Every reviewer will tackle the challenges of writing about books in the Internet era in his or her own way, but at the very least anyone hoping to be heard above the digital din needs to approach each review not as an exercise in personal taste – I liked/didn’t like this book, and here’s why – but as a mini-essay using the book under review as the focal point of a larger, more interesting story. In a great many cases, this will mean reviewers having the sense to shut up when they have an opinion about a book but have nothing to add to the conversation beyond whether they liked or didn’t like it. This might be called The Thumper Rule of Literary Criticism: “If you can’t say something interesting – Shh! Say nothing!”
… However critics rise to the challenge of the information overload facing readers today, rise we must, because as much information there is on sites like Amazon and GoodReads and the rest, there is too often precious little real intelligence. This is the paradox of the information age: the proliferation of data points makes smart criticism more relevant, not less. We are all swimming in information, not just about books but about sports teams and political parties and cooking tips, and what we need are smart, thoughtful commentators to sift through all that data and make it mean something.
This is exactly what I try to do with my reviews. Whether or not I succeed is another story entirely.