Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online. (the Alert Collector)
Zabel, Diane, Altschiller, Donald, Wenzel, Sarah G., Reference & User Services Quarterly
There is little written, virtually nothing recently, on sources for finding book reviews. Although finding book reviews is one of the most frequent motives for reference questions, the library literature contains very few guides on this topic. Only a handful of such articles were published in the last thirty years, and this material is very selective, not annotated, and mostly outdated. "Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online" is an important contribution, informing and alerting collection development and reference librarians to a wide variety of current and retrospective sources. This guest-authored column is unique in that it contains both print and electronic sources. In addition, the article provides useful annotations and contains an informative summary on the history of book reviews. This column serves to update and enlighten librarians about continually changing reference sources.
The authors have years of experience helping patrons find book reviews, and both frequently serve as reviewers. Donald Altschiller is the History Bibliographer at Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University and is responsible for selecting materials in all fields of history, except African and ancient. Altschiller serves on the Editorial Board of Reference Books Bulletin and is also a reviewer for CHOICE, American Reference Books Annual, and Library Journal. He has worked at the libraries of Harvard, MIT, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Altschiller has an MLS from the University of Rhode Island and a BA from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Sarah G. Wenzel is the Reference Coordinator for the MIT Humanities Library and subject specialist for foreign languages and literatures. She also selects in general reference and library science, as well as representing the Humanities Library on the systemwide Networked Electronic Resources Decision Group. She previously served as Modern Foreign Languages and Linguistics Bibliographer at Boston University. Wenzel has an MA in French Studies and an MS in Library and Information Science, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her publications include the following article in the July 1999 issue of Library Quarterly: "From Revolution to Evolution: The Transformation of the Bibliotheque Nationale into the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, through the Lens of Popular and Professional Reports." Wenzel is also the author of three entries in the International Dictionary of Library Histories, a reference work edited by David Stam (Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001). She also reviews for Reference Reviews Europe. Wenzel's research interests are in international librarianship, especially France. Additionally, she is an active member of the Western European Studies Section (WESS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries. She edits the WESS Newsletter and chairs the Paris 2004 Conference Program Planning Committee. Wenzel has served as the cochair of the ACRL/New England Chapter Publicity Committee since 1998. --Editor
Critics are sentinels in the grand army of letters, stationed at the corners of newspapers and reviews, to challenge every new author.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.--John Steinbeck
To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes, of the making of book reviews, there is no end. Even the literature on book reviewing seems to constitute a considerable subgenre. A recent database search, for example, yielded more than three hundred periodical articles just on this topic, and the gamut of views ranged from Longfellow to Steinbeck with many more in between.
According to Diderot's Encyclopedie, the Journal des Savans (1665) was the first journal invented to assist those "too busy or too lazy to read books in their entirety." While book reviews first appeared in literary publications in early seventeenth-century England, the Edinburgh Review (1802-1929) is generally cited as the first publication to introduce modern literary book reviewing. In the United States, literary reviews began in the early nineteenth century, and the New York Times began its weekly book review section in 1896.
Despite the long history of book reviewing, it may surprise many readers that the vast majority of books are never reviewed. The publisher of CHOICE--the largest review publication for academic and scholarly works--estimates the publication reviews only 25 percent to 30 percent of the books received annually. Academic books account for only a small percentage of the total book trade. Although there is no easily accessible count of the total number of books reviewed per year, it is safe to assume the number is relatively small.
Finding reviews sometimes stumps even the most experienced reference librarian. Although this column does not purport to be a comprehensive listing of book review sources, we hope it will serve as an excellent starting point. Most importantly, we want to alert our colleagues to some very significant yet unfortunately ignored reference sources. We have made a special effort to include retrospective print indexes. The inclusion of some of these out-of-print sources may inspire a few publishers to reprint these unique reference works.
We have made considerable efforts to examine each source listed, but sometimes that was not possible. Although the annotations are generally descriptive, some particularly outstanding works are noted. Hard-to-use or unreliable sources have been omitted. Please note that some major indexes such as the MLA Bibliography and Historical Abstracts do not include book reviews.
The exponential growth of electronic sources has vastly improved access to book reviews, and many journals are now available through several vendors. Except for a few instances, we simply note that the journal is "available electronically." Since these online sources undergo constant change depending on the vendor, URL, publications covered, content, or pricing, some citations will undoubtedly offer outdated information. Please be sure to consult the Web or other sources to find out the most current information.
Please note that, although the entries are listed under only one heading, many of the indexes may fall under a variety of categories, e.g., "retrospective" and "language/ literature," so please make sure to browse through the entire column to find pertinent sources. This column is not long enough to justify many "see" references. We concentrate on book reviews in the humanities and social sciences, but some multidisciplinary sources also cover science and technology. However, we would be remiss not to mention Garden Literature: An Index to Periodical Articles and Book Reviews, that while not strictly "science" does not fall under the social sciences or humanities either (Boston: Garden Literature Pr., 1992-. Quarterly. ISSN 1061-3722).
Finally, this column is an expanded and revised version of the Boston University Libraries Web site on book review sources (www.bu.edu/library/researchguides/bookreviews.html).
Gray, Richard A. Guide to Book Review Citations: A Bibliography of Sources. Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Pr., 1968.
Although dated, this outstanding source includes citations to book review indexes and bibliographies in the humanities, social sciences, and science and technology. The inclusion of numerous specialized retrospective indexes makes it an indispensable work.
Marcuse, Michael J. Reference Guide for English Studies. Berkeley: Univ. of California Pr., 1990. ISBN 0-520-05161-0.
This superb source contains many citations to a wide variety of general and specialized book review index sources. Despite its name, this work covers literature and literary criticism in many languages besides English.
Walford, A. J., ed. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. London: Mansell, 1986. ISBN 0-7201-1823-9.
This work contains twenty essays "to provide guidelines for the reviewing of books and audiovisual materials …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online. (the Alert Collector). Contributors: Zabel, Diane - Author, Altschiller, Donald - Author, Wenzel, Sarah G. - Author. Journal title: Reference & User Services Quarterly. Volume: 42. Issue: 3 Publication date: Spring 2003. Page number: 193+. © 2003 American Library Association. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.