Review for LJ

Library Journal is always looking for engaged reviewers in all areas of fiction and nonfiction. If you’re interested in reviewing for LJ, please read our guidelines below. To apply, fill out the online application, and be sure to upload two sample reviews in LJ style. If you have difficulty uploading these samples to the form or have additional questions about reviewing, contact Neal Wyatt:

Guidelines for Library Journal Reviews

Library Journal Book Review is a selection tool used in both public and academic libraries. Each year it offers signed professional reviews of thousands of current titles in a wide range of disciplines.

Reviewing for LJ is a rewarding activity, one that offers engagement with a wide range of books or with a specific genre; one that allows, over time, insight into publishing trends and authorial interests; and one that yields a good deal of professional satisfaction.

All reviews are assigned; we do not accept unsolicited reviews. We do try to honor our regular reviewers’ requests for specific books or subjects to review (though not, of course, for books written by friends, relatives, or associates). We ask our contributors to agree not to review for other publications the same books they review for LJ and not to send copies of their reviews to publishers or authors. We further ask that reviewers not mention that they are reviewing a book for LJ until the review is published. Once it is, we are happy for reviewers to share a link to our website but ask that they do not repost the review itself in full or in excerpts.

LJ’s central audience is librarians. Our reviews are designed to help them do their jobs. We strive to specifically support both collection development and readers’ advisory work but hope our reviews are of use to all librarians. Our reviews are also used by readers. With these audiences in mind, fiction reviews are written for fellow readers of the genre. Nonfiction reviews are addressed to the educated generalist. Every review is designed to present the information needed for selection decisions in a highly condensed form.

The following guidelines are offered to help write reviews. Of course, reading past reviews in LJ will help as well.

  • Each review should be between 175–200 words. Please don’t write longer or shorter. What you want to say may be lost when we must cut or add dozens of words.

Reviews should include:

  • a brief orientation to the thesis or plot of the book,
  • an indication of the author’s expertise or writing history,
  • a critical appraisal of both substance and execution, information on the experience of reading,
  • an indication of what readers would be best served by the book in question,
  • and the inclusion of the last book an author wrote and/or the author’s credentials.

Our audience expects an LJ review to be based on a thorough, careful reading and on informed judgment.

Those are the basic requirements. Obviously, there can be no single model for all reviews, nor would we want cookie-cutter reviews. Ideally, the essential elements will be incorporated in a statement that reflects the reviewer’s own mode of thinking and writing as well as the book’s individual character.

At the same time, we ask reviewers to keep a number of points in mind:

  • Selection librarians work very quickly. Please craft verdicts that helps them make selection decisions. The kind of verdicts we hope to offer are informative and evaluative. For example: VERDICT There are plenty of birding books but this one stands out for the clarity of its prose, the high quality of its illustrations, and its sheer readability. Plan for this to become a hit in your collection; birders will love it.
  • Libraries are working with limited funds. If a book is a marginal purchase in a sea of similar titles, please say so. If a book stands out, please indicate that and briefly explain why. If there are few other existing books on the topic, that fact should be noted.
  • A book that makes a significant contribution to literature, to scholarship, or to the understanding of contemporary issues should be identified clearly.
  • Fiction requires an indication of the book’s appeal characteristics (pacing, levels and skills of characterization, setting, tone, writing style), of how it understands genre conventions, of the reading experience, and of the book’s likely popularity.

To a large degree, the book’s purpose will determine the reviewing approach. For example, a reference book requires a detailed account of its features and usefulness; a literary translation requires comment on its accuracy and felicity; a social science monograph, discussion of the validity and implications of the findings; an illustrated popular history should not be expected to offer new insights to scholars, but neither should it contain inaccuracies, betray ignorance of current scholarship, or merely duplicate other library holdings. A work of fiction or poetry lends itself to its own terms.

We ask for special attention to accuracy in reviews: spellings of names and places should be double checked, and personal pronouns (of characters, of the author) should be confirmed against publisher/author materials. An assertion that a book is filled with errors should be supported with examples. We ask reviewers to double-check all factual statements they make in a review (e.g., that the book is the first on the topic). Given space limitations, quotes are not ideal in most reviews, with a special exception for poetry. When quotes are used, they should be checked against the text.

Reviews are edited in a multi-step process that begins with your editor but includes editing by the entire LJ Book Review staff. While it is our policy to edit only to the extent needed, reviews may be reorganized or condensed, and text may be added for clarification or to include required elements left out of the review (such as the last book by the author, an indication a fiction work is a debut), plus other changes to accord with LJ’s house style.

We cannot guarantee that every review submitted will be published. Because we appreciate the time and effort spent on each review, we do our best to exercise this editorial prerogative responsibly.


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