Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The First Books I Reviewed: The Haiku Review Years

Do you remember book reports?

Book reports were big when I was growing up in the sixties. 

In first grade, we were asked to write a sentence about each book we read. For that, we got a star on our reading chart. I had more stars than anyone else in first grade. I was proud of that. I read lots and lots of books about Dick and Jane and Sally, I remember. I have no record of what I wrote about those books. I liked them, though.

In sixth grade, we were asked to read a book a week and to write a one-page summary of the book. Were we allowed to read anything we wanted? Oh no, this was 1967, and we were required to read fifteen history books and fifteen biographies as well as fifteen books about science and nature. We were not allowed to read fiction; fiction was considered too easy, something we would be doing anyway. I plugged away through books about Genghis Khan and the Silk Road and Alexander the Great. After a steady diet of fiction in my early elementary years, I found to my surprise that I loved nonfiction.

There was more required reading in high school and college, but again I have no record of those books. I remember some I loved (Don Quixote, Tom Sawyer, The Odyssey, The Metamorphosis), some I liked (Jane Eyre), and some I hated (Heart of Darkness). 

It wasn't until I joined the Book-a-Week online club back in the late 1990's that I started writing reviews of every book I read. I apparently thought I was writing some sort of clever haiku-ish reviews in those years. 

Read and grimace....

The first book review I wrote for which I have a record was for a fiction novel I read in January of 1998 called West of Venus by Judy Troy. Here is my complete review: "Holly Parker learns to love." No rating. 

Later in January of that year I read Catcher in the Rye. Here are my wise words about that novel: "Very true. Lots to think about." 4/5 stars.

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett, which I also read in January of 1998, I reviewed by writing: "Magic and tricks." 4/5 stars.

In February, I reviewed Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman: "Old cow, new cow!" 3/5 stars. At least these words are evocative of the book.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks got "Sweet. Sad." with a generous 3/5 stars.

Visitors by Anita Brookner: "Old lady is lonely...." 3/5 stars.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, which I read in July, was a 4/5 star read for me. "Love it! Calories: 0"

I read several Barbara Kingsolver books that year including Animal Dreams in November. I could have probably put the same review for all the Kingsolver books: "A very wise book."

I seem to have read mostly forgettable fiction and light mysteries that first year of reviewing. But I did read a nonfiction book, Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter, that has always stayed with me. 5/5 stars. "The best book of the year." A better review of this book might have led to it being more widely read, and goodness knows, we could use that.

What are the first books you reviewed?
When did you start reviewing books?
Have you always written brilliant reviews?

Top Ten Tuesday was created by 
The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each Tuesday That Artsy Reader Girl assigns a topic and then post her top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join her and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.


  1. There's nothing wrong with short, to-the-point reviews! As long as they get your feelings across, who cares? It's interesting, though, to look at how our reading tastes and review skills/styles have changed over the years, isn't it? When you've been blogging as long as we have, you see some real differences!

    Happy TTT!

  2. Oh man book reports! I remember doing them. I feel like maybe they aren't as popular anymore??

  3. Love this post... such fun to read!!

  4. Ok, I am sorry, but book review haikus are amazing! I loved your list and reviews!!!!! I think I have notebooks somewhere filled with one sentence reviews on books I read until high school. Sadly, I couldn't find them. They must still be at my parents' house.

    I had a fun time looking through my early blog reviews though. Apparently, I thought it would be quirky to draw (yes draw!) pictures about the books and then write small novella reviews in the form of chapters, so that each year was made up of #books I read that year in chapters. Lol. I couldn't even finish one year as this was a tremendous amount of work. I read so much faster than I could compose my chapters and started falling super duper behind.

    Here is my TTT: https://ichleseblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/23/top-ten-tuesday-first-ten-books-ive-reviewed/.

  5. What a fun look at your past. Do you still agree with all of the ratings you gave these books?

    My TTT.

  6. I still tend to write book reviews that are more notes of my impressions than actual reviews. Maybe not as succinctly as you though!

  7. I am participating in Top Ten this week even though I normally don't. I had fun looking back at the early "reviews." Yours are classic!

  8. Love your term 'Haiku review years'!! It's been fun to see how my reviews have changed since I began blogging in 2012.

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week: https://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2019/04/top-ten-tuesday-first-ten-books-i.html

  9. Ah, I disliked book reports! Sometimes, reviews can feel that way though!

  10. I loved doing book reports as a kid, although we were allowed to do them on fiction. I wonder when that changed?

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

  11. There's nothing wrong with getting to the point. I know when I first started using GR, I either didn't say anything or I was rather brief. My reviews for non-review books are still on the shorter side. I did find a two word review, when I was looking back for this post. I was shocked I did that.

  12. My reviews were short but yours were shorter. Ha! I love your story about your husband saying he thought he could write book reviews, too.

  13. Hehe! LOVE this! Cute! Bridget Jones - Love it! Calories: 0 - That's awesome! The Notebook - Sweet. Sad. - That's great, too!

  14. I remember doing book reports too. Those seem to have gone out of style though if what my son is doing in school now is any indication.

  15. I love this! Short & sweet reviews. Nothing wrong with that, as far as I'm concerned! I've had a lot of fun posting my "reviews" from my book journals (beginning with 1996, I believe) each Friday, entitled Looking Back. I wish I had taken the time to write more back then, but my journals were really for my eyes only.

  16. Your reviews were short and to the point. Sometimes I wish I could write those now. LOL!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  17. Oh my gosh, I LOVE the Haiku Reviews. That's so to the point, you know? Also, book reports. I cringe at how bad my book reports were in my school years, especially considering my lack of coherency was even higher as a kid than it is now in my late twenties. P.S., the one for Bridget Jones's Diary has me hyped because it fits it so well.


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