Harriet Klausner, Woman Who Wrote Over 30,000 Reviews for Books on Amazon, Dies at 63

Harriet Klausner in 2000. (Chris Stanford/The Washington Post)
Harriet Klausner in 2000. (Chris Stanford/The Washington Post)

Harriet Klausner never read a book she didn’t like.

Literally. “If a book doesn’t hold my interest by page 50, I’ll stop reading,” she told the Wall Street Journal in 2005.

But Klausner liked most of the books she encountered, and she said so, with gusto. Most of the 31,014 reviews she wrote for Amazon — the most from any one user on the site — sounded like this one:

“Readers will feel an adrenaline surge throughout Dr. John Benedict’s twisting and at times shocking hospital suspense; while also looking forward to the sequel,” she said of a medical thrilled titled “Adrenaline” (judging by Klausner’s typical writing style, the pun in the review was completely intentional). As she almost always did, Klausner gave the book four stars.

They were the last stars Klausner ever gave out. The former librarian, self-appointed star Amazon book critic and frequent subject of scrutiny and celebration died this month at age 63. A funeral home announcement did not identify the cause of death. She is survived by her husband Stan, her son Eric, a brother and numerous nieces and nephews.

Harriet Klausner’s story might be that of a woman who loved books and wanted to praise them in effusive (if somewhat error-prone) prose. It might also be the story of a numbers-obsessed shill who pretended to read thousands of books and then duped consumers by posting pointless reviews about them.

Regardless, it’s a story about the Internet, where democracy and mediocrity go hand in hand and powerful communities can form around topics as obscure as one lady with a (disputed) love of books.

Klausner, a former acquisitions librarian, began writing reviews for Amazon in the late 90s, right after the site first launched. (Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, is owner of the Washington Post.) She has described herself as a “freaky kind of speed reader,” capable of tossing back at least a couple books a day. It helped that her favorite genres tend toward the potboiler and bodice-ripper variety: “You ever read a Harlequin romance?” she asked the New York Times in 2012, “You can finish it in one hour.”

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Source: The Washington Post | Sarah Kaplan