“Read a Damn Book List (with Chit Chat from Sept. 2017)” by Richard F. Yates
About seven months ago, I decided to start writing reviews of the various books that I read. Since 2013, I’ve been making Reading Lists, so that the people who read my stories or enjoy my art can see “where I get my ideas.” (I steal them, of course…) Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to post my 13th reading list, I did something stupid, had to reformat my tablet, and lost the entire list… (I’m better with paper and ink than electronics.) So, instead of trying to remember what I’d read and recreate it (not possible), I went in a different direction.
My rules were simple: read a damn book, cover to cover (no skipping bits,) and then write an honest review. If I’d already read the book at some time in the past, I still had to read it again before putting fingers to keyboard. RE-reading is actually much cooler than most people think. There are a lot of words in most books, and no one can remember them all. In addition, if it’s been a long time since you read a book, YOU might be different now, even if the book isn’t, so what you take away from the rereading may be different than what you got from the book the first time—or second or third… Sometimes books get better—and sometimes they don’t.
The BENEFITS of writing reviews are numerous. First, I like to share stuff that I enjoy with other people. It makes me feel good, and I often read old or obscure or forgotten books that a lot of people don’t remember or might not have heard of, and I’ve made it my policy not to keep these things hidden for myself. I like to share. Another benefit of writing a review is the boost you get to understanding. (Writing IS thinking.) It’s important for people to analyze and consider what they take in instead of just passively consuming it. If you love a story, ask yourself WHY you loved it? If there was something about it that made you uncomfortable, what was it? What elements made the book really work, and where did it fall short? The secondary result of this type of reflection, especially when you bother to write these thoughts out, is that others, whether they’ve read the book or not, can benefit from an honest examination of a text. Does the book sound like it’s worth reading? Was there something going on in the book that I totally missed last time I read it? “Literary analysis” sounds like a scary thing (and I know most people HATE writing papers), but it’s what I was trained to do, and I love doing it.
Since I started doing these reviews (back in February), I’ve finished 46 books. Some of those books were short, but some seemed EXTREMELY long to me, even if they weren’t. (I read slowly—even MORE slowly if the book isn’t keeping my interest.) Either way, 46 is a lot of reviews, and unfortunately, my reviews were getting lost amidst the drawings and photos and poems and stories at The Primitive Entertainment Workshop where they were originally posted. They were getting buried rather quickly because I post anywhere from 3 to 7 items per day at the Workshop, sometimes more. To help keep the reviews above water, I started a new site, Read a Damn Book, which is ONLY for the reviews, but even there, with all those words stacked one on top of the other, most people probably don’t go all the way back and read the reviews of the earliest books very often. And thus, I have created this “Table of Contents” thing, so people can quickly and easily see which books have been reviewed and click on the ones they want to see. (Consider it a public service.) Enjoy!
Before I decided to write individual book reviews, I would publish LISTS of the books that I was reading. Some of these, especially towards the later lists, started to have mini-reviews of the more interesting books. To me, they’re still interesting to look at, even if they aren’t quite as substantial as the full reviews. (Meanest thing I wrote: “I liked the cover.” That was the entire review.)
In addition to book reviews, I’ve also started writing VIDEO reviews. Part of what I like about books is that the reader has to participate in the work in order for the story to come to life, whereas a film or television series really just jumps out at you. Still, there are certain shows (films, television programs, documentaries) that I really enjoy, and because I like to share stuff that I enjoy… Heck, why not?