Better skimming and searching professional book reviews - for free?
November 27, 2018 10:36 AM   Subscribe

How can I browse, skim, and search professional fiction book reviews for free, to find the fiction I want to read?

I have pretty specific requirements for fiction reading these days (I'm looking for books that are well written, have likable characters, don't feature violence or center on tragedy, and ideally are funny).

One tool I've been using is to look up books I've enjoyed in the library's online catalog, which gives me a page like this:

From there I can look at NoveList recommendations and Similar Titles to find other things, then read the Library Journal and BookList reviews on those OTHER books to see if they might be something I'd like.

It's pretty time-consuming and tedious, though.

What I'd really like is a way to search all those Library Journal and BookList and NYTimes reviews for keywords like "funny" or "witty" so I can skim a bunch of reviews at once ... or something.

The library offers digital access to things like BookList through Gale (Academic OneFile), but the results pages don't show enough of the review to effectively skim a bunch at once.

I'd prefer to use professional reviews, because enthusiast reviewers tend to be a lot more forgiving about quality of writing, and I'm really craving at least the occasional well-turned phrase and apt metaphor these days. (The writing doesn't have to be ostentatiously literary: I like Rainbow Rowell's prose a lot.)

So: how can I easily search and skim a bunch of professional book reviews efficiently, for free - or otherwise find well-written books with likable characters?

Thank you!
posted by kristi to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
Bookmarks can give you a sense of the reviews for a particular title. However, I think this works mostly for new books.

Something else you might try is finding a critic or publication that fits your taste. There are many, many lists of witty comic fiction at The Guardian, but most of them are about terrible people, so those particular lists probably wouldn't work for you.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:01 AM on November 27, 2018 Doesn’t have ALL their reviews, but it does have a lot. I always found their reviews honest and often funny in and of themselves.
posted by itsamermaid at 8:17 PM on November 27, 2018

The NPR Book Concierge (and its previous years) might be helpful (they do have a "funny stuff" category, for instance).
posted by carrienation at 8:11 PM on November 28, 2018

All three of these are terrific resources I had not been using before (well, I had seen Kirkus Reviews, but wasn't using it extensively) - and I have added several promising books to my library list.

Thank you all very much!
posted by kristi at 9:45 AM on November 30, 2018

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