2012 is the 12th year that The Compulsive Reader has been in operation. In Internet terms, that's a long time! So I thought it might be appropriate to explore the question - why. Why do I do it? Why review? Before I hop into it, I thought I might explore why not. There are some good reasons not to write book reviews. The first is that it's time consuming - I can spend many hours on a single review. Generally speaking, I don't get paid for it. The time I spend writing reviews is invariably time taken away from writing other things - such as my next novel, poetry, some other piece of nonfiction (perhaps a paid commission), or time with my kids, working my reasonably well paid day job, etc. Managing a review website is also time consuming. Each review is personally edited by me, set up by hand, and hand coded - with images and links sourced, and an overall consistency maintained with each one, regardless of how they are submitted. I respond personally to every review request (and I get hundreds each month), vetting and distributing them to reviewers where appropriate and of course, I can spend many many hours researching for an interview and conducting them. So, back to the original question. Why? The simplest answer is always the same - love. The following bullet points explain why I love it:
- Reviewing a book is like a second, deeper, more interactive reading. I'll often finish a book - especially a complex one, and not feel like I'm quite finished with it. It isn't until I do a final revisit and analysis where I begin to understand what worked for me, what didn't, and what the ultimate value of the book was for me. I think back on the many books I read in the years BR (before reviewing), and I can't actually remember some of them. I remember everything I've reviewed - the characters, the plot, the settings, the voice, the point of view - it's all part of my active memory because of the extra, engagement after the reading. To me, the review process has now become an integral part of my reading process.
- I've got a habit to feed. I can pretty much request any new title that I want and get it sent to me by the publisher. This may seem like a minor payment for many hours of work, but as someone who tends to buy books as gifts, I know exactly how expensive a new book is (in Aus, it can be exorbitant - the last book I bought for my son was nearly $50). Being able to get in fast on those authors whose work I will always read and even obtain an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) is a pretty compelling perk, especially if I get to have a conversation with them afterwards about the book.
- Fame, glory, and a following. The respect that comes with being a known, oft-cited reviewer is often well above that which I receive as a lowly author. The 'following' aspect is actually a kind of community of people who are united solely through the love of reading. That kind of camaraderie is pretty wonderful. Yes - I'm talking about you - you're wonderful.
- Finally, because it feels like a good deed in the service of books and authors. As the points above show, I definitely get something personally valuable out of reviewing, but in the bigger scheme of things, I also get to showcase and help promote some utterly wonderful books that might have otherwise skipped the notice of the general public. My focus is always on quality, so I can add a tiny bit of 'non-commercialist' weight on the side of the literarily wonderful. That kind of positive power, however small, is probably enough on its own to keep me reviewing.