UQP Critic's Corner: Cheryl Akle, Founder of Better Reading
Cheryl Akle is the founder of Better Reading, Australia’s largest online book community reaching over 500,000 people daily. Passionate about books, she is a strong advocate for Australian authors, a champion of reading and has been a leading figure in the book industry for over 30 years.
What do you love (and loathe) about book reviewing?
I love reading a book and then sharing it with our readers. Because Better Reading is a social media platform, the readers get to respond to our reviews and share their opinion. It’s interactive. And it’s subjective. No one is right or wrong. Every opinion is valid. It’s great engaging with other readers, and hearing how they feel about a book.
What does an average day look like for you?
I’m an early riser so I’m literally up with the birds – the kookaburras actually. I start the day with coffee and toast, catch up on local and world news, and walk the dog. I swim or do Pilates and then start work. The Better Reading team is the best and so I always look forward to my work day. After meetings and catch ups, I usually record a couple of podcasts. I enjoy those very much, chatting with authors brings me great joy, I get to discuss their book and how they came to writing, which is always interesting and I learn so much. At the end of each day, I read all the comments and feedback on the Better Reading Facebook page and Instagram.
How do you choose what (and what not) to review?
As you can imagine, I’m sent so much, so some I review for Better Reading and other books fit our column in The Australian. I firstly start with what I like, and then I think about what other readers might like. In my entire career, and yes I’ve been doing this a long time, I have never been asked what not to read. People want recommendations. They don’t want to hear how awful something is, they want to be inspired to read. So I take that approach when reviewing and recommending books.
What are you aiming to achieve with your reviews?
To connect books with readers is always my aim. To find that book an audience. There’re so many different types of readers, so it’s a matter of finding a match for each book. It’s also about sharing the passion you have for a book with others.
What is your advice for aspiring book reviewers?
Keep reading and keep writing. With social media these days, it’s easy to share your work. Better Reading has a program called Preview, where readers can read books before those books are published and then write a review.
Which reviewers do you like to read?
I read a lot of reviews, and my favourite reviews are when people are positive about a book. You don’t have to personally love it to know there’s an audience out there that will. For this reason, I love reading reviews written by my team.
What makes a book great?
That’s the million-dollar question! For me, it’s when the story and the craft blend seamlessly. When I’m so engrossed in a story that I absolutely can’t put it down. Good stories are those that make you think, move you, engage you. Often what makes it even better, is the time and place in your life when you read it.
Who are some of your favourite Australian authors?
Where to start, there are so many.
Tim Winton, Helen Garner, Michael Robotham, Richard Flanagan, Melina Marchetta, Christos Tsiolkas, Anna Funder, Monica McInerney, Tara June Winch and Thomas Keneally.
And the list goes on…
What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?
Michael Robotham - When You Are Mine
Mark Brandi - The Others
Zakiya Dalila Harris - The Other Black Girl
Alka Joshi - The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
Alice Pung - One Hundred Days
Kyle Perry - The Deep
Tim Ayliffe - Enemy Within
Charlotte McConaghy - Once There Were Wolves
James Phelps - The Inside Man
Do you have any favourite UQP titles or authors?
How can we follow you online and where can we read your reviews?