Reviewers of the Year 2016

A huge thank you to all our contributors, and special recognition to those who made this year even more outstanding. Interested in joining the LJ reviewing team? Click on the article for further details.
janwebartrevyear4Michael Dashkin, New York, NY

Michael Dashkin, arts reviewer extraordinaire, has pulled my, er, fat out of the fire more than a few times. When I came on board at LJ three-plus years ago and “inherited” him as fine arts specialist, I couldn’t know that he’d become invaluable, a go-to guy for well-considered arts roundups, a trusted adviser in art and curating trends, and a rock-solid reviewer who never missed a deadline. All I saw at the outset were his spreadsheet credentials: “Photography, contemporary art (of the last 20–30 years), any 20th-century art.” Since that first glimpse at an Excel database, I’d add perceptive, aware, erudite observer, scrupulous chronicler, arts expert, and fabulous suggester (yeah, that’s a thing). And this one bears repeating: “never misses a deadline.” Thanks for the past three years, M-dash, here’s to many more.—Liz French

“I’ve been reviewing fine arts and photography titles for LJ for 15 years, and it’s still a thrill to receive these beautifully designed books in the mail. It’s always a challenge to write about artists’ work and curators’ interpretations, but I love it. I draw on my studies in studio art as well as my MLS and crazy-quilt library career experiences, ranging from a theological seminary library to a historical photo archive to market research work in corporate knowledge centers. To me, the medium of photography is endlessly fascinating and wonderful. Art books, and especially exhibition catalogs, are like portable museums. They make it possible for people to experience art anywhere, beyond gallery walls. I hope my reviews encourage acquisitions librarians to purchase fine art titles. Art books can be expensive! So, for lots of people, borrowing them from libraries may be their only opportunity to read them.”
  janwebartrevyear2Melissa DeWild, Director, BookOps, Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library Since 2012, Melissa DeWild has been my go-to Santa’s little helper, cheerfully reviewing the annual flood of Christmas fiction for our holiday fiction roundup (LJ 10/15/16). From skewering the sweetest of holiday treacle to discovering new Christmas classics, Melissa’s reviews have helped her fellow librarians find the best of the best for their patrons. But she is no one-trick pony. In the area of mysteries and thrillers, Melissa has identified such promising newcomers as Ausma Zehanat Khan, praising her debut mystery, The Unquiet Dead, as “hauntingly powerful.” And she’s unafraid to point out the flaws in the works of popular authors such as Caleb Carr’s Surrender, New York, noting that “tirades against TV forensics shows...occasionally bog down the engrossing mystery.” Melissa, indeed, is a reviewer for all seasons.—Wilda Williams “For the past few years, Christmas has arrived early for me, as holiday fiction books start piling up on my doorstep in July. I immerse myself in snowy scenes during the warmest two months of the year in order to have a holiday roundup ready for LJ’s October 15 issue. The rest of the year’s reading is filled with mysteries and thrillers and an occasional women’s fiction title. As a selector, I rely on LJ reviews, so it was an honor to be invited to contribute my own reviews, which are hopefully helping other selectors. The absolute best part of reviewing, though, is that I am continually introduced to fantastic new authors and titles that I might not have picked up otherwise.”
  janwebartrevyear7Robert Eagan, Windsor Public Library, Ontario Though I was a little daunted when I first took on the task of editing science and technology reviews earlier this year, having Robert Eagan on my roster has helped make my responsibilities a joy. From the very first book I assigned him, Ted Levin’s America’s Snake, I knew Robert was going to be a reviewer to depend on, and he’s more than delivered, covering a bevy of zoology and environmental titles. Whether writing about venomous creatures, the domestic dog, climate change, the Great Lakes, or bees, Robert is always insightful, decisive, and articulate. I can’t imagine editing science reviews without him!—Mahnaz Dar “I’ve worked as a librarian for 25 years and been involved with LJ for nearly 15. I have had the good fortune of working with some wonderful editors—gentle, patient editors: Wilda Williams, Raya Kuzyk, Margaret Heilbrun, Henrietta Verma, and, lately, Mahnaz Dar. They’ve sent a lot of great books my way and allowed me to write a couple of LJ’s collection development pieces. I find reviewing to be a healthy challenge: to read, understand, and then evaluate a book that might well be an author’s life’s work in fewer than 200 words. And to make deadline (or, at least, try). When all goes well, it is very satisfying; it can also be rather unnerving—the first book I was assigned was on gardening by none other than His Eminence (egad!) Christopher Lloyd. I have really enjoyed my time with LJ and hope to continue the association long after I’ve left libraryland.”
  janwebartrevyear6Elizabeth Hayford, formerly with Associated College of the Midwest, Evanston, IL Elizabeth Hayford is, to put it simply, an excellent reviewer. In the roughly four decades she has been reviewing for LJ—including the nearly four years that I’ve been lucky enough to be her editor—she’s been an important part of the reviewer team, sharing her expert knowledge of the Middle East and higher education. Elizabeth makes it easy to be an editor—her reviews are consistently on time, well reasoned, and well written—and I know that anything I send to her will receive fair, expert critique. She’s smart, great to work with, and I’m so happy to celebrate her here.—Amanda Mastrull “I began writing reviews for LJ in the 1970s, with the number varying according to other professional responsibilities. After my retirement ten years ago, I increased the number and range of reviews, working on two broad topics: Middle Eastern history and politics and higher education. The Middle East was my focus in graduate school, and the variety of books from LJ provided an opportunity to keep current. After working for a group of colleges for many years and now teaching higher education administration, I began to review higher education titles, currently a topic almost as controversial as the Middle East. One of the pleasures of reviewing is receiving the wide assortment of books, some of which I would never have chosen voluntarily, but most of which have turned out to be interesting and well written. Saying something useful in a review the length of a single paragraph is both challenging and rewarding, and the support and encouragement of LJ editors have made this decades-long effort worthwhile and satisfying.”
