ny york times book review

ny york times book review

The Importance of Book Reviews in The New York Times

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1. Introduction

Your reader’s guide calls this book: An examination of the New York Times Book Review, its content and practices. A critique of the lack of theoretical foundation in the study of journalism and mass communications. While The Times is used as a case study, the questions raised in this book and the various issues discussed about the state of the book review are applicable to most general interest publications. The Times is the primary source of news about the publishing industry from which this study originated. The decision to focus on the Book Review was made on practical grounds which will be explained in the pages that follow. The Times is commonly perceived to be “the best” and that perception holds for the Book Review. The New York Times is possibly the most carefully studied newspaper in the world. For both better and worse, it is often held up as the epitome of quality in print journalism. This book is not an indictment of The Times, it is an effort to improve a valuable feature in an otherwise exceptional newspaper.

2. The Role of Book Reviews in Informing Readers

Barbara Field, in an article for offline, contends that book reviews give potential readers a “quick reference guide” to a book. This function is also noted by Jenny Hunger, in an article for The Rambler, who sees reviews as providing the reader of the review with the ability to decide whether or not the book in question is actually worth their time. Because review writing encompasses reviewing, readers reports, and critiques, reviews are also a tool for assessing and evaluating literature. Field argues that book reviewing is the broad term for reviewing translated material, also academic texts and literary magazines. The evaluating function of a review is stressed by Robert J. Steuck who in his article from Wilson Library Review, writes “the function of the reviewer is to educate”. This theme of education is discussed widely with many regarding reviews as a pedagogic tool, which will not only educate the reader of the review, but also the author of the book in question.

3. The Influence of The New York Times Book Review

For better or worse, the book reviews’ effect on the audience is largely determined by its influence on the book market. NYBR has the ability to greatly affect purchases from both consumers and libraries. Often, if a book is well received, there will be an influx of orders from libraries looking to stock their shelves. Because a given book has been reviewed, librarians feel that possible patrons will be more inclined to check it out. According to a study done in 2002 by the American Library Association, 62% of library patrons surveyed said that they were swayed by a review or a news article in selecting a title to borrow. This means that a positive review of a book may be doubly beneficial. More patrons may check the book out and have a favorable opinion that would encourage them to purchase their own copy.

Like it or not, Book Review has a direct effect on the books and authors it chooses to critique. The very nature of this depends on whether the book received a favorable review. An author whose book was panned is likely to be deeply affected. It may affect his sales and be a blow to his ego. The next time around, he may remember the critique and decide not to waste his time writing another book. On the other hand, an author whose book was praised will be encouraged to continue writing and may have increased satisfaction with being an author.

After investing a great amount of time and money in the New York Times Book Review, it is important to realize the specific effects it has on the literary and publishing communities. It operates as a very important form of critique in today’s society. The critics for the NYTBR are often writers themselves which calls to mind the old adage “it takes one to know one.”

4. The Power of Persuasion in Book Reviews

Ironically, one of the best pieces on the art of persuasion is found not within a review of literature, but within the work of a playwright; William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Mark Antony’s speech to the plebeians succeeds so thoroughly in turning them against the conspirators through its logic and wit that it changes the course of Roman history. For the case of modern book reviews, one could argue that the desired result is indeed the same as Antony’s; to convince the public that the current ruling authority is wrong, and that a change could potentially be beneficial. This would be akin to stating that because the plebeians are on the wrong track with regards to the conspirators, a reader could be wasting valuable time and money on a newly released historical fiction about Roman politics, and would be better off with the text of Julius Caesar itself. The reviewing authority in this case must offer a very convincing argument to this effect, as the potential consumer (quite like the plebeians) is comfortable with the present state of affairs and will need strong incentive to alter it. A lesser persuasive piece could be the equivalent of ineffectual nagging, and no one enjoys a nag. Depending on the character of the reviewer, this could lead to self-loathing and an eternity in the 7th circle of Dante’s Inferno. This would be a waste of good writing and a potentially good book talked poorly of. An effective persuasive review can guide the consumer from the wrong spot in the circle to the right, and not of coercion, but of informed agreement between author and reviewer as to the nature of things.

When it comes to building a reputation, there are few more effective ways of doing so than via the use of literature. The written word has the potential to be a very powerful tool, providing the reader with persuasive evidence regarding the courage or stupidity of its authors. When regarding reviews, there is the ever-present ideal of persuading the reader one-way or the other about the worth of a particular book. As is the case with the possibility of all persuasive writing, it is essential that any piece in the review genre looks to what makes the most effective argument in convincing its audience.

5. Conclusion: The Continued Relevance of Book Reviews in the Digital Age

As previously discussed, the act of reviewing literature and the quality of a book is not dead in today’s pop culture. So long as there is quality literature, there shall be analysis of whether such literature is worthy. The continued transition to the digital age has created an easier outlet for authors to obtain revealing critiques and book reviews. As it is expected that lesser numbers of people are going to read print newspapers to get their news, it is a logical assumption that fewer people will be reading book reviews in print newspapers as well. Now there is direct access to literary criticism by simply googling a particular book. Because of the ease of access and visibility to book reviews, more authors are going to be inclined to seek out literary critiques of their work. With less overhead costs of printing book reviews on paper, more money can be spent on hiring talented writers to review books and possibly increasing the quality of book reviews.

It can still be debated whether the continued digital age is beneficial to book reviews. In the end, it is beneficial to have free advertising for the author, better and more direct access to the audience, and helpful feedback in the form of increased visibility. The New York Times, a prime source of literary critique, has been coming out on top in regards to the transition of reviewing books on print and reviewing books online. With the introduction of NYT’s bestseller list, the prestigious NY Times Book Review, and various other literary review sources, NYT has made themselves a prime source for literary criticism. For quite some time now, more and more Americans are turning to the internet as opposed to print newspapers for daily news. This quick and easy access to news has made the internet very popular for people searching for information with the simple click of a mouse. With the digital revolution, books have gone electronic via websites and electronic books which is increasingly the trend now and for the future. With this transition, book reviews have also followed suit onto the internet. Most, if not all, major print sources for book reviews now have internet sources.

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