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Book Reviews

Why use Book Reviews?

Two reasons:

  • Reviews provide information to help you choose whether it is worth your time to read it.
  • Reviews provide context on how the book fits into the scholarly conversation on the topic.

Reviews may be descriptive or critical. They may include a summary of the book, discuss its style, compare it with other books on the same subject, or provide background information about the author. Reviews show the reactions to a book at the time it was published, and can be an important source of evaluation, allowing you to compare your opinion with those of various critics.

Remember that a book review records one individual's impression of a particular book, and that impression may be biased in some way. Consequently, one should:

  1. Consult several reviews (if available) of the same book in order to obtain a more balanced assessment of the book.
  2. Note the author of the review and, if desired, look for information about the reviewer.
  3. Look to see if the periodical in which the review appears might have a built-in bias. What are the titles of the articles? Who publishes the periodical?

Book reviews are commonly written when a book is first published. There may be a significant period of time between when the book is published, and when a review appears in a journal (especially scholarly journals), and when the review appears in an index or database.

For more reading about book reviewing, search our catalog for the subject heading Book reviewing. The book below includes a list of the major scholarly journals containing book reviews, but note the date.

Reviews and Reviewing: a guide / A. J. Walford, ed.
Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1986
Case Main PN98.B7 R5 1986

Finding Book Reviews

In order to locate a book review you should know the:

  • year in which the book was first published. This is important; the year of publication often determines which databases to use
  • title of the book
  • author's name

If you lack any of this information, consult the title page and verso of the book, the libraries' catalog, ConnectNY, WorldCat, or ask a Reference Librarian for assistance.

Book review indexes/databases can be used to identify which periodicals published reviews of a particular book. Paper versions of book review indexes typically are arranged alphabetically by author's name, and some also have a title index. Most are published monthly and cumulate annually, which is why the year of publication of your book is so important. Begin your search in the volume for the first date of publication, and check the following two years. Reviews usually appear in book review indexes within three years of publication.

Other periodical indexes/databases may cover book reviews, either in a special section or as part of the regular arrangement. They are particularly useful for finding reviews in scholarly journals. Reviews in scholarly journals may appear as many as 5 years after the publication of the book, so check several years of these indexes.

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