It is particularly useful to find evaluations of a book from other sources. Knowing what other people say about a book may tell you whether the book is worth reading or not. It also can be very helpful to give you an introduction to the author and the ideas presented.
The most common evaluation of books is the book review. A book review is an article that describes and evaluates a specific book. Book reviews are published in magazines, journals and newspapers and are available on the Internet. Book reviews are indexed in most periodical indexes.
To find book review articles, you can use various types of periodical indexes. General periodical databases, such as the EbscoHost databases, and newspaper databases such as the Newspaper Source Plus database all include book review articles, usually for books of relatively general interest. The New York Times Book Review provides free online book reviews back to 1996. (Use the "Book Search" search box at the right of the page.) In order to find reviews of books on more specialized topics, it is often necessary to use subject periodical databases that index periodicals in the book's subject area.
To search for book reviews in a periodical database, you can either simply do a keyword search just for the title of the book (if it is unique) or you could do a keyword search for both the title AND the author. If searching title and author does not narrow your search enough, in many databases you could limit your search by ANDing the term "review" with the title.
There are a number of Web sites that specifically provide book reviews written either by professional reviewers or by readers who are interested enough to write and send in their personal reviews. Yahoo has a directory of many of these book review sites. A major limitation of most of these sites, however, is that the books reviewed tend to be primarily recent popular works. Newspapers on the Web can be a good source for reviews of recent books.
Amazon.com, an online bookstore, lists a huge number of books of all types, many of which include brief reviews. It is very important to check closely the source of reviews or descriptions included in online bookstore sites since they tend to include more favorable descriptions (that may seem like reviews) submitted by publishers. Brief reviews submitted by readers are also often found on these sites.
General web search engines (e.g. Google) can also be used to try to find book reviews on the Web. Try doing a search for the title of the book (in quotes) followed by the word review.
How to Identify Scholarly Books
- Look at the Publisher: scholarly books are generally published by:
—university presses (see a list at Association of American University Presses Directory)
—professional organizations (e.g. American Psychological Association, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- Look at the Author: authors of scholarly books will usually be identified as associated with an academic institution (e.g. a college or university professor) or a research or professional organization (e.g. a think tank staff member)
- Check for Citations: Scholarly authors cite their sources extensively. They explain their research process by showing their sources, both within the text in a literature review or in general discussion, and as specific bibliographic citations.