What is a Book Review?
A book review is a critical evaluation of a book in which the writer analyzes the content, format, argument and context found within the book being evaluated. The writer often argues whether or not the book is worth reading.
Where are Book Reviews Published?
Book reviews are published in periodicals (magazines, journals and newspapers). Periodicals such as Library journal, Choice, Booklist, and Publishers’ Weekly provide book reviews that serve as tools for individuals involved in the purchasing of books (like librarians). While reviews in these journals may be useful, they are often very short and may not contain as much critical evaluation as other sources. The New York Times Book Review, which comes inside the Sunday edition of the New York Times, is a standard in the field of book reviews and is indexed by the majority of the sources listed below. Book reviews may also be published in scholarly journals within a specific discipline, such as The Journal of American History. These are excellent reviews to consult because they are most often written by experts in the fields.
• When looking for a book review it is useful to know:
(1) the author’s full name
(2) the complete title of the book
(3) the publication date (year) of the book
• Remember that not every book written gets reviewed. In fact, the great majority of books in existence never get reviewed at all.
• Reviews of books do not always appear in indexes by the publication date of the book. Therefore, it is frequently necessary to consult index volumes for two or more years following the publication date.
• Consulting several reviews of a book enables one to obtain a more balanced evaluation.
• It is important that you yourself know as much as possible about the book before you attempt to seeka review. (For example, is it a current or historic work? Is it a popular title or more scholarly?)
• It is of utmost importance that you choose the appropriate index for finding the review you need. (For example, it probably would not be very useful to seek a review for a book about Macintosh computers in an index to nineteenth century periodicals).
Printed Indexes for Locating Book Reviews
One way to find a book review for a specific title is to consult an index. Mountain View has several indexes (located in the reference area) that are useful in locating book reviews published in various periodicals:
Book Review Digest
This index provides citations to reviews of current juvenile and adult fiction and nonfiction in the English language. It includes book reviews appearing in about 90 selected periodicals in the humanities, social sciences, and general science from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Excerpts from the reviews and the number of words contained in each review are also included. It should be noted that the majority of the reviews indexed in this source do not come from scholarly, academic journals. Access is by author, title, and subject.
Book Review Index
This index provides citations to reviews of books and periodicals appearing in more than 650 publications, which include review journals, national publications of general interest, scholarly and literary journals, daily and weekly newspapers, British and Canadian publications, and specialized journals from various subject areas. (This source can often identify one or more reviews of many books that the Book Review Digest will not include.) Access is by author and title. No excerpts or ratings of the reviews are provided.
Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature
Social Sciences Index
Business Periodicals Index
All of these indexes include citations to book reviews from periodicals in the given field (Readers’ Guide provides book reviews from general interest periodicals). Citations to book reviews are listed in a separate section at the end of each volume. Access is by author/editor and by title only if the publication has no author/editor.
Using the Citation to Find the Actual Review
Once you have the citation information for the review you want, the next step is to find the actual magazine, journal or newspaper in which the review was published. Our budget limits the number of periodicals we can subscribe to at Mountain View, and of the periodicals we do have, we only keep the current or current two years worth. You may have to check with another library for the issue you need, or request an Inter-library Loan for the book review. You can also check some of our online databases (see below).
Electronic Sources for Finding Book Reviews
Academic Search Premier
These two DCCCD online databases can be searched for book reviews. The interfaces look the same, but they feature different periodicals. To search for a book review: Go to the Advanced Search Screen; Type “book review” in the top box; Type the title of the book in the next box down (separated by “and’); Click the Search button. If you limit your results to Full Text, the actual book reviews will appear only. If you do not limit your results to Full Text, then the database will also provide citations to book reviews (like an index), which will require you to locate the periodical in which the book review was published.
New York Times (CD-ROM)
You can access this CD-ROM through the DCCCD online databases page. To find a book review, add “book review*” to the title of the book separated by the word “and” in your search query. (Example: John Adams and book review*)
This website provides editorial reviews for many of the books sold on this website. To find a book review you must first search for the book title. Click on the link for the book you want a review for. On the left hand side of the screen you will see a link to editorial reviews under “Book Information.” Be sure to click on editorial reviews and NOT customer reviews.
Writing a Book Review
See our handout/help sheet on writing book reviews. Note the differences between a book report and a book review.