Now, I'm not talking about being mean or nasty, etc. I'm talking about a critic doing their job: reviewing both good and bad books. Do reviewers have a duty to tell their readers if a book doesn't meet certain standards or if it's rubbish and simply written for a profit?

One of my favorite reviewers admitted that: "It can be hard to publicly proclaim that a book someone worked really hard on is not very good...Even if I know in my heart that a book stinks, it's hard for me to tell everybody that."

Recently I read Washington Post reviewer Patrick Anderson's TRIUMPH OF THE THRILLER, which gives his assessment of today’s best and worst thriller writers. His standards are pretty high, and coincide with my own. I respect him even more for castigating the popular dribble of James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Patricia Cornwell. He writes: “The sin of most of [these] people…is not that they write clunky sentences, although some do, but that they treat their readers like idiots. They deal in cliches, stereotypes, cheap thrills, and ridiculous plots.” My favorite parting shot is from his review of Patricia Cornwell: “You couldn’t pay me to read another of her novels.”

Do we have "praise inflation"? Would it help if reviewers were more honest with readers? Should the feelings of the writers be taken into account? Would writers (and editors) work harder, if they knew there were repercussions for turning out crap. If critics just write good reviews, how can readers make distinctions between a good book and a great book?

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I agree: a reviewer who expresses an opinion needs to back it up, or at least acknowledge a particular criticism is a matter of personal taste. I don't read a lot of reviews anymore, as too many of them are just plot synopses. That's why I want to read the book; to see what happens. I don't even like to read the descriptions on the flap. A good review should tell me if the book is actually funny, or just clever. Or just trying to be clever. Something about the characters. Does the dialog ring true. Does the plot make sense and hold together? (As opposed to telling what the plot is.) Then justify your opinions. The reviewer should at least show he has a clue as to what he's talking about.
Umm, it's "buyer beware" here. Self-published books are self-published because they didn't make it the ordinary way. Frequently that means the book is terrible.

As for authors charging outrageous prices: those who publish through major houses like St. Martin's, Morrow, Penguin, Holt etc. receive anywhere between 50 cents and 2 dollars per book -- after their advance has been paid off. Most cannot live on their income from writing and have other fulltime jobs.
(That is not to say that critiques should not be honest).
But the reader doesn't care how much the author makes. The reader cares how much he has to pay.
No. Considering what he's willing to pay for all other entertainment, it shows how little he values books.


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