Sunday, February 14, 2010

Academic Book Reviews

I used to tease that they all fall into the same formula:

1) summarize the book in three paragraphs

2) tell in one paragraph how you (the reviewer) would've done it better, including how you already have done it better on specific points and how your work not being cited was such a major deficiency of the current work

3) list a bunch of typos with page #s. Take your time. Don't just put "This book has too many typos for such an expensive volume" - we really want to know where each missplaced "s" or apostrophe is! Please!

4) conclude in one paragraph how this is nonetheless a valuable contribution to scholarship, blah-blah-blah. Can be spun more negatively, that the reviewer's book on the same subject is the one that should be purchased and this one can be relegated to the dustbin of scholarship

But you know what - now I'm not teasing! That really is the formula (though #2 can be expanded to fit the reviewer's ego, or it can be slipped into the summary as the review goes). Now I see why editors seek me out - I actually write a REVIEW, one that might actually HELP SOMEONE DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO BUY THE BOOK!!! My formula:

1) summarize the book in 3 paragraphs

2) highlight the good parts, and tell why and how they're helpful

3) mention the bad parts, and tell how and why they're not helpful

4) if 2 outweighs 3, suggest buying the book; if 3 outweighs 2, suggest giving it a pass

I don't see the difficulty of this formula, so please let's everyone follow it. KTHNXBY!


Blogger Apuleius Platonicus said...

Obviously you and anyone who taps you to write a review are seriously confused.

The purpose of reviews is to sell books.

You'll never make it into the Back Cover Blurb Mafia with this kind of attitude!!

3:27 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

No, my colleagues don't even have that excuse. These are the kinds of books for which they will never see a royalties check. So why snipe at one another? Pure ego. It disgusts me, mostly.

10:29 AM  
Blogger John Goodrich said...

Moral of the story: Don't be useful. If you get noticed, people will want you to do all of their work for them.

2:46 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

ha - given my experience with group work in elementary school (i.e., kim did all the group's work), you'd think I'd have learned by now!!

2:49 PM  

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