Book reviewers who don’t read the books

In The National Business Review, a newspaper out of New Zealand, David Cohen discusses book reviewers who haven’t actually read the books they were assigned. He quotes Michael Kinsley, on judging the National Book Award.

Early last year in the US, a National Book Awards judge and internationally known book reviewer rocked the sedate world of literary prizes after confessing that he, too, didn’t read “many” of the books assigned to him. Some he barely glanced at. And he doubted whether many of his colleagues were much better.

In a wry mea culpa, the critic, Michael Kinsley, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Slate, even admitted he hadn’t even read every page of the book to which his committee gave the major prize: the latest mammoth volume in Robert Caro’s seemingly endless biography of former US president Lyndon B Johnson.

Mr Kinsley confessed his motives for involving himself in the event were “ignoble” from the start –­ mainly vanity and a desire for free books, he said. He joked that taking on the task had been “especially hypocritical because two things I have long claimed to oppose in principle are books and awards. Non-fiction books are especially regrettable. There is too much non-fiction going on in the world already without writers adding to it.”

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