How to Review a Book – W.H. Auden Style

I’m currently reading Alan Jacobs’ The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction.  There are wee gems here and there, but I felt I really struck gold when talking about how to review a book he discussed W.H. Auden’s 5 verdicts.  I found them delightful, spot on, and much more useful than a vague star-rating system.  He says on how to review a book …

w.h. auden on how to review a book
Circa 1946 PHOTO: JERRY COOKE/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

“For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: 

I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don’t like it; I can see this is good, and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe with perseverance I shall come to like it; I can see that this is trash but I like it; I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.”

I adore this and am ditching the star rating system for it.  I do hate to call a book trash, though.  To pass something someone put their heart and soul into off as low brow feels a bit snobbish, doesn’t it?  Book-shaming seems unnecessary.  Any suggestions for a “trash” stand-in?

While I’m uncomfortable passing judgements on what is “good” and “trash”, I did immediately think of books that fell in each of his criteria (so apparently not that uncomfortable!).

I can see this is good and I like it: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I can see this is good but I don’t like it:  Americaneh by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I know! You can direct your hate mail to hello at scurryhome dot com)

I can see this is good, and though at present I don’t like it, I believe with perseverance I shall come to like it:  What Are We Doing Here by Marilynne Robinson

I can see that this is trash but I like it:  I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloan Crosley

I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it:  The Forgetting Time by (I feel bad saying the author because I am saying it’s trash and that I don’t like it and we already talked about my hesitance with book-shaming, so…)

These are mine.  What are yours?

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.