Archive for August 10th, 2011

Re-viewing Reviewing

10 August 2011

By Christina Morin

My musings on networking on Monday led me to ponder other sometimes difficult professional situations in which we find ourselves, and one with which I am grappling even now, as I write this piece – namely, reviewing. There’s something so thrilling about getting a monograph normally priced at €85 for free, that I frequently find myself soliciting coveted texts from various reviews editors. Of course, in my excitement, I forget that nothing ever comes completely free. As with Ryanair, in fact, I find that I always underestimate the cost, getting sucked in by the thought of cheap goods (in this case, scholarly studies rather than flights) without fully considering the ramifications. In short, I forget that this is an exchange economy and that the ‘price’ of my supposedly free book is a review.

It’s not that I find writing such pieces particularly difficult, especially when the book in question is well-written, well-edited, and well-argued, but I do find reviews incredibly time consuming. Perhaps it’s just me, but I read a book very differently when I’m reviewing it than I do if I’m simply reading it for my own ongoing research. I’m much more thorough in my reading (meaning I don’t skip any paragraphs or pages!), take copious notes, and think very carefully about how best to underline the text’s strengths while still pointing out its potential deficiencies or weaknesses. What I’m aiming for is an objective account of the book in question, written with a view to the professional expertise I share with the author. The point of a review is, as I understand it, to highlight the book’s contribution to existing scholarship and, thus, its value for fellow scholars. Read more