I am a book critic. I have about 250 reviews up on Amazon. I am a top 1000 book reviewer in the US and a top 100 reviewer in Canada (where I am originally from). I am also an Amazon Vine Reviewer, meaning that I’ve been asked by Amazon to receive books and products, often in advance of publication, for review. I probably receive about 100 offers outside of that a year from Publishers and Authors asking if they can send me their book in return for my review.
I might certainly have an opinion of a particular author based upon previous works or previous reviews before I read the book, but integrity demands before I review a product that I actually use it or read the book. Not all reviewers do that. Some just scan it and there are even some who read all the other other reviews and then just do a summary.
I decided a long time ago I’d rather be a VOICE than an ECHO. It means I produce reviews much more slowly than others and it usually means my review is longer than most other reviews. It also means I try to give the reader of my review not only my opinion but enough background of where I’m coming from in my opinion that they know enough that if they don’t agree with my position they know that it’s influencing my evaluation of the book .
When I read “reviews” from anyone, (not just heresy hunters) who admit they haven’t read the book and who then go on to judge the book based upon their evaluation of the author’s character, that “reviewer” loses all credibility with me. That behavior is the literary and intellectual equivilent of the old party game “telephone” where people whisper a phrase down the line and see what comes out.
There still exists a very strong faction with fundamentalism and evangelicalism that defends “orthodoxy” many of whom couldn’t define orthodoxy if their lives depended upon it and who know more about what they are against than what they are for. It still saddens me. Principled disagreement is fine. I do that in my reviews when it’s necessary, but I try to separate that from the character of the writer and if I can, I balance it with what I see that is positive and helpful. If I can’t do that with a book, more often than not I’ll just decline to do the review unless I think there’s a valid reason to provide it because of some legitimate danger to the reader if they don’t discern something about an issue.
Anyway, just so others understand, I used to be something of a “heresy hunter” in my younger days. I wasn’t afraid to voice disagreement and attack others in this manner from the pulpit or in discussions with congregants or other pastors. Doing graduate level work and self-study on critical thinking and learning to identify logical fallicies as well, I think, as just desiring to experience the love of Christ and realizing I couldn’t experience that as well when I was not demonstrating love to others (disagreement is OK, it’s how we disagree that is a matter of love), has led me on this different path. I still have to go back at times and re-evaluate and even adjust my thinking and words from time to time.
If most “heresy hunters” put the effort into examining themselves, I’m convinced, their tone toward others would change. What saddens me in addition when I read that type of stuff, apart from reminding me of my own past, is the realization of how unhappy many of these folks must be. Their activities and “reviews” usually tell me more about them than the book they haven’t read.