Steve Clackson of Sand Storm has a very interesting post today about book reviewing. A key point: "Reviews should after all be geared to market the book not the reviewer or the magazine/newspaper..." I'm not sure reviews should be geared to marketing a book -- I think reviews function more along the lines of Consumer Reports -- but they definitely should not be geared to marketing the reviewer or the publication.One of the good consequences of space cuts is that reviewers have been forced to focus on the book under consideration and not other books by the same or differnt authors that the reviewer thinks are comparable: While the comparisons may be apt, they also seem to exist primarily for the purpose of displaying the reviewer's erudition.
Reviewing a book is not as easy as many people seem to think it is. Though reviewing involves criticism, it is not the same as criticism, the principal difference being that criticism presumes the reader has read the work or works being discussed, whereas reviewing presumes just the opposite. The most valuable thing any reviewer can do is bring to the public's attention a worthwhile bit of writing that might otherwise be overlooked.
I also think Steve is right that the future of reviewing is online -- and I think the nature of the Internet will eventually bring about a new form of review.