BookTalks: With Elliot “The Little Man”

By: Graeme, April 18th, 2024 2:04 pm.

Elliot, who started out writing book reviews under the pseudonym “The Little Man”, has been writing his book blog for over 12 years now. It is located at thelittlemanreviews.wordpress.com.

Elliot first began writing book reviews on his blog in 2011. A married father to two children, Elliot writes reviews from a bit of a different perspective. Elliot is a Baptist, and writes reviews from a Christian perspective.

It offers a fresh new perspective to book reviews. Elliot is always willing and ready to tackle any novels, such as “Deception Point” by Dan Brown, a novel which received public backlash from many Christians.

Elliot reads a wide variety of authors, from the likes of Andy Weir, to Kurt Vonnegut Jr..

His reviews are always entertaining. Along with giving ratings of the books that he reads, Elliot also will usually give a backstory as to why he picked the book to read and review, or where he purchased it. This little bit of personalization really adds to the reviews and helps make his blog stand out.

I had the pleasure to sit and chat with Elliot for the inaugural edition of BookTalks.

You started writing book reviews back in 2011. What was the primary motivator for starting your book review blog?

I was in the midst of seminary at the time, pumping out “reading reviews” on a weekly basis. So much reading and effort that only my professor would see! I thought my reviews could help other students, so I began the blog and for starters only published those lengthy reviews. My other readings soon slipped in, and before I knew it, a lifelong hobby was born.

Since you started writing book reviews, the world of digital media has exploded. Back then, blogs were what everyone ran. Now you have people posting their reviews of books on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube etc. Have you considered using any of those platforms for your reviews? Or would you if you were starting afresh today?

No on both counts. Writing might not trump video’s appeal, but writing will most certainly outlive video. Blogs aren’t books, I get that, so their lifespans aren’t yet proven—but they are text-based and therefore easily archived, searchable, and pliable enough to morph with changing technology. Millions of mindless video-minutes are uploaded every single day on vlogs, live-streams, moments, reels, and blah-blah-blah. Text (as faceless as it is) has permanence.

What have you learned over the years in writing book reviews, that you wished you had known back in 2011?

Simple web-design techniques. I’m entirely content focused, so my site is laughably basic (and probably quite ugly). I’m still trying to learn, but design’s not my forte, so it’s not really a priority for me to fix. I’d rather read and write than improve cosmetics!

What’s your process for writing a review? Do you have a particular structure or elements you always include?

I’m a note-taker when I read anything (even fiction for children). I also treat the blog as much as a personal record of my reading as I do an offering to my readers. Thus, I always try to include these elements: 1) Why I chose this book at this particular time. 2) How it relates to other books I’ve read. 3) A quick summary of the book, usually without spoilers. 4) Things that surprised, pleased, or disappointed me about the book. 5) Things I’ve learned from it (sometimes). 6) And throughout the review, I also include favorites quotations I highlighted from the book.

You read and review a wide variety of books. How do you generally decide what books to read next? And since you started the blog, do you feel your approach to selecting what books to read has evolved?

I mostly follow whim, but I also like to read based on personal recommendations (i.e. books clubs), seasons (i.e. baseball books in the Spring), and geography (i.e. books about the Great Lakes when I’m in Michigan). I’m generally reading anywhere from 5-12 books at a time. This means I finish books more slowly and more often than if I just go one book at a time (yes, that math works!). I don’t really understand it when people say, “This book was so good, I couldn’t put it down!” I’m more like, “This book was so good, I took a month to finish it!” I’ve become a pleasure-delayer, and I think I can blame the blog for this evolution.

Have there been any memorable interactions with your audience which was sparked by one of your reviews?

I’ve had the most interaction with two books—The Return of the Gods and As a Man Thinketh—though I’ve most enjoyed the interactions I’ve had with my review of James Micheneer’s Hawaii. The debate has been over Michener’s portrayal of the different influences of both missionaries and sailors. I personally believe that the author intentionally portrayed the missionaries as having had a negative, disease-carrying influence on the native population, while at the same time portraying the sailors who slept around with every female they could find as innocuous bystanders who only brought peace and joy to the islanders. Some readers disagreed, suggesting that he’s only writing ture history, while I think he willingly cherry-picked history to make Christians look bad. We’ve had a healthy back-and-forth about it.

Have there been any books that significantly changed your perspective or had a profound impact on you?

I’m actually working on an article about the ten most influential books I’ve ever read. A short list includes the book, Lit! by Tony Reinke, which gives advice on reading—truly a life-changing book for me. I guess people will have to subscribe to my blog to find out the other nine, right?

You write your book reviews from a Christian perspective, and it’s great to read reviews from a different perspective. Do you ever get criticism on your reviews simply because they are from that perspective?

Criticism happens, and if the negative comments are cordial, I approve them, because I appreciate the critique and/or debate. One good example is the comments section on James Michener’s Hawaii. Other times, people just call me names (like in response to my review of James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh) or tell me I’m a tool of Satan (like in response to my discerning review of Jonathan Cahn’s The Return of the Gods). I don’t approve comments made by trolls, especially ones hiding behind anonymity. If they can keep things civil, they’ll be heard.

How do you handle those books which either go against your belief system as a Christian, or you just find completely offensive?

Most of my favorite novelists weren’t/aren’t Christians—Jack London, Lionel Davidson, Geoffrey Household, Ian Fleming, etc.—and the same is true of my favorite general-interest authors. I read such books for entertainment and/or education, though, not for guidance, and that’s probably where I draw my line. I’ve enjoyed many novels by Kurt Vonnegut, for example, a die-hard Humanist; yet I couldn’t stomach Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, because it’s a Humanist’s guide to happiness, the polar opposite of biblical Truth. That book I mentioned earlier, Lit!, taught me that a reader has the right to put a book down ONLY IF he first gives it 100-pages-minus-his-age. That’s the best reading advice I’ve ever seen, and it’s saved me from finishing a lot of garbage! On the blog, I have a short list of reviews I’ve written on books I’ve never finished. Because I give these books a fair shake, and because my readers deserve my honesty, I have no problem reviewing some books that I simply couldn’t finish (i.e. the offensively vulgar and stereotyping Sho-Gun by James Clavell or the unpalatable Chung Kuo series by David Wingrove).

If you were stranded on a desert island and could have the complete library of one author’s books to read over and over again – which author would you choose?

Ah, the “desert island” question! Maybe it’s cheating to say “God” or “King David” or “the Apostle Paul.” So instead I’ll say James Michener (with Roald Dahl as a close second). Michener fits lifetimes into his novels. He’s never gratuitous, and he teaches real history and science through fascinating fiction. He’s incredibly readable—and he’s so prolific, it’d probably take me years even to read through his library, let alone reread my way through it.

Thank you so much to Elliot for taking the time to sit with us. It’s much appreciated. Be sure to check out his blog at thelittlemanreviews.wordpress.com.

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John
John
19 days ago

Thanks for this I like to read books with different perspectives on life, so will certainly be checking out this blog.

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