Sunday, February 24, 2008

Review Review

I read a number of craft blogs. The book review is a staple of the craft blog genre. There are so many craft books published these days that it is a bear to sort the wheat from the chaff and's reviews are often filled with people complaining that they wanted a book on a particular subject, so they bought this and it's not really on that subject, which is nice if you're not sure what the subject is, but otherwise unhelpful. So you would think craft book reviews would be a wonderful addition to the content of craft blogs. But it seems like no one in the crafting community is willing to grow a pair and be honest in their reviews. I mean, I dig, I scratch your back, you blurb my back cover. But you can still keep it positive without fabricating lies.

For example, a book that shall remain nameless (mostly because I have read so many lately and been so disappointed not only in the books, but in the bloggers’ reviews of the books that I’ve forgotten exactly which one), had artsy, hand-drawn diagrams which occasionally made the process less clear and inconsistent measurements within a project (like it would say “cut a piece of fabric into 30 4-inch squares” and then, “Now take one of your 40 3-inch squares . . . “) on multiple projects. Typos happen, whatevs. But when you review this book on your blog don’t rave on about its super accurate and helpful diagrams and instructions, which is exactly what one blogger did. Complement the pictures and the layout (which do seem to be what the publishers are concentrating on). Compliment the resources page (which is often one of the most useful things I find in even the craptastickest of craft books). Complement the font. But don’t lie to me.

Many moons ago I lived in a hip college town with an alterna paper that published the best movie reviews I have ever read. The reviewer succinctly made it clear whether he liked the movie or not, but also whether YOU would like the movie or not. More eloquently than this he would say, “It’s not my cup of tea, but if you’re into action movies made for their ability to put a THX sound system through its paces, do not miss this film.”

I want my craft book reviewers to do the same. Sure you can love it, but say, “This book rocks in the following ways . . . Just FYI, the publisher has posted an errata sheet (for example: the errata for Jan Krentz's Lone Star Quilts and Beyond). Where the directions might not be robust enough for a novice, the Flickr group (for example: the Flickr group for Lotta Jansdotter Simple Sewing) that has grown around the book has created a community of helpful crafters more than willing to hand-hold newbies. And don’t forget to check out the author’s rocktastic blog (for example: Angry Chicken, the blog of the author of Bend the Rules Sewing), the archives of which are rich with her instructive musing while working on the same or similar projects.”

And better yet, show don’t tell. You write a craft blog. Do one of the projects in the book and share the experience. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you certainly can’t judge a craft book until you’ve actually walked through a project in its shoes . . . OK those metaphors got a little Sir Mix-a-lot, but you understand me.

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