Thursday, February 5, 2015
A Day In The Life Of A Book Reviewer
By Kristy McCaffrey
For almost two years, I’ve been a book reviewer for Women’s Adventure magazine. Because movies and television have glorified this job to such a great degree, I thought I’d share my experience. (This is where you’re supposed to laugh.)
I’m a book nerd. I always have been. Today, I’m a writer. Becoming a book reviewer was a natural extension of my love of the written word, and my desire to comment on it. It certainly suits my need to work quietly by myself.
I found my current position via Facebook. Being an introvert and yet wanting to join a book club for years, I found the perfect combination in the Women’s Adventure Magazine Book Club on Facebook. Each month an adventurous read is selected and participants discuss it online. I love it! And not only because I’m a closet adventurist. I found I had much to say about living in India or kayaking around the continent of Australia. And because I was so chatty, I was invited by the magazine to become a reviewer.
Women’s Adventure publishes four times a year, and while not at the level of Outside or National Geographic Traveler, it offers articles and gear recommendations suited for females. My book reviews are published on their website. I am not paid for these. However, I periodically get a goody box full of fun stuff and I receive free books all year long.
How does it work? There are four of us handling the reviews, located in Alaska, South Dakota, Washington and Arizona. We do everything via email. The editor-in-chief forwards any notification she receives regarding a book, and we are free to pursue any that interest us. These requests come from authors, publicists, and publishers. Usually we write individual reviews, but occasionally we combine efforts and all read the same book.
How do I choose a book for review? While we’re given the latitude to choose stories that appeal, I attempt to adhere to the flavor of the magazine. So, adventurous memoirs written by women about a female journey are likely to get reviewed. We’ve also reviewed camping cookbooks, exercise manuals (such as yoga), travel logs, a film, and reflective memoirs about life in general. And because I’m a fiction writer, many of the adventurous fictional tales submitted often are directed my way. I have also, on one occasion, found a book on my own. I plucked Alison Levine’s hardback On The Edge off the new release rack at Barnes & Noble. I liked it so much, and thought it a perfect fit for the magazine, that I submitted a review. The magazine posted it.
Do I reject books for review? Yes. The biggest reason is a poorly written one. This doesn’t happen often. The other reflects meeting the atmosphere of the magazine. Psychology books, of which I’ve reviewed a few already, straddle this line. While I have nothing against self-help manuals, my feeling is that women adventurers would rather get out there and experience overcoming their fears rather than reading about techniques to do so.
Lastly, I will add that I’ve gotten far more out of this gig than I put into it. I’ve found books I never would have otherwise, become acquainted with wonderful authors (some with whom I’m still in contact), and these books have stretched my imagination and broadened my outlook on the world in general. Reviewing has also fine-tuned my critical thinking skills and improved my writing.
A day in the life of a book reviewer, while on the outside appearing sedentary, is actually a wild ride through far-off oceans, high mountain passes, and bird rehabilitation centers. It’s traipsing through jungles or hanging from rocky cliffs. It’s delving into the past while making plans for the future. It’s a chance to interpret another’s work and pass on a recommendation. And it’s a privilege to do so.
Check out more adventurous book reviews at Women's Adventure.