Spectrum Blog Book Review Guidelines

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AALL Spectrum Blog Book Review Guidelines

The goal of the book review is to aid our readers in making informed choices about potential acquisitions, research tools, or professional development resources. Please approach this task with a critical eye and remember that we publish constructive reviews—both positive and negative.

  • Your review should be 500-700 words; long enough to do the job, but brief enough to be succinct.
  • Keep your audience in mind: professional law librarians from diverse workplaces.
  • Keep your tone casual; try to incorporate your personal experience into the review as much as possible. It is good to let your personality show.
  • Give your recommendation to read and/or acquire the title in the first one or two paragraphs.
  • Include your name, professional title, affiliation, and other relevant information at the end of your review.
  • Include the book title, author(s), publication date, publisher, page count, format and price.
  • Contact AALL Publications Manager Heather Haemker at hhaemker@aall.org to be invited to contribute to the blog.

Tips for Writing Your Review

From “Evaluating Reference Books in Theory and in Practice” by Norman Stevens, The Reference Librarian, Volume 6, Issue 15, as adapted by Carl Yirka (1/91), Molly McCluer (3/92), and Linda Karr O’Connor:

  1. Accuracy: Take some steps to verify independently whether the information in the book is accurate. Compare it with other reference books in the same subject area. Is it reliable? Could it be considered “a standard source” or “indispensable?”
  2. Appropriateness: Describe what sort of law library the book is appropriate for: academic, firm, county/court, prison, etc.
  3. Arrangement: Is the book arranged in an orderly, logical manner? Are chapter titles, table(s) of contents, other tables, cross-references, and footnotes clear and helpful? Is it easy to use? Is it readable, easy on the eyes, or poorly laid out?
  4. Authority: Are the authors considered experts in their fields?
  5. Bibliography and comparability: Where does this book fit in with other books? What makes it better or unique? Refer the reader to other previous works on similar and related topics.
  6. Completeness: Does it cover the subject thoroughly, or at least cover what its authors claim to cover?
  7. Documentation: What are the sources of information for the book?
  8. Durability, format, and cost: Is the paper acid-free? How good is the binding? Is the format (looseleaf, etc.) appropriate? Is the book worth the cost?
  9. Index: How good is it? “The sine qua non of a reference book,” says Stevens.
  10. Revisions: What is the bibliographic history of the book? Are future editions planned?

NOTE: It is not necessary to cover every one of these points in your review. Select the ones that apply in some significant way to the work you are reviewing.