About the reviews

Let's start with the fundamental disclaimer. Reviewing is about one (hopefully qualified or experienced) person's opinion on a publication, such as a movie, a CD, or a book. The reviewer uses her/his experience to give a personal opinion on the particular publication. To increase credibility, the reviewer develops his/her arguments and cross-refers to other related material. In the end, however, it's only about an opinion! Such opinions are formed based on the reviewer's experience, knowledge of the topic and the general state of mind. The goal of a review should be to produce an endorsement, or a statement that deters the potential reader from consuming the reviewed publication. While doing this, the reviewer may criticize the contents of the publication. Hopefully the critique is accompanied by arguments that explain the reviewer's reasoning.

It all comes down to that a review is one person's opinion on a particular publication, in light of that person's personal experience.

Having said that, I'd like to say a few words on how I read a book. First of all, it rarely happens that I read a technical book completely out of context. Usually the case is that I need to read something related to my current work. Another common case is cross-referencing, i.e., I've landed in an interesting topic, and a good book endorses another. If I have time, I follow up on such references. This allows me to relate the book's contents to something practical. In cases where I feel that I cannot comment on a book's technical contents, just the general feeling, I clearly state that in the review.

When I read a technical book, my goal is to absorb its contents as efficiently as possible, which means that I apply a sort of speed reading sometimes. In practice it means that I may skim through sections that cover the basics or common knowledge in cases where I'm thoroughly familiar with the topic. These sections are usually called "Getting started with X", or "Introduction to Y". Another characteristics of my reading is that I don't reread the text. I read the section, and if the author failed to convey her/his thoughts, then too bad. In practice this is not a problem, since real books are reviewed before being printed...

In my opinion, this kind of reading will give you the biggest gain compared to the time spent: you read it all, and the central and important topics will catch your attention, while the rest will not. This also provides a good basis for forming a "takeaway" for every book.

Twenty books later

I wrote this section after having had the site up and running for about six months and having written roughly twenty reviews. In short the concept of the site remained intact. Everything is still very simple, but the layout has been greatly improved.

As for the reviews, I wasn't certain about what level of ambition they would settle at. Now knowing, I can say that the reviews are not as shallow as I wanted them to be initially. Of course, some books contain more things to comment on than others, but in general the amount of text per book is larger than I expected when starting out.

Another thing I was curious about was whether I'd be a criticizing reviewer, or if I'd find the majority of the books good. It turned out that I like most of the books (I do try to pick good ones), but when I dislike a book it shows. Nonetheless, I'm striving for balanced reviews containing both good and bad opinions about the book.

Thirty books later

A good while after starting the site. Most of the site "mechanics" are in place and I can spend my time reviewing, not programming PHP. At this point I've read many of the classics (which was an initial ambition), and have a good grasp of what kind of books there are out there. The pace at which I review is lower. What I notice is that a review I wrote a year ago doesn't always reflect my opinion on the book today; I would have read it in another context and with different background knowledge if I reread it. Still, I can't shoot at moving targets, so the reviews remain unaltered.

Forty books later

Progress has been slow lately, but finally the site has reached forty books. Some diversity in topics is emerging. To celebrate this milestone, I've given the site a new layout. Actually it was because I got some feedback on how bad it was. Hopefully it's somewhat better now, though I never try fools people by saying I know web design. I don't. Anyway, the next ten books are going to be exciting. The topics will be software architecture and Microsoft technologies.

News

  • 2015-09-29

    It's been almost one and a half year since I reviwed a book! I've been too absorbed by Writing my own. Anyway, I'm back with Jeff Patton's relatively...
  • 2014-01-04

    New category! Performance! Reviewed The Every Computer Performance Book. Check it out!
  • 2013-09-10

    Reviewed a book that' slightly less technical, but much more fun to read. It's I.T. Confidential.
  • 2013-08-13

    Reviewed yet another book on Visual Studio 2012 and TFS. I also created a "Microsoft" category and moved the other TFS book there from the "Tools"...
  • 2013-08-05

    Updated the FAQ. Included information about getting a book reviewed.