How to write a book review

a) First, read the book so you have something to say other than generalities that one could say about any book on the subject at hand;
b) Then think about it.
c) Then write about it, in way that is actually fair to the contents and to the larger discussion in which the book appears
d) Then proofread your review, so that you don’t tell us that something was written by Robert Sloane or David Sloan when it was actually written by David Sloane. (Jeez.)

That way,

1) you don’t write a a negative review using a straw man argument to complain about a straw man argument that actually only really shows up briefly in the intro, one chapter, on the promotional material, and the back cover (“Think Los Angeles is unplanned? Think again”) rather than the major theme of the book;

2) you can actually be useful to your readers and point out the chapters or ideas that are worth spending time on instead of just alluding vaguely to “good aspects” in an attempt to try to make yourself look like you’ve given the book a fair reading when you haven’t.

3) you don’t thoughtlessly alienate the 30+ people who contributed to the book by tarring their ideas with one, highly unfair brush and treating their contributions as so much fodder for your main beef that you derived by skimming. (Just a hint for young writers)

Yeah, I’m referring to this mess by Josh Stephens at the California Planning and Development report. Give me a takedown on my ideas any day if it’s based on evidence. But this? Bleh. I couldn’t dance to it.