At a recent talk, Chris Grasso and Karin Wulf discussed and book reviews. Wulf serves as the Book Review Editor for The William and Mary Quarterly. From this position, she offered an enlightening perspective on how to publish scholarly book reviews.
Reviewing books isan essential part of the historian’s profession. History students are expectedto learn the discipline: to become historians. In order to review a book onhistory it is essential to have some information on the subject, the region,and the period. The bibliography in the book should supply you with referencesto sources with related information. Journals are also a good place to findthis information and to look for scholarly book reviews that will also help youunderstand the form, and give you an idea of what your review should look like.
Scholarly book reviews have an image problem
Browse in published scholarly book reviews to get a sense of the ways reviews function in intellectual discourse. Look at journals in your discipline or general publications such as the London Review of Books or the New York Review of Books
Reviews in scholarly journals evaluate books and the research, theory, andmethodology therein. Scholarly reviews also discuss how the book relates toother books on the subject. These lengthy reviews allow readers to stay currentwith research and thought in their field even if it is outside their direct areaof interest and they are unlikely to read the entire book. Some of theways to locate scholarly book reviews in history are:Ultimately, the true value of a scholarly book review lies in its proper execution. An inferior review is one that simply describes the book's content, marching through each chapter (Chapter One does this, Chapter Two does that) as if on a mission to get to the end as quickly and efficiently as possible. Too often, the summary is itself subordinated to fault-finding, as if that's what reviewing means.