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02/08/2022

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JR

Book reviews (and editorial work) are like peacock's feathers. They show that you have resources to spare. Writing book reviews in addition to original research shows that you have muscles since, as Marcus said, writing a book review takes time but the added value to your CV is not much. So publish original research AND book reviews is my advice, but if you must choose then focus on the research papers. If you want to write a book review, just find out which journals do accept unsolicited book reviews and contact the (book review) editor politely. "Hi, I am reading this interesting book, would you be willing to publish my review on it?", if they say no, move to a next journal.

R0

JR,

Agreed. I would add that, if your writing experience mostly costs of exam writing rather than essays, reviews can be a good opportunity learn how to write brief pieces.

Dave

Hi all,
I am the book reviews editor for the journal Teaching Philosophy. I welcome reviews from philosophy teachers at all levels. If you are thinking of teaching a course and reading a newer book/textbook to prepare for it, why not write a review as well? We also publish reviews of non-textbooks that might be used in the classroom. If you are interested, send me an email at david.sackris@gmail.com. Here is a link to our journal as well: https://www.pdcnet.org/teachphil

Cheers,
Dave

Assistant Professor

Some journals are happy to receive CVs/AOS of prospective reviewers so that they can keep you in a pool for when they have an appropriate review to assign you. But I agree with Marcus and JR that diverting attention from original research to book reviews is not a great use of time in grad school (for some students book reviews end up being a form of "productive procrastination" because they are reading and writing something, which seems useful, but it is all in the service of someone else's work and not their own, which is less useful).

I also find I get a lot of value out of reviews written by someone who has a track record of work in an area that allows me to know what they are bringing to the review. This doesn't mean I only want reviews from luminaries! I just like a review by someone who I can see is actively working in a related area. But that is a personal preference.

Brad

Dear All
I have a different view on the value of book reviews. I think they are quite valuable. And I have done a great number myself (maybe 30), most earlier in my career. I think it is a nice way for young scholars in training to learn the norms of publication, including how to check proofs. It is low stakes. Further, I think it is a great way to learn how to write a book. I have published three books with CUP, and I learned a lot about the structure of a book - a good book - from reading numerous books, and then writing reviews of them.
Now, a disclaimer: I am one of the editors of Metascience, a Springer/Nature journal that publishes only book reviews of books in the history, philosophy and sociology of science. And we welcome people contacting us about writing book reviews. But we do ask you to avoid conflicts of interest - do not ask to review a book of your supervisor, a colleague, or your student. Also, check our webpage to be sure that we have not yet reviewed the book.

Bill Vanderburgh

To echo earlier comments: No one gets hired/tenure/promoted (or not) because of a book review. People do get hired/tenured/promoted (or not) because of being finished with the dissertation and because of having research publications. The only time I would recommend a grad student write a book review is if the book is central to the dissertation (rare for a new book!) or the work will otherwise lead to other publications. (But in the latter case, why not write an article that engages the ideas in the book, instead?)

Michel

I'm going to sort of disagree with the above: reviews aren't that hard and don't take up that much time. It's easy to over-sell what's involved.

That said, you should be careful about what you choose to review. I don't recommend reviewing long books, and certainly not edited collections (those really do take up a lot of time). But a single-authored monograph of 200 pages or less? Sure. If you read ten pages a day, you'll be done reading in under a month, without having wasted much time each individual day. The writing can take a little while, but again, it's an opportunity to break up the task into small daily chunks.

It's true that the review doesn't really add anything appreciable to your CV (especially absent other, proper, publications), and it also doesn't do a whole lot to familiarize you with the publishing process. But I don't think that's the chief benefit (for the author) of a book review. Instead, the benefits are (1) a free book, and (2) potentially facilitating contact with other people in the subfield (perhaps the author, but also those who read your review whom you might encounter at conferences).

When I review, I do it for the free book. That means, however, that I do have to be interested in the book; and as a grad student, you'd want to be reviewing something in your subfield that you'll want or need to read anyway. That way, you're reading for your dissertation anyway, and organizing your thoughts into a short book review (which is, like, a third of an article) is helpful, too. There's additional time spent on the review, but not all that much, really. You don't want to start spending all your time on the review, or writing review after review. But there's nothing wrong with trying your hand at one that coincides with work you're doing anyway. It's a minimal diversion, and often worth it for the free book.

As for unsolicited reviews: if your subfield has one or more associations, and they have associated journals, you can usually make a pitch to the reviews editor. Just write a short paragraph explaining why you think the book would be of interest to the journal's audience, and if they don't know you, explain why you'd be a good fit, and attach a CV.

If you don't have subfield journals that accept unsolicited reviews at all, you could try your luck at Philosophy in Review. They normally solicit, but they accept pitches, too. It's a fine venue for a review. I, for one, check it out all the time.

Malcolm Keating

While the value of book reviews for graduate students depends on a number of factors, so I don't think it is a clear-cut positive or negative, as book review editor for Indian philosophy at Philosophy East & West, I am happier to have students contact me about books they are interested in reviewing rather than send unsolicited reviews. Not only may I already have someone writing that review, but most unsolicited reviews need significant revisions to meet our requirements in content and style.

Anyone interested in writing reviews for PEW, or questions about the process, can email me at cmalcolmkeating@gmail.com

https://uhpress.hawaii.edu/title/pew/

early career non-TT

Some quick thoughts: I really enjoy writing book reviews. Last week, I received a 100-page book, read it in an afternoon and jotted down some thoughts, and in about four sittings turned those thoughts into a 2000-word review. It was fun and worthwhile, and I'll get a nice little (very little) line on my CV.

My biggest advice, though, is to be sure to learn how to write a good review by reading plenty and understanding the format. I did not do this as a grad student.

In fact, my first review was total garbage. It was about a book that I loved and agreed with about 97% of the way, but I spent the entire review picking away at the 3% with which I disagreed. The author, one of the nicest people I've met, is now my friend and colleague in the subfield, and I'm embarrassed to have such a sloppy review in print (in a good journal, no less) with my name attached to it. So by all means, let this be a cautionary tale of what not to do!

In a temporary non-academic position

Advice I got from my supervisor: Clearly list book reviews under a section that's obviously different from peer-reviewed original articles. Listing them under the same section would make some readers of the CV unhappy.

Noah

Analysis Reviews apparently accepts pitches for book reviews:

https://academic.oup.com/analysis/pages/reviews_guidelines

I sent a pitch in about 10 days ago and haven't heard anything. I have no idea what you might expect in terms of response rate and time for this kind of thing.

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