Book reviews: the US vs. the UK


Reading the Sunday paper is one of my favorite rituals. Growing up, our family subscribed to the Los Angeles Times. When we moved to London, I got in the habit of reading the Sunday Times. If I really wanted to luxuriate, I’d add the Observer. And by “habit,” I mean I knew to the minute what time the paper would land on our doorstep. If it was late, I stood there opening and closing the door, waiting.

I immediately noticed something about British papers: their Book sections never review novels on the front page. Or the first six pages. Or eight. Fiction reviews are relegated to the back. Biography, History, Politics — nonfiction is always accorded precedence. Fiction, I gathered, is regarded as less substantial than other writing. In a British paper’s book section, a biography of Shakespeare could be reviewed on the front page. A Shakespeare play, never.

This morning in Austin, I went for coffee and picked up the paper that promises All the News That’s Fit to Print. As I sat there browsing the paper, I saw that the front page of the Book Review features a novel, Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Hallelujah, I thought. I’m in a land where writing is writing, and novelists can get at least this kind of respect.

Then I saw that the ad on the contents page is for the excellent new thriller Always Watching, by Chevy Stevens. Cool, I thought. I provided a quote for the novel. Then I bent over my coffee and squinted more closely at the ad. What do you know.


And that’s how, at a Starbucks on Guadalupe Street in Austin, Texas, I found my name in the New York Times.

6 responses to “Book reviews: the US vs. the UK

  1. And did you do the Happy Dance in Starbucks? Congratulations, Meg. Now to get black box warnings posted on books–one great author gets you hooked on the next great author! I’m in deep, man…

  2. What great find! That must have made your day 😀

  3. Very Cool!

    Can I ask this. How does one get asked to review books? Do you share an agent/publisher? Did the author ask you for a review?

  4. For the record: in Starbucks, I tried to act cool. It was early and everybody looked like they couldn’t quite take loud noises.

    Robakers: Requests to review books come via several channels. Sometimes an author asks directly; sometimes an editor. Only rarely do I share an agent or editor. In this case, Chevy Stevens’ editor knew my work and asked if I’d be willing. I’m glad I said yes.

  5. I’m glad that you enjoyed seeing your name in the paper! Thanks again for the great blurb 🙂

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