Innovation in book reviews

A few months ago, Jan-Hendrik and I were discussing the utility of writing book reviews. One concern we had was that book reviews basically do nothing for one’s academic standing, but more than that, in thinking about the book reviews themselves, we were frustrated with them because unlike journal articles, they rarely reference other book reviews for the same book.

So, we wrote a book review that did, to test if there was any value to this. We enlisted a student of mine, Alexander Kinney, and we set to work writing a book review that included other reviews of the same book.

We wrote our editors:

To the editors,

Please see a book review of Latour’s “Reassembling the Social.” While my co-authors realize that the length is somewhat past the desired 1000 words, we hope that you find the document satisfactory. It employs a somewhat unorthodox approach where other book reviews are cited where appropriate so that we can essentially “review what has not yet been sufficiently reviewed by other reviewers.” Additionally, we ask for a small editing consideration for adding a small “box” around a subset of identified text (this mirrors what was done in Latour’s book). I know that this is an unorthodox review, and hope that the innovation is tolerated. Still, we are prepared to make amends if this document does not meet the standards of the journal.

Nicholas J. Rowland

So, it has gone through a couple rounds of editing and is now in the proofs stage (please note that we realize that Latour’s book was written in 2005 [not 2007, as the title currently states]). Also, this new approach to book reviews also requires that one reviews a book a few years after publication rather than soon after publication. This is so that the other reviews can be written and, to some extent, responded to.

Here is the document below, feel free to comment on the approach, style, or content: