How to Do a Proper Amazon Book Review

I copied this review directly from Amazon.

I recieved the book, and in good time. I don’t remember ordering a used one. Much to my surprise when I opened the front cover, there was a note glued to it that appeared to be something that indicated this book was a present to someone for many years of service to a synagogue. I don’t mind, I consider it nostalgic, and sort of a “this book finds the right home” kind of thing. Just curious is all.

Does this indicate what the book is about? Does it tell you if the book was useful? Well-written? Full of inaccuracies?
Can you even tell what kind of book this review applies to? Do I have any idea why this reviewer gave the book only 3 stars?

For the love of Pete, Amazon book reviews are not a place to leave seller reviews! I don’t care if your book arrived late or more used than expected. Ding your seller. E-mail Amazon and complain.

Book reviews are for reviewing books. Shouldn’t be a hard concept for literate people to understand, should it?

The following is a review for a very similar book (unfortunately, there wasn’t a useful review for the book I was looking at originally):

Hebrew shares with Arabic a logical organization around three-letter roots. Languages like English have a little bit of this: it’s easy to see both a letter-relationship and a meaning-relationship between, say, the two words “lunar” and “lunatic.” But in Hebrew, the *whole language* is built around these relationships: they’re not just incidental they way they are in English.

This makes Hebrew vocabulary easy to learn and remember, because lots of words flow from each root, following more-or-less uniform patterns. The logic of it, once you “get it,” makes it easier to learn. It’s as though all the words are connected in intricate vines.

But it’s also fun, because there is plenty of cleverness, wit, and cultural flavor to the twists and turns of meanings flowing through the connections. And this book is about the fun, funny, sarcastic, and joyful bits of the language. Far from being a dry, analytical work, it’s full of stories, quips, jokes, and overall love and reverence for Hebrew.

It’s also very easy to read and to come back to. Each root is covered in a page or two, with half a dozen or so words colorfully presented. Pick it up when you have a few minutes to spare, open to a random page, read a bit and chuckle, put it down and come back later again. If you happen to revisit a root you’ve seen before, well you’ll just enjoy it again.

Includes both transliterations and vowelized Hebrew letters.

Do I know what the book is about, just from reading the review? Yes, it’s about Hebrew root words. Do I know why the reviewer gave it a 5-star review? Yes, because he clearly states why he liked it. He also describes the format of the book–very helpful when books are not searchable online. I also know that all the words are transliterated (i.e. written in Roman characters) and in Hebrew with vowels (All Torahs and most Israeli Hebrew is written without any vowels). That means I can see the Hebrew word, but can also use the transliteration to pronounce it.


When reviewing a book on Amazon (or similar), keep these rules in mind:

  1. For non-fiction, briefly mention what topic(s) the book covers. If something is obviously missing that’s normally included (e.g. a book on dolls does not mention Barbies), mention that.
  2. Justify your rating (stars).
  3. (As related to #1) List what you did and did not like.
  4. If you can be a reasonable judge, state who the book would be good for (e.g. beginners, children, etc.)

On slightly related notes (hey, this blog wouldn’t be potpourri-ish if I didn’t digress):

Long before I started studying Hebrew, I created a language for my vampires which is based on root words. They’re not exclusively 3-4 letter root words, but they work the same way.

I felt that creating a language out of whole cloth was daunting, and I thought that the simpler I could make the rules, the easier it would be for me to create the words I needed (and not break my own rules). So there are no gendered nouns, no irregular verbs, and there are a limited number of root words. The vast majority of Cainite that you read in the book–such as Canichmehah, Yaechahre, and Imuechmehah–are compound words.

ls, ths s wht nglsh lks lk wtht vwls. ‘m nt s sre bt lrnng Hbrw wtht vwls. Sms knd f crzy dsn’t t?


One comment on “How to Do a Proper Amazon Book Review

  1. Wallace says:

    When I write reviews, I try to review the work and not just do a summary of the story. When I read a review, I want to know how well it was written, is the style for adults or kids, does it have original ideas or is it just another rehash of old themes. I’m not in the least interested in a summary or synopsis of the story. That’s up to the author to provide, since s/he knows exactly how much to reveal to get you interested without giving away too much of the plot, and especially the ending.

    This applies to movies as well. There’s nothing worse than reading a movie review that is nothing more than a summary of the movie, including the major plot twists and even the ending. It seems most movie reviewers don’t seem to know the difference between a review and a summary.

    I had no trouble reading your line with the vowels removed. A lot of ancient Mesopotamian and ancient Middle Eastern languages are written without vowels. If you get used to it, it’s not much of a problem. Mostly because in those languages, the vowels are not needed to make the words unique, only to pronounce them. If you already know the word, then it’s the only one that is spelled that way and so it’s unique. You do have to know what vowels to use and where to insert them for pronunciation, but that’s just a memorization problem.

    It’s not that easy in English, tho, since vowels are written in English and the spelling relies on them being there to make the word unique. As an example, fort and fart would both be frt without the vowels and frt is not a unique word. You’d have to know from context which one is meant. It gets worse if you misinterpret which meaning is meant. If you went to a class on trts and though you were going to learn about legal torts and instead found yourself in a class on how to make fruit tarts, you’d be somewhat unhappy. Or not, depending on your mood, but you get the point.

    Quite often when I have to put a label on a file and don’t have enough space, I just leave out the vowels and it still makes plenty of sense to me because I know the context of it. Just like your ancient Jewish writers, if I know the context in advance, the vowel-less words are easy to understand because I already know what they are since I wrote them. You might have some trouble, but after you’ve read the text a few dozen times, you’ll know what words to choose as well as the original writer.

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