Video Saved The Book Review…Star

21 Oct

Ron Charles

Brosefs! I have barely had time to read this week, let alone write about reading (TBD whether I’ll finish Catch-22 in time, but I remain optimistic, even if it means spending Saturday in a windowless room with nothing but my book and a vat of coffee.) In any case, I had to take a quick second out of my very busy and incredibly enviable life to jot down some thoughts on the Washington Post’s newfangled video book reviews.

If you’re like me, you care about national newspapers cutting their book-review pages with the same intensity that other people care about like, I don’t know, sports or something. At this point, the vast majority of major papers (excluding the Wall Street Journal, who recently launched a book review, which unfortunately deals in primarily mind-numbingly boring titles) have slimmed their coverage of the book sector, minus repeated front-page stories on the swiftly progressing transition to e-books (which is for another post entirely, one I’ll have to write in a room in which I’m free to sob). Even Kirkus Reviews, arguably the industry standard after Publishers Weekly, bit the bullet last year. Sad times.

In any case, Washington Post fiction critic Ron Charles has started doing video reviews, mildly bizarre and generally amusing shorts summarizing a book and highlighting some of its strengths and faults, much as a regularly written review (which Charles still does and WaPo still publishes) would. And you know, they’re pretty fucking good.There are times when reading a review, which generally spends at least a moderate amount of time outlining the book itself, feels wasteful, sort of like how I feel watching the Food Network, when I could just be eating instead. The video review, which Charles also fills with insider-baseball references to authors, writing and the industry in general, eliminates that feeling. And even though the video reviews satisfy an almost obvious need for the industry to play a little technological catch-up, what I’ve actually found most appealing about these is their tongue-in-cheek mockery of how elitist you can seem as an avid reader. How self-important. It’s also refreshing to think that a newspaper as prestigious as the Washington Post is willing to let itself have some fun—even if it means posting videos with the technical sophistication of  Skateboarding Dog.

My only critique would be the length—four minutes is a little long for an online video, even considering Charles’ best efforts to change locations and keep it entertaining.

So kudos WaPo. I never used to read your book reviews, and now I don’t have to (read…them).

PS: Here’s a great Q&A with Charles from HuffPo. His and his wife make the videos!

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