The "Blog With Integrity" pledge is, among other things, a promise to disclose whether items discussed on a blog are provided by a company attempting to sell their product. Across the internet, bloggers are displaying a graphic that indicates they've signed the pledge, and some book/lit bloggers are now disclosing the source of every book as part of their review. Not me.
Here's why: In my opinion, stating that a book came to me from the author or publisher implies that this is information you need in order to fully evaluate my review. It implies that there's a difference in how I might write about a book, depending on where I got it.
As I wrote to author Jack Regan, when he requested that I review his book, T'Aragam:
I'm going to ask my boys if they're willing to try it out with me. I usually do joint reviews with them for kids' books. . . . Fair warning: if my boys don't like a book, they're not cagey about it (see our reviews of Sharon Creech's Castle Corona and Chris Mould's The Icy Hand, for examples of books they didn't like). Whether we write a review of a book has more to do with whether we have anything interesting to say about it, rather than whether we liked it or not.For the record, Castle Corona was from the library; The Icy Hand was sent by the publisher at my request. And I thought enough of T'Aragam to write a fairly detailed critique of it.
There are factors which might unduly influence my reviews, however. Maybe I should be disclosing whether I saw the author give a reading, whether I read their blog or Tweets, and whether I've ever seen a funny video they made. Also, I should probably disclose the fact that I may allow myself the luxury of a snarkier review if the author is long dead, or so famous and beloved that my words can't possibly hurt their feelings.
I've considered writing an end-of-the-month summary, which could also disclose how I came upon the books, without cluttering up the reviews with that info. For now, I'll go ahead and follow the trend that's been appearing on various book blogs, beginning with The Boston Bibliophile: Here are the past 20 books I reviewed and where they came from. I decided to also indicate whether the book is written by a person of color, by putting those in italics.
Secrets of the Red Lantern: library, from browsing the shelves
$20 per gallon: free review copy, requested in response to publisher's offer on book blogger site, combined with publisher-sponsored promotional giveaway.
Kampung Boy: library, after reading blog review
T'Aragam: free audio download (available to public), at request of author
Back Creek: free review copy, publisher query
Down to the Bone: library, after reading blog review
A Worthy Legacy: free review copy, author query, as part of author-run blog tour
Rowan of the Wood: free review copy, author query
Writing the Life Poetic: library, after attending author talk. The author did give me a free copy of this book and her poetry book after reading my review, though.
The Local News: free review copy, TLC book tours
Boy Toy: sent by author for me to give away
A Home at the End of the World: Library, after shelf browsing
My Heartbeat: Library, after shelf browsing
At Swim, Two Boys: Library, LibraryThing recommendation
The Lost language of Cranes: Library, LibraryThing recommendation
Something Beyond Greatness: free review copy, TLC book tours
Alive and Well in Prague New York: bought from Powells for Nerds Heart YA
Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before: Library, for Nerds Heart YA
Aya: Library, after reading blog review
Into the Beautiful North: review copy, requested from publisher via Twitter, attended author reading
10 library books
8 review copies (3 author queries, 2 requested from publishers, 2 book tours, 1 publisher query)
1 sent by author for giveaway
7 written by authors of color, 13 by white authors.
And here's my pledge: If I suddenly come out with a post about how much we enjoyed new Goopy Soup during our breakfast read-aloud--I'll mention the fact that somebody sent me a free sample to blog about. If the Sylvia Beach hotel offers me an all-expenses paid weekend in Newport if I blog about their book-themed rooms, I'll disclose that, too. As for the book reviews, I'll continue my current mix of critique, supportiveness, and honesty. Rest assured that I'll never out-read my reliable source of continuous free books, which has no preference as to how or whether I review them.