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A Note on Reviews

I have published several thousand pages – academic, junk, journalism and fiction – over the years. Some were good, some were bad, some were right, some were wrong. But the only pages that I am actually ashamed of are a number of reviews.


Two reasons.

(i) Sometimes I had such affection or admiration or sense of tenderness for an author that I couldn’t bring myself to write the terrible truth about a work they’d written. In other words I lied.

(ii) Sometimes I wrote about how bad a book was but realised after that I had unnecessarily hurt an author’s feelings. In other words I was cruel.

I don’t like lying or being cruel. Since 2009 then I have changed tack. I now avoid these situations by only ever reviewing books that I like: unless immorality* is involved: click here for the Beachcombing review tag.

This failure to criticise might be said to be cowardice. And I know only too well the joy of reading a nasty book review. But there are so many books published today that the reader’s problem is no longer discrimination but identification.

I am not against having books thrown at me – far from it! Rarely a day goes by without an email… And I will include new history books on the New History books links (on the left column), tweet and include in the Beachcombed round up. However, I would warn all authors (a rarefied breed) and publicists (an even more rarefied breed) to consider the warning above, namely, that I will only review the book if I like it a lot!

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*Sociologists, Nazis, Maoists, scientists ‘sorting out’ the humanities, historians pretending to be scientists, Vikings, junk food, euro-federalists, neurologists, homeopaths etc etc