Finding Reviews of Books & Media


| What Is a Review? | How Are Reviews Published? | Using Indexes & Databases to Find Reviews | Online Review Sites | Researching a Writer's Credentials |


What Is a Review?

A review is a critical evaluation of a literary work or artistic performance (concert, play, opera, etc.) published in a periodical or newspaper shortly after the work is issued or performed, for the benefit of readers who are inclined to consider critical opinion before purchasing a new book or attending a performance. Usually written by a critic or scholar with knowledge or expertise in the subject matter or genre of the work, a review may be brief (one or two paragraphs) or comparatively long (three to four pages), depending on the editorial policies of the publication and the extent of the reviewer's comments. In an omnibus review, two or more works, often related in theme or content, are reviewed at the same time by the same reviewer.

Book reviews may be positive, negative, or mixed, depending on the reviewer's considered opinion of the work. Negative comments not substantiated or explained in the text of the review may reflect bias on the part of the reviewer. In the arts, reviews can make or break a new production or exhibition. Reviews are distinct from literary criticism, published after the work has had its initial effect on its audience, often with the aim of explication or interpretation and of placing the work in literary context.

Of the many thousands of books published each year in the United States, most receive only one or two reviews, or are never reviewed. A book on a controversial subject, or one written by a well-known author, may receive a disproportionate number of reviews. Books with political content are often reviewed in publications that represent differing points of view along the political spectrum (left, right, or center).

For the reader's convenience, a book review should include the full title of the work, the name of the author or editor, the name of the publisher, publication date, number of pages, edition (hardcover, paperback, special, etc.), ISBN number, list price, and any discount. Book reviews sometimes include an illustration, often in color, showing the front cover.


How Are Reviews Published?

Most scholarly journals include book reviews, usually in a separate section at the end of each issue. Most Sunday newspapers and some popular news magazines also publish reviews of new books and films, usually in an "Arts & Entertainment" section. A review publication is a periodical for which the primary purpose is the review of new books and other published materials, often used by librarians and educators charged with ordering materials for students, faculty, and library patrons. The WCSU Libraries subscribe to the following list of review publications. Unless otherwise noted, they are shelved with other periodicals, alphabetically by title of publication, on the third floor of the Ruth Haas Library.

American Reference Books Annual (ARBA)
1989-present; shelved in Haas Reference: Z 1035.1.A55.
Booklist
Current six years in print. Includes Reference Books Bulletin (RBB). Full-text in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
Children's Literature Review (CLR)
1976-present; shelved in Haas Reference: PN 1009.A1.C5139 (First Floor).
CHOICE
Current five years in print. Indexing in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
The Horn Book Magazine
1939-1940 and 1942-1998. Children's books only. Full-text in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
Library Journal (LJ)
Current six years in print. Full-text in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
New York Review of Books (NYRB)
Current year in print; 1979-1990 on microfilm; 1963-1972 on microfiche. Indexing in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
New York Times Book Review (NYTBR)
Current two years in print; 1923-present on microfilm. Indexing in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
Publisher's Weekly (PW)
Current three years in print. Full-text in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
Quarterly Review of Film and Video (QRFV)
1989-present. Indexing in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
School Library Journal (SLJ)
August 2005-present. Full-text in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.
TLS (Times Literary Supplement)
Current year in print; 1973-1978 and 1980-present on microfilm. Indexing in Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost.

In some review publications (Booklist, Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly), the reviews are very brief, usually no longer than one or two paragraphs. In others (New York Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement), the reviews can be lengthy. In longer reviews, the reviewer may compare several books on the same topic, published at about the same time. Some review publications use a star, an inset box, or some other typographical device to highlight new titles that are highly recommended for their exceptional quality. Bestseller lists may also be provided.


Using Indexes & Databases to Find Reviews

Print Indexes

Most printed periodical indexes have a separate section at the end of each annual volume listing book reviews. However, there are two print indexes that specialize in indexing book reviews: Book Review Digest and Book Review Index. For assistance in locating printed indexes, please see the librarian at the Reference Desk on the first floor of the Haas Library (203-837-9110).

Book Review Digest
Coverage: 1905 - present
Location: Index shelves in the Haas Library reference section (near the atrium)
Coverage: Indexes reviews of current adult and juvenile fiction and nonfiction published in approximately 100 English-language periodicals in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain (reviews of government publications, textbooks, and technical books are not included). Reviews are usually published within a few months of a book's publication, but due to delay in indexing, a review may not be listed in Book Review Digest until the following year. Entries are arranged alphabetically by last name of the author of the book reviewed, with a separate Title Index at the end of each annual volume. Each entry provides a citation and brief excerpts from one or more reviews. A List of Periodicals indexed is provided at the beginning of each volume.
Book Review Index
Coverage: 1965 - present
Location: Index shelves in Haas Library reference section (near the atrium)
Scope: Book reviews published in English-language periodicals. Entries are arranged alphabetically by last name of the author of the book reviewed, with a separate Title Index at the end of each annual volume. A list of Publications Indexed can be found at the beginning of each volume. Book Review Index indexes more publications (approximately 600) than Book Review Digest but does not provide excerpts.
Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature
Coverage: 1900 - present
Location: Index shelves in Haas Library reference section (near the atrium)
Scope: Book reviews are listed by author's last name in a separate section at the end of each volume. Film reviews are listed alphabetically by film title under the heading "Motion picture reviews."
Film Review Index edited by Patricia K. Hanson and Stephen L. Hanson
Coverage: Volume 1: 1882-1949; Volume 2: 1950-1985
Location: Haas Reference: PN 1995.F513
Scope: Film reviews are listed alphabetically by title of film, with a Director Index at the end of each volume.
The New York Times Film Reviews
Coverage: 1969-1978
Location: Haas Reference: PN 1995.N4
Scope: Reproduced exactly as they appeared in the original issue of the New York Times, the film reviews are arranged chronologically, with a Title Index and Personal Name Index at the end of each volume.

