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Finding Book Reviews and Writing Book Reviews

Consult this guide to find reviews of fiction and non-fiction books and how to write a book review or an article critique.

If you need help, please contact Andre Iwanchuk, Liaison Librarian at 778.782.4304 or or Ask a librarian.

What is a book review?

A book review is an overview or critique of a selected work. It can be a few lines or a few pages long; the length of the review gives some indication of the depth and sophistication of the analysis. Among other things, a reviewer might comment on the author's style of writing, motifs or themes that run through the book, historical accuracy (if appropriate), and other outstanding features. Additionally, there may be some indication of the reading level and anticipated audience. There will often be a plot summary in the case of works of fiction. The reviewer will generally give an opinion of the book - whether it is interesting, credible, worth buying, etc. 

Why use a book review?

A book review may help you to understand a book by doing one or more of the following:

  • (for works of fiction) summarize the plot and analyze themes and symbols
  • (for non-fiction) summarize the debate which the book is contributing to
  • (for non-fiction) critique the book's methods, evidence, and conclusions
  • compare the book with similar books
  • discuss the author's writing style
  • give important biographical details about the author and his or her reasons for writing.

Reading a review is not an excuse for not reading the book! But a review can help you read a book by giving you an expert opinion about it.

How to write book reviews

The following sources are available in the W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby).

  • "How to Write a Book Review: A Guide for Students" Social Studies 65 (6) November 1974: 263-265. (Bennett Bound Journals)
  • The Harvard guide to American history (print) - "Book Reviewing" - Section 1.6
  • How to study history (print) - See the sections: How to read a history book; Book reviews; and Two student papers critically examined.

Belzberg Library at SFU Vancouver has copies of these articles on reserve, along with How to review a book, by Ashley Thomson.

Each of the following web sites discusses the "how tos" of reviewing books, and each is slightly different in presentation and content. All point out the elements essential to a good review, as well as suggestions for style. Other suggestions for further reading:

Finding book reviews

How to find book reviews using SFU databases

This section discusses resources for locating reviews of books. There is also a separate SFU guide on Children's Literature with a section on book reviews. In addition to the databases mentioned here, many databases you would search to find journal articles also contain book reviews. When in doubt try typing in a few words from the title of the book and and book review.

Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts

Humanities and Social Sciences Abstracts
Type in a few words from the title, followed by and book review.

In the box at the bottom of the Refine Your Search page - put a checkmark in the box for Reviews.

CBCA Reference and Current Events
Select article type by clicking on the blue arrow beside the main search box, a hyperlink will appear beside the search box saying browse article types, select book review (near the bottom of the list), then type in the title of the book in the second search box.

Academic Search Complete
In Document Type - highlight Book Review. Enter unique words from the title.

Canadian Newsstand
Type in the title of the book in the search box with and book review or review (for a broader search.)

Readers' Guide Abstracts
Type in a few words from the title (combine them with and), followed by and book review.

Music Index
Basic Search Method: Type in a few words from the title, followed by and book review. Expert Search Method: Type in a few words from the title. In the second box type in Book Reviews and choose Subject from the pull-down list.

MLA International Bibliography
This resource is strictly for literature and is scholarly in nature. Add the word reviews to the second search box.

Philosopher's Index
Click on Limit Your Search button, then select Book-Review from the Document Type menu. Click on the Set Limits button, then proceed with your search. Or, in the search box - type in a few words from the title, followed by and book review.

Sciences and Geography

Science Indexes
Type in a few words from the title (combine them with and), followed by and book review.

Web of Science
Includes: Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Science Citation Index Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index.

  • Choose Full Search
  • Then choose General Search
  • Scroll down and limit the Document Type to Book Review.

Political Science and History

Alternative Press Index
In the Article Type Phrase field - highlight Book Reviews.  Combine with keywords from title or author.

America: History and Life
Select Document Type from the drop-down box beside the #2 search field and type in book review. Put a few words from the title in box #1.

How to find book reviews using the Web

For book reviews on the Web, try a search engine such as Google,

Also try the following sites:

How to find book reviews using print sources

  • Book review digest [print]
    Reviews arranged alphabetically by author's last name with a subject and title index as well. Many citations include a brief excerpt. An excellent resource for older book reviews.
  • Book review index [print]
    Selects reviews from a much broader range of periodicals than Book Review Digest. Arranged alphabetically by author's last name with a title index at the back.
  • An index to book reviews in the humanities [print]
  • Combined retrospective index to book reviews in scholarly journals, 1886-1974 [print]
  • New York review of books [print or microfilm]
    Search the online index (1996- ) to find out which issue reviews your book.
  • Canadian book review annual [print]
  • Repère : index analytique d'articles de pèriodiques de langue française [print]