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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Who Can Review

Every now and then, the question of who can review books arises. Different permutations of this argument include everything from who reviews the books to whether what has been written is a “review.”

The latest article about this is Judge and Jury: Should novelists double as book critics? Suddenly one prominent reviewer — and author — isn’t so sure by Erin Keane at Salon. Lev Grossman is quoted, saying “When a critic writes a novel, it’s like one of those movies where the cop crosses the line and gets tossed in jail along with the people he put there,” he said. “There’s no question, writing fiction has changed the way I review.”” Keane observes that in other areas, such as music or film, the reviewers aren’t also producers of content that may be reviewed by their peers.

Keane’s article is about mainstream reviewing, and by “mainstream” I mean commercial magazines and newspapers that pay. Keane observes, “After all, the world of literary fiction is small and political. Stephenie Meyer might pay her bills off “Twilight” royalties alone, but most writers teach (or write reviews) on the side, and rely on their reputations to land paying side gigs. Some might ask themselves whether chancing an awkward moment with an influential writer in the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference dining hall or blowing their chances at a well-paying residency is worth telling the truth about another writer’s book.” 

So, what do you think? Should published authors review books? Does it impact their reviews? I think it’s a bit harsh, to call into question whether awkwardness means a person will be dishonest; but I do think that an author may read a book differently from a non-author. They may also realize there is a constructive way to point out flaws in a work. There’s nothing wrong with that; and it gives a different perspective on a book; and it’s one reason why I like awards like the National Book Awards, where the judges are authors. I like seeing how different people react to and interpret the same book.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is


  1. If you’re honest it shouldn’t matter what your profession is. Author, teacher, blogger, or doctor….it doesn’t matter what pays the bills as long as you’re objective and honest in your comments. I imagine the most impact would be on an author who reviews a book with harsh criticism. Would that mean that criticism isn’t warranted or untrue? No, of course not, but I imagine that the author could become the subject of hostility as a result. I’d say that if anything some authors who review books may find themselves tempering their opinions to be a bit less vocal on certain elements. I mean, look at Jennifer Brown…she reviews for Shelf Awareness and I haven’t once seen her called out for anything she’s written. Now would that change if she were doing so on her personal blog instaed of in a professional publication, I can’t say. But I don’t know why it would be acceptable in one place over another.

  2. Oh heck, even those of us who never want to write our own books EVER are sometimes in social contact with the creators of work we review… Especially in kid lit, I imagine. Ive been back and forth with writers whose work I have reviewed critically almost more often than not, and it’s always a fruitful discussion. As long as everybody acts like grownups, I would expect a well-written negative review to produce no more awkwardness than a thoughtful positive review.