Last spring, I reviewed a book that was well written and effectively dealt with its subject matter. Nevertheless, the topic upset me. No, it terrified me:- it offered suggestions how the maturing gardener should modify the landscape and adapt one’s mindset to the prospects of old age. I am at a point in life where arthritis and reduced energy levels are beginning to compromise my abilities to garden without some assistance. Every chore now takes longer to accomplish than it did the year before. This new reality is making me very unhappy and frustrated. That one day I might not be able to garden at all, is a terrible thought. It was that fear that influenced my original evaluation of the publication, when I posted the review to Amazon, in May 2010. Instead of giving the book the high ranking that the tone of my review suggested, I gave it only 3 stars.
The book is titled Gardening for a Lifetime; How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older, by Sydney Eddison..
Since posting that review, three prospective book purchasers, who came across my review at the Amazon site, contacted me to express their puzzlement. The high praise that I gave the book was out of sync with my Amazon star-ranking of it and they wanted to know why.
Is it not possible to acknowledge that a book is well written and still only moderately recommend it, because of the off-putting nature of the subject matter? In retrospect, I think not. If a book is well written it should be praised for its excellence, regardless of the reviewer’s bias against its message or subject matter.
Should the ranking of any book take into consideration how it might be received by any unintended reader? No, it was a mistake to think so. The book was written for a very specific audience. It has no attraction for the unintended reader who might not care, or even be aware, that it exists.
Perhaps I was being much too philosophical when I ranked the book. Perhaps I should have focused only on the target audience for whom it was originally intended. Clearly, three potential readers believed that my ranking decision was wrong. Since I understood that a philosophical explanation of my action would never be as effective as the strength of their reasonable queries, I revisited my review at Amazon and raised the rank of the book from 3 to the 4 stars that it deserved. This entire experience has taught me to never insinuate personal and very private concerns into a book review. Such matters are best dealt with in a blog.