Instructor: Ilana Masad
Dates: Oct 4, 11, 18, and 25
Times: Wednesdays, 7-9pm ET
Open to: This course invites writers of all genres.
In this workshop, we will:
- generate new writing through exercises and assignments
- provide feedback on writing you produce in workshop
Title: How to Write Compelling Book Reviews
Everyone’s a critic—so the saying goes, and indeed, in our age of Yelp, Letterboxd, Goodreads, and Storygraph, reviews are everywhere. But there’s a difference between a product review and criticism. The former is based entirely on personal experience (as well as preconceptions, assumptions, biases, and conscious or unconscious desires), the latter is an art in and of itself as well as a form of journalism.
Readers rely on criticism to help them make choices about what books to buy, check out of the library, pre-order, or share with a friend. In this way, writing book reviews can be an act of literary citizenship, a way of contributing and taking part in our writerly and readerly communities. Additionally, writing book reviews can help us develop a reputation and a byline and allow us to develop a unique voice separate from our creative work.
A good book review takes into consideration far more than the critic’s personal thoughts and feelings—although those do, of course, matter too. Literary criticism takes into account broader cultural implications, utilizes (often invisible) research, and attempts to examine the book in question on its own terms as well as its place in an ongoing conversation.
This four-week course will explore what book reviews can do, the artistry that can enter into them, and the pleasure of thinking deeply and then writing about literature. We’ll read book reviews, of course, and examine the different forms they can take. There will be one assigned book (likely a novel) that we’ll all read in order to discuss approaches to reviewing it as well as the way our differing thoughts and opinions might broaden our own understanding of it. Additionally, writers will produce one review of a book of their choosing that the instructor will provide feedback on.
Depending on class interest, we’ll also explore some of the resources available to those interested in pursuing book criticism.
Ilana Masad is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and criticism. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, NPR, StoryQuarterly, Tin House’s Open Bar, 7×7, Catapult, Buzzfeed, and many more. Masad is the author of the novel All My Mother’s Lovers.