SOCIAL STUDIES You Mean You Won't Just Pay Me To Read? Rachael Berkey

I used to think that reviewing books would be the ideal job for me. After all, what could possibly be better than being paid to read? I imagined this idyllic scene: me, softly lit by a sunny window, curled up with coffee and a stack of books, preferably on a bay-window bench seat, while the world goes by outside my window.

You’re picturing it now too, aren’t you?

There’s a reason the vision has a dreamlike glow about it.

Because that’s what it is: A totally fabricated misconception of reality.

First of all, it’s 2012. No one “pays” you to review books unless you’re writing for something like, I don’t know, The New York Times or The New York Book Review. I’m sure there are some publications out there that are smaller and pay their reviewers, but the majority of the audience has moved online where payment for writing is less common. And this girl’s gotta eat, so reviewing books is a definite “pleasure” activity because I like to share the things I love with my friends.

Secondly, reviewing books is hard.

I do it in my “free” time. This means I’m reading on the subway, right before I crash at the end of the day, and at bars. Yes, I’m that girl sitting in the bar with a book. Obviously, I’ve already talked about my feelings of nakedness when I leave the house bookless, so this isn’t really too much of a trial for me. But now that I’ve picked up longer hours in my “real” job, it does sometimes come down to, “Should I go out with my friends? Or should I stay in and finish this book so I can bang out a review?”

And then there’s the actual process of reviewing a book. I dive into books wholeheartedly. I want to like them. And that’s sometimes a problem. Sometimes I like a book too much. In fact, it takes a lot for a book to get a truly negative review from me. I can find the good in almost anything. I can even excuse away character behavior for things I would never tolerate in real life.

And really, how helpful is that to the readers of my reviews? Do they want to just hear me gush over book after book after book? If I don’t like something, I tend to not finish it and never talk about it again. Or if I do talk about it, I am usually saying things along the line of “I’m putting Game of Thrones down for now. I can’t take the violence.”

In fact, I did say that about six months ago. And I’ve already gone back to the book and am working my way through it. I still don’t “love” it, but the things that made me put it down in the first place have fallen back a little bit in the forefront of my brain, and I’m able to look at it with a fresh perspective.

But in the long run? Those are really the only two downsides to it I’ve been able to think up.

I love reviewing books.

First off, frequently, when you review stuff, people send you books. It’s like Christmas every time you check your mail. And we all already know I’m a total a book hoarder. It makes me super happy.

Secondly, it’s a valid excuse to be a hermit, not make eye contact with anyone on the subway, and generally bury my nose in a book. Who doesn’t love that?

Third, I get awesome nicknames from my friends like “book pusher” and “peer pressurer.” Those were both bestowed upon me by the friend I mentioned a few weeks ago who recently got into Fables. She’s totally hooked. She talks about them like addictive drugs. It makes me super happy.

So, no, book reviewing is not rose-colored and softly lit, but man, I don’t think I’d give it up for anything.

Image credit Shuttershock

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  1. you. rock. ’nuff said