When a friend asked me to post an Amazon review about his book recently, and gave me a copy, I readily agreed. I have known this friend and his former wife for almost 25 years.

I have been a supporter of this book since its inception, when a series of monumental life changes sent him to the Appalachian Trail physically and to places he never contemplated going spiritually. There are several principles I apply when reviewing a book, whether it is authored by someone I do not know or by a friend.


I should be truthful about my opinion. When I gave my friend’s book, which shares fascinating detail about the Appalachian Trail and gives a uniquely-angled view of his re-embrace of life after being knocked down professionally and personally, three stars out of five, I noticed that I was the first reviewer to give less than four stars. Guided by my writer’s gut, my three stars acknowledged a compelling book about a fascinating subject that had writing elements and structure components that did not meet my usual criteria for four stars or above.

The “Within Arms’ Reach” Principle

The difference between my review of my friend’s book and most of my other reviews I have done before it is that I could be certain I would see the author in person soon, that I would owe him a candid response regarding the basis for my review, and the distinct possibility that I may have wounded an ego. I could realistically anticipate that my friend would soon be sitting across from me, within arms’ reach. I should treat each review opportunity as if I will have to present my results from “within arms’ reach.”

My Review May “Morph” Once It is Live

After my review was published, it didn’t take long before Amazon characterized my review, still the only three-star, as the “most helpful critical review” and aligned it next to “the most helpful favorable review” on the book’s Amazon page. My friend laughed about that but I still sensed a “why three stars?” and “why critical?” kind of vibe going on between the two of us.

Did I Say What I Really Thought?

The exchanges between my friend and me culminated in a lunch date in which we talked through the “three star” issue in more detail over chicken curry and naan.

I assured my friend that I had enjoyed his book. I methodically reviewed the logic behind my review. I shared some of my concerns that I had not stated in a series of Facebook message exchanges. I said what I really thought, diplomatically and respectfully.

Is the book still a three-star in my opinion? Yes. Is the friendship still intact? Yes. Should we as reviewers always write a review as if we might end up face to face with the author, sharing the review verbally instead of via a keyboard? In my opinion, yes. That would be the five-star way to go.

Paula Kiger lives in Tallahassee, Florida. Her Twitter bio wraps it up nicely: Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. She is a director at a non-profit organization; in her spare time she loves running, writing, and listening to audio-books.

Visit Paula’s blog, Perspicacity, and connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Image Credit: Isabelle Dow