Harriet Klausner: For the Love of Books

By A.J. Llewellyn

As a writer I am an avid reader but I confess most of the stuff I read is non-fiction, or if it is fiction, it tends to be material related to things I adore, such as Hawaii. I have devoured a wealth of material this year but what I have found more entertaining than the books themselves are some of the Amazon reviews.
I rarely look at Goodreads as a research option. It is not a very good source of upcoming titles unless the author puts them up themselves. Sometimes clicking one book leads you to another, a fact I love, but for sheer volume of reference material, Amazon is the best. I also like ABE books but that’s another story…
I have books on my TBB pile and eagerly await their releases both in ebook and paperback format. I tend to roam Amazon for information rather than actual purchases and time and again I run into one reviewer, Harriet Klausner whose name pops up as the #1 Hall of Fame Reviewer.
How in the heck does she read and review so many books? Does she have unlimited time and funds? Does she get more hours in a day than the rest of us? Does she have no life outside of reviewing?
Of course, I had to delve a little deeper (I do adore research) and she was once an acquisitions librarian in Pennsylvania. She says in her Amazon bio that she is a speed reader and reads two books a day. It still doesn’t explain the plethora of reviews she posts daily but good for her that she has found a niche and works it.
I don’t see how she can read two books a day and post so many reviews. She must be reading more. Further research (Google her) shows that Wikipedia posing the questions everyone asks. They also point to a Time magazine article about her where she says she reads 4 to 5 books a day which is a staggering output.
From forum posts and blogs about this fascinating lady. many question her actual reading of all the books she reviews. Almost all have glowing 4 or 5 star reviews.
It captivated me…and I was determined to learn more. I checked on a few reviews she did of books I read and loved…and some not so much.
None of her reviews have much detail. They skim the surface and sometimes skip over real issues addressed in the pages of the books she covers.
For instance, she reviewed one book I seriously detested (and won’t name here) but she gave it five stars and the kind of gushing prose I’ve come to expect from her. I was offended by the book playing fast and loose with Hawaiian history and Princess Kaiulani in particular, but then since Klausner – who seems to love Hawaii as much as I do – glosses over the details of everything she reads, she must have missed some pertinent facts.
I have a friend who teaches speed reading and he tells me that a good speed reader ingests 60 to 70% 0f material they read and, he explained, the read down the center of the page, their brain ‘filing in facts’ from left to right. I am over-simplifying what he told me, but it explains why Harriet’s reviews seem so…threadbare.
Whether she is retaining everything she reads or not, or even merely glancing at the books she critiques, I have to say I am glad that readers and writers have someone like Harriet.
A reader who writes, reviews and thinks about books…for the love of books.
In this sad year in which more and more book stores are closing and radio DJs are griping about the wasteful expense of keeping libraries open, I wish there were more people like Harriet spreading their love of books – and not giving one star reviews on books authors haven’t yet even written (Hello, Goodreads!!!).
I wish her a year of good books in 2012 and for all of us the exact same thing.
Aloha oe,

One Response to “Harriet Klausner: For the Love of Books”

  1. Thanks for the info! I’ve also seen many of this lady’s reviews and wondered about her myself. I don’t consider myself a critic of any kind; I just read because I love it. I’m NOT a speed reader, and I can read anywhere from 1-5 books a day, depending on their length. (This does not, of course, mean epics like those written by James Michener!) I have no formal education in critiquing things. I can’t say whether prose is good, the facts accurate, or the structure or language is appropriate. The few times I write a review, it’s mainly to share whether or not I enjoyed a particular book, and whether someone else might enjoy it too.

    It’s sort of like with movies. If a movie gets “critical acclaim” chances are I won’t enjoy it. But if it’s given “a fun romp of a comedy” or “a romance needing a box of tissues”, then I’ll probably go see it. Call me unsophisticated, but isn’t that white authors want? People to buy their books and just enjoy them for the fun of it?

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