In his 2008 non-fiction best-seller Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell discusses the topic of elite status, or the factors that contribute to a high level of success in a variety of people and fields. Gladwell poses the notion that all people who have ever been very successful writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, or athletes, to name a few, have contributed at least 10,000 hours of practice in order to become truly great. This isn’t the only thing he believes to be relevant: talent, luck, and timing, as in when you are born, or where you are at a certain moment, all impact one’s potential for achievement and recognition. I believe he is correct in his observations and assumptions.
It is due to the factors Gladwell sites that most people don’t ever become truly great. That’s perfectly acceptable considering how truly difficult it is to be not only the best for yourself, but to earn merit in the eyes of judgmental, and often times unsympathetic, others as well. In my leisurely reading choices, I make certain to select pieces of writing that are considered the best of the best. This is not a criticism of those who haven’t reached that level yet. A large part of the reason I choose more advanced reading is because of the challenge for me as a reader to analyze, organize, and articulate my thoughts. I too, am still logging my 10,000 hours, and will probably never be great. Now that I am branching out, and have been honorably asked to review writing I would not normally read. It is a difficult transition from the best-selling and prestigious award winning authors I’m used to indulging in. I hope that those authors whose works I review understand this.
Reading the novel of an author previously unknown to me is a challenge. None of the authors I have reviewed on my blog previously have asked for my humble opinion in regards to their work. In fact, they would most likely dismiss me as a newer writer, and rightfully so. Commenting on the work of one who has personally asked me alters my ability to be completely honest and my willingness to criticize openly. I meet the challenge by suggesting improvements I believe could be made in their writing. In doing so, I hope I am helping unknown authors who are also trying to perfect their talents.
Book reviews are part of the liberal arts, which means they are designed to offer free range of voice and opinion to those who write and read them. One person’s opinion is by no means a final straw for any writer. As Edmund Wilson wisely stated, “No two people read the same book.”