Should Authors Read Reviews of Their Books? I Did

Should authors read reviews of their books? I did. Wrestling with God book on sale at Great Good Place for Books bookstore in Oakland, CA. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Should authors read reviews of their books? Some say, no way. Here, “Wrestling with God” is on sale at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, California. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Many a writer insists that no good can come of it when authors read reviews of their books. Some writers don’t want to risk getting their feelings hurt. Others take the high road and insist that they write for themselves, not for the critics, and maybe not even for their readers.

What’s more, whenever authors read reviews of their books — they often make a point of never, ever commenting publicly on a review.

Bad idea or not, I read my reviews, and now I’m going to risk commenting on one of them.

The review I have in mind was particularly gratifying, not because it was positive, but because the writer totally got what I was trying to do with Wrestling with God.

Should authors read reviews of their books? I did. Religion and spirituality books on sale at Book Passage bookstore in Marin, CA, include Wrestling with God by Barbara Falconer Newhall. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Religion and spirituality books offered at Book Passage in Marin county, California, include “Wrestling with God.” Photo by Barbara Newhall

Five-Star Review for WWG

The reviewer, Thomas H. Brennan, said this in his five-star (!) review for Clarion Foreword Reviews: “The vivid stories in Wrestling with God impart hope, insight, and inspiration for those who may be wrestling with their own faith—or lack thereof.”

I like the “lack thereof” part.

For some folks, a lack of faith means that something is missing. That’s the way I felt when I embarked on the decade-long process that was the researching and writing of Wrestling with God. I felt something was missing in my life. I longed for a clear sense that I mattered and that my life had meaning and value beyond simple survival and whatever creature comforts I could wrest for myself.

In the end — after interviewing dozens of Americans over the years and tangling with age-old theological issues about the existence and nature of God — I realized that I did not need certitude. I didn’t need religious faith in the traditional sense of the word. I was — I am — alive and conscious in this particular moment in time, and that is miracle enough.

When Buddhists Are Buddhists

I also like Brennan’s droll observation that the voices recorded in WWG sound authentic: “Buddhists sound like Buddhists,” he writes, “and nuns sound like nuns.”

Founded in Traverse City, Michigan, by three women writers and magazine staffers, Foreword Reviews specializes in covering self-published books as well as books from independent, university and alternative presses. It’s a quarterly magazine sent to librarians and booksellers. If you submit your book early enough in the book’s publishing process, Foreword will consider reviewing it gratis. If you come late to the game, as I did, you pay a fee for a Clarion review; there’s no guarantee that the review will be positive, but if you don’t like it, it doesn’t get published.

Want to join the chorus and help WWG reach more readers? Go to Amazon and write your own review — a couple words, a paragraph or two. Whatever you write, Amazon notices how many reviews a book gets and rates it accordingly. Don’t feel you have to give WWG all five stars. Four will do just fine, and so will three. As for those twos, ones and nones: a bad review, believe it or not, is better than no review. 



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