This is something of a tangent, but perhaps plays off of what Bill wrote. All this makes me wonder about the function of a review. Is it to help us decide whether we want to buy or read a book? This could on one level be a version of “thumbs up/thumbs down” and it seems to me that it’s perhaps part of what I’m looking for from a review but not everything I’m looking for.

Or is the function of a review to evaluate the success of the book, its worthiness as a finished text? Or is it to contextualize the book for us, to help us see how it fits into a larger whole? These need not be mutually exclusive, of course, and the last two might help us decide whether we want to buy the book, but are the factors of the “success” and the context essential elements of a review? Just wondering.

I wonder what would happen if we considered film reviews – which so often have the “thumbs up/thumbs down” or three stars out of four rating. Are we satisfied with these ratings as the essential element of the review (which seem to me to be only about the “success” of the film) or do we also desire context? I don’t see much context in film reviews, only in the very best.