I came across a review of Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad on a book blog I read regularly that caught my attention. Not only was it a rare negative review of the book, but it also used "I" 57 times.
57...in about 1100 words. That's more than one use of "I" for every 20 words.
This is an extreme case, but still exemplary of the kind of reaction review that dominates book blogging. Opinion, not assessment, rules. That's not to say that it should be otherwise but simply to note that it is.
My question, though, is this what we want?
At its core, I think book blogging is an antidote to the more detached, analytical reviewing of academia and first-rank reviewing outlets like The New York Times. I think book blogging performs a needed service of re-injecting passion and public conversation into reading.
The "I loved it" mode of reviewing, though, has its problems. For one, it undermines the public and collaborative nature of online discourse by privileging the subjective taste of the reader. Your "I loved it" review will only convince me to be interested in a book if I can be reasonably certain I share your sensibilities.
Second, the spread of "I"-centered reviewing covers for a relative lack of vocabulary and strategies for reviewing books. Rather than discuss the particulars of a novel, these reviews resort to generalities under the cover of the reader's impression. "Unlikable characters," "stilted prose," "uninteresting plot": these qualitative statements absolve the reviewer of doing the hard work of thinking deeply about a book.
Let me be clear: I do not want book blog reviews that sound like The New York Times. I want book blogs to be as diverse, interesting, and engaging as the readers themselves are, but this requires an effort to be interested and engaged.