Why You Should Review--and You Shouldn't"--Regent College professor John Stackhouse provides some warnings to those wanting to write book reviews.
Here is a taste:
So why shouldn’t you review a book? Because it might cost you, and dearly.
It’s a small world after all, and most
authors don’t forget negative reviews. Worse, some authors don’t forget
any reviews that are anything other than glowing. And you cannot predict
with certainty what author will respond in what way... Worse, for every magisterial author who refuses to let a
less-than-stellar review interrupt an ongoing friendship, there might be
another well-known author, who purported to be a friend, yet who walked
around a professional conference with me for an hour telling everyone
who stopped to commend him on his new book that “Well, he
didn’t like it!” with a jerked thumb in my direction, since I had given
it a “B+” sort of review, and that clearly wasn’t good enough. I did
indeed like it, but I didn’t like everything about it. I said so and—ah!
that was the mistake. Only flattery, laid on thick and sweet, would do.
...For you likely will never
know, as I don’t, what speaking engagements were never offered,
fellowships not awarded, scholarly collaborations not extended, and jobs
not mentioned because So-and-So couldn’t handle a non-wonderful review
of his or her work. Alas, you run a serious risk for offering honest
appraisal of work that is other than fabulous or foul. Not everyone will
hold it against you, thank God. But you cannot, it seems to me,
confidently predict who will.
So do we therefore stop reviewing unless we have no professional
aspirations? Or unless we either totally love a book or are glad to
distance ourselves from it and its author? Yes. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last decade or so.