Ideally, a book review should be open and honest about various sorts of criticism. I know that I very much appreciate positive reviews that aren't afraid to give the potentially negative side of things as well (another fine line here, though - you certainly can get too nit-picky). When I read this sort of review it helps me in a number of ways.
1) The willingness to critique - as long as it's fair and reasonable - often gives the reviewer more credibility in my mind - because the review tends to be (or at least seems to be) more well-thought-out, balanced and objective. Somehow it gives more weight to the positive points made when the reviewer is willing to explore the negatives too - I get a stronger sense that they really mean what they say.
2) I have a better idea of the details of the resource I'm looking into - after all, I could just go to a book catalog to find the general, glowing details.
3) Finally, I think that a reasonable willingness to correct is more charitable to the author and even to the book itself than either ignoring the material or simply giving up on the details and condemning it. If someone is willing to take the time and bother to sort through the ins and outs, recognizing what is good and correcting the errors simply makes more of these books more usable, more worthwhile. And it doesn't tend to hurt the reviewer (sames goes for the reader, later on) to go through the process of making such distinctions.
I suppose the medium of the Internet makes this harder since, without the tone of voice, it's hard to get the sense of "Well, there's just this little thing I think I should mention..."
On the other hand, it takes a certain amount of gumption to stand up to the ideas in a book and not just write catalog overviews when there are other issues to be addressed. I have to admit that I'm not always up to the task myself.
Anyway, here's Amy's blogpost that I was referring to...
One of the most irritating thing about discourse, something that gets exaggerated, it seems, on the Internet (like anything else) is hyper-defensiveness. That is to say that to critique any aspect of any phenomenon amounts to a full-scale attack on that phenomenon.Read the rest here
For some, it seems, it is all or nothing.
Or perhaps there is just a fear that if one aspect of a phenomenon can be critiqued, that means that the whole enterprise is called into question.
By the way this post isn't meant to be a rant about reviewing books, more a thinking through of some aspects and the challenge of keeping things in balance. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.