Skip Menu

Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

Book reviews

A book review is an article that is published in a newspaper, magazine, or scholarly work that describes and evaluates a book. Keep in mind while searching for reviews of a book that many books are published each year, only a small fraction of them are reviewed. Reviews are written for different purposes and they will vary in terms of content and depth of evaluation. Since reviews are printed in many different kinds of publications, you may need to search several sources.

Reviews are produced after the publication of a book, so knowing the initial publication date will help refine your search (knowing the exact title and author's name is also necessary). Addison will usually list the publication date of books in our collection. Use WorldCat from OCLC to find publication dates for books not found in Addison. Finding reviews for older books may require using print indexes in addition to recommended databases.

Many sources (online or in print) will only give a citation for the review. Use that citation to track down the complete text of the review.

Reviews differ from literary critiques of books. Critiques explore the style and themes used by an author or genre. Critiques can often be found using the Literature Resource Center.

Type of reviews 

Summary reviews
Summary reviews are short reviews published in magazines that briefly summarize the content of the book. These are often found in library trade journals that librarians use to make purchasing decisions. These sources can also be searched using the general interest resources listed below. Summary reviews can be found close to the date of publication of the book in question (or possibly shortly before).
Opinion reviews
Opinion reviews give the article's author's opinion about the book. The review will typically include a brief summary of the book, and could include discussion on writing style, audience level and the book author's area of expertise. Opinion reviews are published in newspapers, popular magazines and specialty publications like the New York Times Book Review. These sources can be searched using the Popular Newspapers and Magazines resources listed below. Opinion reviews are typically written soon after the publication date of the book.
Scholarly reviews
Scholarly reviews are written by experts in the field being reviewed. They are typically found in scholarly journals or as book chapters. These reviews will go beyond summarizing the book by evaluating the issues and methods discussed in the book. Use the same resources you would use to find scholarly articles on a topic, such as the databases listed on the Subject Guides. Scholarly reviews can appear months or years after the publication of a book.

Finding book reviews through Addison 

Sources of book reviews, including journals, specialty publications and books containing book reviews can be found through Addison's advanced search screen. Search your topic as a keyword and include book reviews as a subject. If you find a journal in your area of interest, you can browse the issues around the publication date, or search a database that indexes that journal for your book's title. The Addison record for that journal will often list where it is indexed, or you can use the Info about this journal from UlrichsWeb link in the External Links box on the Addison screen to determine in which databases the journal is indexed.

Reviews found in Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publisher's Weekly can be found via Addison by clicking the book cover image displayed on the book's record page. Any reviews from these sources will be listed on the corresponding page from Content Café. Here's an example for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Book review databases 

The library has subscriptions to four databases that index book reviews specifically:

Book Review Digest Plus and Retrospective from EBSCOhost
Book Review Digest Plus indexes reviews of current fiction and non-fiction, and provides review excerpts and over 100,000 full text reviews. Every book appears with all of its reviews together. A single book can have as little as 1 review citation or as much as a descriptive summary and many reviews with excerpts and full text, depending upon the coverage the book received in the reviewing literature. Includes children's books as well as books for adults and young adults. 1983-present.
Book Review Digest Retrospective: 1905-1982 from WilsonWeb
Excerpts from, and citations to, reviews of about 300,000 adult and juvenile fiction and non-fiction books in the English language. The reviews originate in selected periodicals in the humanities, social sciences, and general science published in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. Virtually every book has at least one substantial review excerpt (up to 500 words) and most have two or more. 1905-1982.
Book, Movie, Music, Play, and Video Reviews from LexisNexis
Reviews published in newspapers, magazines, trade publications, news program transcripts and major websites from around the world. 1980-present. For best search results, include the book title in quotes and also use the author's name as a search term.
PsycCRITIQUES from PsycNET
Full text book and film reviews in psychology, published weekly, with a 10-year backfile.

General interest databases 

All three kinds of reviews can be found in general interest databases. Note the date range covered by each database and select ones that cover the time after the publication of your book. Search the title of the book (as a phrase when possible) and include the author's last name in your search terms.

Academic Search Complete from EBSCOhost
Academic Search Complete is a comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary full-text database, with more than 5,500 full-text periodicals, including more than 4,600 peer-reviewed journals. In addition, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 9,500 journals and a total of more than 10,000 publications including books, reports, conference proceedings, etc. Allows limiting by document type to book reviews. Most sources are indexed from 1980-present, but some journals are covered to the 1800s.
APS - American Periodicals Series Online, 1740-1900 from ProQuest
Facsimile page images and searchable full text for over 1,500 American magazines, journals, and newspapers. published from the 18th through the early 20th centuries. Bulk of coverage is for 1740-1900, though runs of some 19th century magazines extend past World War I; for the period 1780-1919 APS is cross-searchable with collections in C19: 19th Century Index database. Can limit by document type to reviews.
Newspaper Source Plus from EBSCOhost
Provides full text for 131 national and international newspapers, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Times (London), and others. Also contains selective full text for more than 335 US newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Miami Herald, etc. In addition, full-text news transcripts are provided from ABC News, CBS News, CNN, FOX News, National Public Radio, etc. Can limit by Document Type to book reviews.
ProQuest Recent Periodicals
Searchable, full-text databases of scholarly, trade, popular, and specialized periodical publications including ABI/Inform (business and management), EthnicNewsWatch (the ethnic press worldwide), and GenderWatch (gender issues). Coverage in some cases dates back to the 1970s. These databases may be searched in combinations with one another, but not with the ProQuest historical databases. Cam limit by Document type to book reviews.
Reader's Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 from WilsonWeb
Search more than 3 million articles from nearly 400 magazines using keyword, subject heading, publication, dates, journal, author, article title, ISSN, or article type. Subjects include: Aeronautics, Aging, Archeology, Astronomy, Biographies, Business, Education, Fashion, Film, Fine Arts, Foreign Affairs, Gardening, History, Hobbies, Home, Journalism, Literature, Medicine, Music, Nutrition, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Radio, Religion, Science, Sports, Television, Travel. 1890-1982. Can limit by Document Type to book reviews.
Web of Science: ISI Citation Databases
Includes Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index, all 1975 to present. (Deselect the conference proceeding options.) Change one of the popup menus to Document Type and then select Book Review from the resulting menu.

See also Indexes to magazines and newspapers.

Subject specific database 

Many subject-specific databases will include book reviews. Use the Subject Guides or Ask a Librarian for recommendations of relevant resources. Many will include the ability to limit search results to book reviews (check the help links if it is not immediately obvious if this is possible).

Print indexes 

Since most databases cover only more recent years, finding reviews for older books may require using a print index. Check the Addison record for each index to see if it covers the dates required. Use the volume corresponding to the year of publication for your book and the year or two after.

Book review digest
1906-1982 is included in the Wilson database linked above; use the print index for 1983-present. Located in Newman Reference section on second floor. Search by author's name.
Book review index
1980-present. Located in Newman Reference on second floor. Search by author's name.
Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Scholarly Journals
1886-1974. includes citations to reviews of books and periodicals in the social sciences that have appeared in scholarly journals. This source is comprehensive across the social sciences and is good for finding reviews of older books. Located in Newman Reference on the second floor. The 15-volume set is cumulative, so searching by author should include all reviews by authors covered in this set.

Newman Library spring hours

Sun: Open 9:00am*
Mon-Thu: Open 24 hours*
Fri: Close 8:00pm
Sat: 9:00am - 8:00pm

* During 24 hour operation, a valid Hokie Passport is required to access or remain in the library between 12 midnight and 7:30am.

Current semester hours

Search Summon for book reviews



More search options