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Tim Challies

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A Word About Reviews

You’ll have to bear with me today as I ramble a little bit on the subject of book reviews. Because reviews are such an important part of what I do here, I thought it would be worth covering just a little bit of how and why I do reviews.

I generally try to review at least one book per week and, in general, I try to choose a book that you, the readers, are likely to enjoy. Now obviously there are times that I think a book will be good but it turns out to be less than stellar. It happens. But most of the time, when I choose a book based on its subject, author, endorsements or description, it turns out to be a book I can recommend for one reason or another. Most weeks I post these reviews on Tuesday. My purpose with these reviews is to make you aware of some of the books that are coming available and to give you a sense of what you stand to gain by reading them. Since I enjoy reading so much, since I can do it quickly and since I have access to the books, I see this as a way of helping others find books that will appeal to them. If the guy who loves reading a hundred books per year can help the guy who reads ten choose the best ten, then I figure we’ve got a proverbial win-win.

Of course, and as you know, I read more books than these. In recent months I’ve begun writing the occasional “Books I Didn’t Review” article to make you aware of some of the other reading I’ve been doing. These are books I tend not to review either because they do not merit a full review or because I determine that the readers of this site are not likely to be interested in them. In such cases I tend to post just a short overview of the book with a sentence or two of my own take on it.

I also read the occasional book that I am quite sure I will dislike or that I will be ambivalent toward. I often do this when the book is a megaseller or when it seems primed to become a megaseller. So, for example, I have suffered through both of Joel Osteen’s books. I’ve done this primarily so there is at least one (hopefully) discerning review of the book somewhere on the Internet. I always post these reviews at Amazon, trusting that the reviews will at least help a person or two find a better alternative to Osteen’s mindless puffery. I have done the same with books like The Secret, The Shack and so on. Osteen’s third book is set to release next month; I am undecided about whether or not I can bear to read yet another one. And I mean that—just because of their sheer stupidity I find them grueling to get through.

Now, let me share a couple of things by way of disclosure. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but wanted to do so again just to be sure that everything is above-board. When you read one of my reviews and see a link to buy it at Amazon or Monergism Books, those are affiliate links which means that there is typically some financial compensation that goes to me should you choose to purchase something after clicking the link. I think most people assume this, but I do reiterate it from time-to-time. These funds go to the purchase of books (the ones that are not provided gratis by publishers), to the support of the web site and, in a good month, to the support of the Challies family!

Also, you have probably (hopefully!) noticed the ads on my site. There occasionally seems to be a bit of a conflict of interest in that I will review a book while also running an ad for it (which most often happens when I review a book the same week it releases which is also, of course, when the publisher is most likely to advertise it). You may wonder how I could fairly criticize a book deserving of critique when I am being paid to run an ad for that very book. Well, thankfully that has not happened, at least to this point. But do know that advertisers have no expectation that the mere fact that they place an ad on my site will in any way impact my reviews. They expect fair reviews. Plus, I would consider it an assault on my conscience to review a bad book positively in order not to risk advertising compensation. So do know that I consider fair reviews a high calling and I will not deviate from that. I am committed to fair and objective reviews.

I will have more to say about this in the future, but do know that next year I intend to continue my once-weekly reviews of the latest Christian books. But I also hope to devote a bit more attention to the latest and greatest mainstream books. Stay tuned for details on that.

If you have further suggestions about book reviews, about the types of book I review, and so on, I would be glad to hear them!