  janwebartrevyear3Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC From the moment Terry Hong began reviewing for me, she proved herself to be indispensable. She’s smart, knowledgeable, dedicated, eloquent, and passionate when writing about fiction. But her expertise doesn’t stop there. Terry is so energetic that she soon leaped to reviewing performing arts titles for Senior Editor Liz French and audiobooks for Media Editor and Reviews Manager Stephanie Klose. Her audiobook assignments range far; a recent column had her tackling Fiona Barton’s The Widow, Jessica Chiarella’s And Again, and Howard Jacobson’s Shylock Is My Name. So it’s no surprise that as I was picking her as my Fiction Reviewer of the Year, Stephanie saw her as the “obvious choice” for her Audio Reviewer of the Year. Proof that, as Liz says, “Terry is great in all fields!” Whatever the subject, Terry brings a special skills set to her task. She’s deeply committed to diversity in literature for both adults and children. She created and ably sustains Smithsonian BookDragon, a multicultural book review blog for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; has served on the U.S. Board on Books for Young People Outstanding International Books List, chairing the 2016 committee; and is active in We Need Diverse Books. As such, her value to the library community is immeasurable. When reviewing fiction for me, Terry always demonstrates deep scholarship, expanding our understanding and appreciation of Asian and Asian American literature as she wisely and enthusiastically recommends some titles and carefully critiques others. She often reviews two or three books at a time and tells me what’s important to review. I’ve learned so much from her, whether she’s explaining the complexities of Haruki Murakami’s translation history, introducing amazing Korean authors Han Kang and Shin Kyung-sook, championing new American writers Celeste Ng and Krys Lee, exchanging impressions of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, tackling big-name writers Ha Jin and Chang-Rae Lee, or making sure I assign small-press up-and-comers Bae Suah and Sonya Chung. “I am never, ever without a book,” explains Terry. “I’ve got one either in my hands or loaded on my (not-so-smart) phone. I’ve given myself a concussion reading, banging head first into a stop sign while walking to work. When I started training for ultramarathons, books made thousands of miles fly by. I can’t imagine my life without stories—so how lucky am I to have fabulous editors who keep my eyeballs and my ears so entertained and enriched!” Don’t worry, Terry, we will always be sure you have lots and lots of books.—Barbara Hoffert
  janwebartrevyear1Douglas Rednour, Georgia State University Library, Atlanta It was mid-2015, and I was living under an avalanche of horror films. LJ reviews editor Stephanie Klose mentioned that reviewer Cliff Landis from Georgia State University had a colleague, Douglas Rednour, who was interested in reviewing for LJ in the categories of manga and/or movies. In a follow-up missive from Doug, he made the very prescient and, to me, world-altering comment: “my favorites would be the genres of the fantastic (horror, sf, and fantasy).” Sold. Now, 30 exceptional DVD reviews later (including a composite of five giallo titles), along with innumerable emails in which we chat about old TV shows and he suggests performers I might enjoy, Doug Rednour has proven to be a godsend—horrors!—Bette-Lee Fox “I’ve been a horror-happy hooligan my whole life, so it was nothing short of outrageous fortune that led me to LJ to write about films of the dark fantastique under the excellent tutelage of Bette-Lee Fox. A distant crack of thunder cried out of the night as coffins of great spooky films began to crawl my way, each new package a wicked horn of plenty overflowing with mayhem, maniacs, and monsters that go bump in the night. It’s an honor to advocate for the horror genre, and I strive to choose great representatives of various subgenres, time periods, and styles illustrating the rich history and living tradition of filmic fright, going from the silent terror of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera to fearful art films like The Beast or Tenderness of the Wolves to modern horrors such as 10 Cloverfield Lane or Scherzo Diabolico. This glorious, joyful nightmare is one I hope never to wake up from.”
  janwebartrevyear5Josh Wallace, Tarleton State Univ. Lib., Stephenville, TX It took far less than four years for Josh to become a valuable asset to our team. My colleague Amanda Mastrull and I always appreciate the wealth of knowledge he brings to each and every review in his speciality areas, including historical and modern-day China, Japan, Vietnam, and North and South Korea. You may also notice his byline in the professional media section every now and then. Being a specialist in reference and instruction is a natural fit for Josh as his thoughtful and informative reviews always inspire me to learn more about a given subject. And thanks to his varied experience in everything from cataloging to collection development to management, Josh is always eager to learn about changes in the profession—while keeping me up-to-date as well. Thanks to four great years so far, Josh, and here’s to many more!—Stephanie Sendaula “Since 2012, I’ve had the honor of reviewing books for LJ, primarily in the fields of East Asian history and politics. I’m always excited when I get a new assignment. I enjoy the chance to learn new ideas, and the intellectual challenge of creating a succinct review of the book. This allows me the opportunity to keep up with trends in the subjects I’m most interested in and to provide a service to the library profession. If my reviews are of any value it is due to the influence of two professors at the University of Alabama: Ronald Robel, who first sparked my interest in Asian culture, and Howard Jones, who taught me how to write a concise book review.”
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Douglas Lord

Great work all you smart reviewers! ~ Doug Lord, RotY Class of 2001

Posted : Jan 06, 2017 03:21



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