American Periodicals

A Journal of History, Criticism, and Bibliography

Book Review Guidelines

Written By: Jean Cole

Reviews for American Periodicals are generally commissioned by the Book Review Editor, who will alert potential reviewers to deadlines and provide reviewers with books for review.

A good review will describe the book being reviewed in some depth, with attention not only to argument and related content but also to method, source base, intended audience, and key contexts. But as important as such summary work is, the reviewer’s analysis and especially evaluation of the book should be the centerpiece of the review.

In all, reviewers should keep in mind that the book’s contribution to the study of American periodicals is of specific interest, and that a good review will generally situate the book in question among significant current discussions in the field. We strive for book reviews that are critical but also collegial. Honest, rigorous, and constructive evaluation of a book’s strengths and weaknesses is thus both necessary and prized.

Reviews should follow the general American Periodicals style sheet. Reviews should be headed with the book author’s name, the book’s title, the book’s press, the publication date, the number of pages, and the book’s price(s), as well as the reviewer’s name and affiliation.

With the exception of reviews for the “Brief Notice” section and review essays that consider multiple works in dialogue, reviews should generally run between 900 and 1200 words.

Reviews for the “Brief Notice” section should run between 250 and 350 words (including the publication information on the book). While these reviews should still attend to the combination of accurate summary, thoughtful analysis, and constructive evaluation called for above, “Brief Notice” reviews are designed for the reader who wants a succinct, pithy assessment of an individual title, in the spirit of periodicals like Choice and Publisher’s Weekly.

Review essays generally consider more than one book and will generally run between 2000 and 4000 words. (The Book Review Editor will give a more specific target length when commissioning such reviews.) As in the reviews above, readers should gain a clear sense of each of the books being considered and should see the play of summary, analysis, and evaluation. Review essays, though, should emphasize comparison, contrast, and synthesis, and they should group such work around an argument about the state of the books’ field(s).

American Periodicals also commissions reviews of websites, databases, other electronic resources, exhibits, and scholarship in other forms using these general guidelines. Edited collections and new editions of primary texts are eligible for review.

Please alert the Book Review Editor to any potential conflicts of interest. You should not, for example, review a book by someone at your institution or by someone to whom you’re related.

The Book Review editor edits all reviews for style, clarity, and attention to these guidelines and in communication with each reviewer. While every effort will be made to move reviews to publication, American Periodicals is under no obligation to publish commissioned reviews.

Revised September 2015