My Philosophy on Reviewing Books

As I continue to review fiber books here, I feel that it is important for me to express my philosophy about the review process.  I recognize that I am a harsh critic.  It is one of the reasons I was selected to represent the Kansas Library Association on the William Allen White Kansas state award selection committee in 2017-2019.  This paired with my years in the spinning community is why I have chosen to make reviews a part of my work here.

My Reviewing Goals

First, I want to expose my audience to the current literature available.  My reviewing focus is titles from 2016 forward, though I also read deeply into older texts.  At the time of writing this, I’ve got a backlog of 300 books and 200 journal issues that I am slowly making my way through.  The more informed the fiber community is, the stronger we become.  I want to help guide my audience toward the best literature to support their growth as fiber artists and spinners.

I also want to apply pressure to the community to produce high quality texts for spinners and dyers that can compete with other non-fiction in the contemporary market.  We’ve had a lot of really great tiles, especially in the last few years.  I’m not going to sugar coat, though, I have also ready a lot of really poorly put together titles.  I am invested in growing our community and in bringing more widespread understanding of what we do to the public.  If there is one thing I can provide, it is a little tough-love.  Literature is one of the avenues through which we can achieve public appeal, especially if we can compete in a broader market.

Because I am a tough critic, I also want to make sure that I can provide critical feedback while not undermining the success of these titles on websites like Amazon and Goodreads, where star ratings can mean success or failure.

My Criteria

  1. Intended Audience
  2. Overall Appearance of the Book
  3. Accuracy
  4. Essence

One of the criterion I look for is who the author identifies as his or her intended audience.  If an author identifies that his or her audience is beginning spinners, but the text is full of unexplained jargon, then the title has failed to achieve the author’s goal.  Likewise, if the audience is identified as the intermediate spinner, but the text is shallow, I also find this to be a failing.

A book’s appearance matters, too.  It doesn’t effect the content necessarily (though it can) but it does effect the read-ability. Layout, typos, margins, colors, white space all contribute the accessibility of the text and can act as a barrier or a gateway to information.

Accuracy probably speaks for itself.  For me, accuracy holds a lot of weight, especially since it is incredibly difficult to correct mis-information once it becomes common knowledge.

When I talk about the essence of a book, I am talking about a combination of all the elements that come together to make the book appealing; tone, pace, writing style, illustrations, etc.  NoveList has a great list of appeal factors for anyone interested in exploring this concept more deeply.

The truth is, we have a talented community of writers, historians, fiber artists, craftspeople, and scientists.  We are also a bit of a siloed  community.  Ultimately, I want to push those boundaries and help make the work we do better.




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