Book Reviews: Home
General Information About Book Reviews
Book reviews are an important means of evaluating book sources. They are brief articles in periodicals (newspapers, magazines, or journals), often written by experts, that give the writers' opinions about the overall strengths and weaknesses of a book. There are reviews for popular books (fiction, bestsellers, etc.) and for scholarly books, though you have to pick the right database or print index to find reviews of a specific book. To locate reviews, you use library databases or print indexes, and search instructions for some major sources are listed below.
Book Reviews Versus Literary Criticism
The simplest way to distinguish book reviews from literary criticism is the time of publication of the review or the critical article compared to the original publication date of the book. Book reviews are usually short, evaluative articles that come out around the time the book was originally published; articles of literary criticism are written years after the publication and often are longer and more complex. For example, reviews of John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath that appeared in 1939 or 1940 (just before or just after the first publication of the novel) are book reviews, while literary criticism about the novel continues to be written today. The MLA International Bibliography is an important database for locating articles of literary criticism. In general, the sources cited in this guide find reviews that reflect the response near the time of a book's publication.
For more help finding literary criticism, see the Library guide for Literature and Literary Criticism.
Databases to Find Reviews
General databases with book reviews:
- Academic Search Premier has book reviews from journals and magazines in most major fields of study. Type “Book Review” in the Document Type menu in Advanced Search. It is updated daily and includes full-text coverage from 1990-present and indexing and abstracts from 1984-present.
- ProQuest also updates daily with coverage from 1970 forward and covers magazines and journals in all subjects. In Advanced Search, type in “Book Review” and select Document Type from the drop-down menu, then in the other search boxes enter the title or the author’s name.
Newspaper databases with book reviews (popular and some scholarly books):
- New York Times (1995-present) or New York Times Historical (1851-2005) both contain book reviews from the newspaper's book review section. You can search for book reviews the same way you do in Proquest.
- Time Literary Supplement (London) Digital Archive has full-text book reviews and review articles from 1902-1990. Use the "Author" or the "Book Title" search boxes, and select "book review" from the "Item description" pulldown menu.
- Newspaper Source Plus from ESCO has the full text of 700 newspapers and includes transcripts of television and radio news. Use "Book Review" under the Document Type drop-down menu and search by book title or author's name.
Subject databases with book reviews (mostly scholarly books):
- America History and Life has book reviews in U.S. and Canadian history only from journals 1954-present. To limit your search to reviews, use Advanced Search and enter r* in the Document Type search box.
- JSTOR is a full-text database of back issues of journals in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, music, ecology and botany, business, and other fields. To search for book reviews, enter keywords from the title of the book or the author's name, and check the box for "review" under "Limit to."
- Project Muse has the full text of over 200 journals in literature and criticism, history, the visual and performing arts, cultural studies, education, political science, gender studies, economics, and others. For book reviews, go to Advanced Search and use the pulldown menu under Limit Search and By Type to select Review.
- Web of Science contains three databases of scholarly journals: the Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index, and Arts and Humanities Index. Go to Advanced Search and under “Restrict search by languages and document types” select “book review.”
When you find an article that you want to read, make sure that you print out or write down all the information that you'll need to locate it. Include: article author, article title, journal title, journal volume, journal issue number, article pages, journal date, and index name. You can use Article Linker to see if OSU has a full-text subscription to a journal or a paper subscription, or to request a PDF copy of the article from Interlibrary Services.
Print Sources to Locate Book Reviews
These print sources can be used to locate book reviews in periodicals (magazines and journals). Find out the year in which the book was published, and start with the volume of the index for that year. Contact a reference librarian for help using these sources.