Writing a Book Review for a Journal

My current task for the month of January is to complete an academic book review for a journal in my field. This is both considered a service to the society and allows you to read a book that you'd read for your research anyways, so I see it as a win-win situation. Therefore, I highly encourage students and beginning academics to occasionally offer to write a book review or two at the beginning of their career, particularly if a book catches your eye or is relevant to your research. However, some research-one and -two based academics might disagree — here is a post providing a slightly different view.

Nonetheless, I required students who took my Science Communication course to complete a book review from something published recently in their field.

In general, the requirements for writing a book review are as follows though they may vary depending on the journal:

  • Maximum word count: approximately 500 words

  • Critical but professional review of the content and writing within the book

  • Suggestions for who may find this book useful

Before beginning your first book review, I suggest reading several examples from the journal you are writing for. This will ensure that you write it following their style and standards. The next step is to begin reading the book, but be sure to take careful notes and pre-write along the way. Note down the page numbers of any errors, interesting sections, or questions that you may want to refer to later. It is acceptable to be critical of the book, but keep in mind that you shouldn't be critical just for the sake of being critical.

Some journals/societies/publishing houses that request book reviews from its members are the Journal of Economic Botany, John Hopkins University Press, and Elsevier. If you are unsure if a journal in your field requests book reviews, check a recent copy of the publication or go to the web page and look under the "Publications Received" section.