Introduction to Book Reviews

To find a book review you must have...

  • author
  • title
  • country of publication
  • first year of publication

Country of publication is important. If the book was published in Canada, Britain or the U.S., reviews will usually appear in standard book review indexes. Foreign language books are more difficult to track down, and may be found in indexes such as IBR (International Bibliographie Rezensionen).

Book reviews tend to appear within 2-3 years of the book's first publication date. Reprints are seldom reviewed unless there have been major revisions or the book has been out of print for a long time. It is therefore important that you know the first date of publication.

Be aware that not all books are reviewed and releases from small publishing companies are often ignored by the major reviewing sources.


Quality of Review Publications

The quality of review publications can vary greatly...

Selection guides such as Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Choice are basically selection guides for librarians. They may be useful, but because of their short length, tend to lack the critical evaluation found in other sources. These journals can be useful to those interested in reading reviews of a just-released book in their area of interest.

General interest magazines such as Time, Newsweek and Maclean's may be of use to some patrons. Reviews are up-to-date, usually short (one column to one page in length) and are not always written by knowledgeable reviewers. Reviews are of varying quality.

Newspapers can be a good source of reviews, but most are short and written by editorial staff or random contributors. As mentioned above, reviews are for current titles.

Book review publications such as the New York Times Book Review, Times Literary Supplement, New York Review of Books, Irish Literary Review and Books in Canada provide excellent reviews of current books. Articles can be short or several pages long, and are usually written by specialists in that particular subject area.

Scholarly reviews are the most-asked for by patrons. Due to publication schedules, reviews in scholarly journals are usually late in appearing (1-2 years). These reviews can range from half a page to 5-10 pages and are written by specialists in the field.


Reviews in selection guides, general interest magazines and book review publications

Book reviews in selection guides, general interest magazines and book review publications can usually be found in such general sources as the Book Review Index and Book Review Digest.

Reviews in Newspapers

The New York Times, Washington Post, Observer and Times (London) have their own indexes. Book reviews from these papers are also indexed in Book Review Index. Reviews from major Canadian newspapers are indexed in the database CBCA from 1982 to the present (and its forerunner the Canadian Newspaper Index which is available in paper). The LexisNexis database indexes reviews in magazines and newspapers from around the world.

Reviews in Scholarly Journals

The best place to begin a search for a scholarly book review is the Book Review Index (1965 to present). This database indexes more than 600 journals ranging from general interest magazines such as Newsweek to scholarly journals like the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Scholarly reviews of older titles may be found in the Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Scholarly Journals (1886-1974). This publication indexes more than 450 journals in history, political science and sociology. Another collection of scholarly and general book reviews can be found in the Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Humanities Journals (1802-1974).

Canadian Books

Until the 1980s, reviews of Canadian fiction were usually restricted to Canadian newspapers and periodicals. Prominent authors such as Margaret Laurence and Margaret Atwood were recognized in the U.S. and Britain, but lesser-known names were ignored. Canadian nonfiction had a better chance of being reviewed in U.S. and British academic journals.

The CBCA (Canadian Business and Current Affairs) database lists newspaper and journal reviews from 1982 to the present. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodical Index), another database, provides book reviews for both English and French language books from 1983 to the present. The paper version of the Canadian Periodical Index goes back as far as 1920. The Canadian News Index indexes reviews in major Canadian newspapers from 1977-1992.

French language book reviews can also be found in Repère, a French-Canadian index to periodicals and newspapers from 1984 to the present. Repère continues Point de Repère (1984-1993), Radar (1972-1983) and Periodex (1972-1983).

Book Review Index and Book Review Digest have been improving their coverage of Canadian titles over the last twenty years and both are a good first choice for finding reviews.

Non-English Books

Bibliographie der Rezensionen provides reviews from 1900-1943 in German and other European languages. The Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen Wissenschaftlicher Literatur indexes major western language journals from 1971-1992.

Reviews of French-language books (Canadian and international) may be found in the French Periodical Index from 1973 on, and in Repère, a French-Canadian index to periodicals and newspapers from 1984 to the present. Repère continues Point de Repère (1984-93), Radar (1972-1983) and Periodex (1972-1983).