Electronic Indexes

Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost
Coverage: 1990 - present (earlier for many publications)
Location: Under Articles/Databases on the WCSU Libraries Homepage.
Scope: Indexes over 8,000 newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals in most fields, with over 4,000 available in full-text. To find reviews, type the title of the work reviewed as a keywords search (example: Girl with a Pearl Earring). To limit to reviews, add the phrase and review* to your search statement.
Books in Print in OCLC FirstSearch
Coverage: Updated weekly
Location: Under Articles/Databases on the WCSU Libraries Homepage.
Scope: Over 4 million records for books, audios, and videos (fiction and nonfiction) in-print, out-of-print, and forthcoming from North American publishers and U.S. distributors and wholesalers. Also includes thousands of book reviews in full-text.
JSTOR
Coverage: Issue number one to within 1-3 years of present
Location: Under Articles/Databases on the WCSU Libraries Homepage.
Scope: Full-text of over 400 core scholarly journals in more than 25 disciplines (complete backfiles). Use "Refine Search" to limit to reviews.
LexisNexis Academic Universe
Coverage: Varies with the newspaper; updated same day for some titles
Location: Under Articles/Databases on the WCSU Libraries Homepage.
Scope: Full-text of many U.S. national and regional newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post.
Newspaper Abstracts (NewsAbs) in OCLC FirstSearch
Coverage: 1989 - present (updated weekly)
Location: Under Articles/Databases on the WCSU Libraries Homepage.
Scope: Indexes over 50 U.S. national and regional newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Houston Post.


Online Review Sites

  • Book Reviews via Yahoo! (dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Humanities/Literature/Reviews)
  • Movie and Film Reviews via Yahoo! (dir.yahoo.com/Entertainment/Movies_and_Film/Reviews)
  • BookPage: America's Book Review monthly (www.bookpage.com)
  • Books in the Boston Globe (www.boston.com/news/globe/living/books)
  • The Boston Book Review (www.bookwire.com/bookwire/bbr/bbr-home.html)
  • Education Review: A Journal of Book Reviews (edrev.asu.edu/index.html)
  • The Midwest Book Review (www.midwestbookreview.com)
  • The New York Review of Books (NYRB) (www.nybooks.com)
  • The New York Times Book Review (NYTBR) (www.nytimes.com/pages/books)
  • NPR: Books (www.npr.org/templates/topics/topic.php?topicId=1032)
  • Quill & Quire Canadian review magazine (www.quillandquire.com)
  • Review-a-Day Powell's Books (www.powells.com/review)
  • ReviewsOfBooks.com (www.reviewsofbooks.com)
  • Times Literary Supplement (TLS) (www.the-tls.co.uk)
  • Other pertinent Websites:

  • Association of American Publishers (AAP) (www.publishers.org)
  • Bestseller Lists via Yahoo! (dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Humanities/Literature/Bestseller_Lists)
  • BookWire information about the book trade from R.R. Bowker (www.bookwire.com/bookwire/bookwire.html)
  • Publishers via Yahoo! (dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Shopping_and_Services/Publishers)

  • Researching a Writer's Credentials

    In evaluating a recently published book (or a reviewer's opinion of its quality), it is often helpful to know something about the writer's or reviewer's background and qualifications. These can be ascertained by consulting Contemporary Authors (CA) (Haas Reference: Z 1224.C58), a multi-volume reference work that is divided into three series: Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Authors First Revision, and Contemporary Authors New Revision. The series are cross-indexed by author's last name in a separately published paperback Cumulative Index shelved with the hardcover volumes of CA. Each year, as new volumes are added to CA by its publisher (The Gale Group), the Cumulative Index is updated to facilitate access.

    Contemporary Authors covers current writers of fiction, general nonfiction, poetry, journalism, drama, motion pictures, television, and other fields, whose works have been published by commercial publishers, risk publishers, or university presses. Authors of works published by vanity presses or author-subsidized publishing companies are not included. Authors whose works are written in languages other than English are included only if their works have been published in the United States or translated into English.

    Each entry in Contemporary Authors includes brief personal information about the author (birthplace, birthdate, religion, etc.), degrees attained, summary of career, awards and honors, list of works, and sometimes a list of biographical and/or critical sources. If you wish to find more information about a writer than CA provides, please see my guide to Finding Biographical Information at: people.wcsu.edu/reitzj/res/bioginfo.html.


    Please send your comments to Joan Reitz, Haas Instruction Librarian, Western Connecticut State University.
    reitzj@wcsu.edu
    Last updated on August 29, 2005