Let's be happier people. Let's be better book nerds.
To that end, I'll point you toward a really good bit by Richard Powers on literary reviews:
Reading is solitary; reviewing is the shared solitude of reading. As throughput accelerates and the cost of information falls, engaged seclusion and slow reflection become more valuable. Changes in technology change the terms of this contest, but not the stakes. Like any good crisis, this one can only be resolved through narrative – the turbulent act of figuring out how to read what’s writing us.
Amen. (Mr. Powers, I might just have to get around to your books sometime this century, after all.)
Also, there's a choice comment appended to a post at The Elegant Variation that's says what I'd have said, had I said it myself (third comment down, authored by John):
On a larger scale, that's what I want as a reader. I want to learn about books I might want to read, and I'm helped much more by simply seeing that a review has been done - and by who and in what tone - than by the review itself. Too much "thoughtful literary criticism" gives too much away, and I'd rather not know too much going in. I may turn to BookForum or the NY Review of Books after the fact to amplify points or help me to better appreciate what I just read, but I seriously doubt more than a fraction of the people who read with any consistency slog their way through several thousand words before deciding to pick up a book.
Amen. It's felt like far too often during this whole "save the book reviews" campaign (and really all the time before this campaign as well) that I've seen book reviews and book criticism discussed as if they are the same thing. They are not. Or, they should not be. I really would love to see both forms flourish, and I don't care whether it's done via newspapers or periodicals or blogs or online news sites or whatever. (Well, more online stuff wouldn't hurt. It's proven surprisingly hard to find good, thoughtful, lengthy considerations of Dostoevsky's work via quick Googling. Not that I'm helping much with my "Hey this quote read this quote! Whoa that's awesome huh? Ok gotta go! Cya later!" posts, but.) But it certainly doesn't help the case when people look at the one and accuse it of not doing what the other does. Let's get our terms and tools straight: I would not use a tow truck to take a photograph; I would not use a 500 word review to provide 5000 words of critical analysis.