Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Always read the reviews! [Updated]

So, this morning I was perusing a Medieval Studies catalog I just got in the mail from Cambridge University Press, when I came across a very interesting-sounding new book, Satan: A Biography, by Henry Ansgar Kelly of UCLA. It immediately made me think of Jack Miles's similarly titled, God: A Biography, which I have at home (but haven't read yet).

I wondered whether Satan was available from Amazon (now there's a strange thing to write!) and whether it would be less expensive than ordering directly from CUP, so I looked it up. It was indeed available, but luckily somebody's already read it and posted a thoughtful review, warning readers away. “No way, Jose. Not yet, Josette” — really?! Are ya kiddin' me?!

So, it sounds like it's definitely not worth an outright purchase (but I might still get it from the library). The lesson here? Always read the reviews! Thank you, C.T. Schreep!

[Update:] My friend Gary, who has so far yet to comment on this blog, called this post “fluffy”. Hmm. Let's challenge him to make his presence known and to defend that bald accusation! ;)


  1. That post reminded me of a typical Larry King interview: "You know what? I keep hearing from my viewers that this kid Tiger Woods is a sensational golfer. And when they talk, I listen!" :)

    I find the whole Amazon reviews thing interesting, especially the part about how many readers found the review "helpful." In my experience, most reviews that don't agree with the viewer's original preconception -- no matter how well argued, how carefully connected to other works of the same type -- will be lucky to break the 80% "helpful" mark, whereas ones that offer lots of praise and just a modicum of concrete evidence get closer to 100% "helpful."

    My point is that you can't always trust the reviews *of* the reviews. Or is it just me?

  2. That's a good point, and it resonates with something I was saying to Jennifer just last night. I've written a few Amazon reviews where I dared to disagree with the obvious majority opinion (e.g., Never Let Me Go, The Plot Against America, The Famished Road), and my reviews were consequently marked unhelpful, presumably just out of spite.

    So, you're right, Gary. Always read the reviews, and even the reviews of the reviews — but caveat lector.


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