debate about the merits of books that most book clubs enjoy.

How can publicists and others submit books to you for review?
They can’t. I don’t accept books or promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents or book publicists.

Why don’t you accept free books from publishers?
I agree with that pillar of newsroom ethics that says that journalists shouldn’t just avoid conflicts of interest — they should avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. If I accepted free books from publishers, how would you know that the reviews on these pages hadn’t been influenced by the freebies? As the restaurant critic Gael Greene said in an article in the New York Times: “It’s basic, a critic must always pay the bill”

If you don’t accept books from publishers, where do you get them?
Sometimes from the library. Those of us who live in New Jersey get a fantastic benefit for our tax dollars. You can walk into almost any public library, fill out a card asking the staff to buy a book, and get your wish as long as you want a title that would enhance the collection or appeal to others. If I can’t get a book from the library, I may try to borrow it from a friend or buy it online or elsewhere at half price.

How can people bring books to your attention if they can’t send them directly?
They can’t. Getting reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews is a little like winning a MacArthur Foundation grant. You can’t apply. You just have to get lucky.

You can find out more about the blog by reading the “About One-Minute Book Reviews” page on the site.

The reviews on One-Minute Book Reviews may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author except for brief quotations that do not violate fair-use provisions of copyright laws. Publishers who quote from reviews in ads or elsewhere should credit: Janice Harayda, One-Minute Book Reviews. For permission to reprint longer passages or full reviews, write to: Janice Harayda, 41 Watchung Plaza, #99, Montclair, NJ 07042, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.

If you would like Janice Harayda to speak your book group, please visit and click on the page labeled “For Book Groups.”

Home page photo credit: (c) Michael Stahl

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