I love reading book reviews. I’ve been reading newspaper review sections cover-to-cover since I was, oh I don’t know, ten or eleven years old, but it was only sometime over the past few years that I began to realize that the book reviews I was reading represented only a small percentage of the books actually being published in a given year.
By the time my first novel came out a couple of months ago I’d figured out that getting a book by a non-famous author reviewed in a major paper can be a bit of an uphill battle, but I don’t think I realized just how difficult it really is until a couple of months after the book was published: a friend’s mother read my book, liked it a great deal, and sent me an effusive email. She wrote that she’d talked to her husband, who writes editorials for one of the largest newspapers in the country, and her husband had said that he’d talk to the book editor about getting a review. I immediately emailed my publicist. Her response was startling (and testament to her dedication): she’d be happy to send another copy to the book editor, she said, but I should probably know the history—she’d already sent the book review editor an ARC. And a finished copy of the book. And then followed up with him five times.
Publishers are putting out more books than ever before, and review space in the major papers is shrinking. Book bloggers help cover the gap: they review books that will never grace the pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post.
This in itself is a valuable thing, but after several months of following book bloggers on Twitter and reading their blogs, it occurred to me recently that book bloggers aren’t just filling in for what’s been lost. They’re creating something that wasn’t there before: a new and immediate way for readers, writers and reviewers to interact around a book. They introduce readers to books that we won’t read about anywhere else. They create buzz for books that would otherwise fall under the radar. Their love of books is contagious. I and other writers have tremendous gratitude for what they do, and I’ve come to think of them as an essential part of the literary landscape.
Emily St. John Mandel is the author of Last Night in Montreal.