Why I Don’t Write Book Reviews

I have a lot of interaction with publishing types. I write a lot, and I edit some, and I do tech reviews and stuff for some publishers, and I co-authored a book, and I’ve worked on two magazines, and a newspaper, and I’m generally fascinated by the technical book market and stuff like that. I’m also someone who is lucky enough that his job is also his hobby. I work in technology, and am always doing something technology related at home in my spare time. Needless to say, I read tons upon tons of technical books.

I almost never post book reviews, in spite of the fact that I read all of these books. Why? Well, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you. It just hasn’t occurred to me to write a book review. Could be because I don’t really value book reviews too much myself I guess. I mean, if there’s a really obvious consensus across a huge number of reviews, I might be swayed. But in general, I find that book reviews are too often the target of astroturfing campaigns.

If there’s a tech book you’d like a review of that deals with things I’m generally into, let me know and I’ll post a review, if I’ve read it (or want to read it). Here are subjects I’m likely to have read books about in the past couple of years:

  • Linux, UNIX, and administration thereof
  • Python (all levels — I just read pretty much whatever is out there)
  • web 2.0 APIs (mostly Google and Amazon)
  • Any book about any service that can be run in a *x environment (DNS, Apache, DHCP, Jabber, and most other things that open a port)
  • Anything related to generic SQL, database design, or (more specifically) mysql and postgresql.
  • HPC (cluster computing)
  • Generic programming, software, computer science, or high-level systems design books
  • Digital photography (I have a Canon Digital Rebel, if that helps — I do *not* use Photoshop)
  • PHP
  • Maybe some other stuff I’m forgetting
  • Carl T.

    I bought Apress’ Beginning PHP and PostgreSQL 8 at OSCON – as you can tell from the title, I’m not strong on either technology.
    Book reviews can be handy if you don’t know what you’re doing with a technolgy (language, software, etc.). Sometimes you learn a bunch of stuff from a book, put it into practice, and then someone tells you later, “Oh, that book is wrong; you should be doing it this way!”
    There is probably a fine line between astroturfing, a badly researched book, and an outdated book (OK, it’s not a line, but a Voronoi Diagram vertex – bear with me). The short of it is that hearing an experienced programmer’s opinion on a book can sometimes be helpful. I never take one opinion as Gospel, even if it comes from the creator of the technology.
    A penny for your thoughts, Mr. Experienced PHP and Postgresql Guy. Thanks!

  • http://www.xaprb.com/ Xaprb

    If you want to write a review, I would love your thoughts on my/our new book, High Performance MySQL 2nd Edition. I have only seen a couple of reviews so far and I’m honestly hoping more people will dig deep into it and say what is good and bad about it. I am keeping tabs on the reviews I see and if there is ever a 3rd edition, they’ll be considered seriously. I and/or the editor can send you a hardcopy or PDF if you want.

  • m0j0

    I’ve been going through various parts of High Performance MySQL for a while now, but I’m not quite ready to review it. It’ll probably take me another month or so to be ready. So far, just to make a blanket statement, I love the book. However, there’s always *some* way to improve a book, and I think I’ve come up with an approach to doing a 3rd edition of that book that might be “the killer book”. The thought strikes me every time I look at that book, so I won’t forget it, and I’ll be sure to include it in the review. I’ve been reading it in Safari, but a dead-tree copy is always nice to have and speeds up the rate at which I can get through a book.