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Recommended Reading List Assignment: New Directions in American Literature
Use this guide to get started with your research for ENGL 383: Post-1965 Ethnic Literature
This assignment asks you to develop a recommended reading list of new or recent literary works relevant to a theme, topic, or aesthetic/structural dimension of American literature raised in the course. To identify literary works for your list, you'll need to gather and consult a variety of book reviews.
This guide will help you find contemporary, professional reviews appearing in major newspapers, magazines and journals, using library databases, print resources, and websites.
Definitions: What is a book review?
Book reviews typically offer an opinion of a book’s quality or value rather than an in-depth analysis of the work, and tend to be shorter than literary criticism. Reviews are usually written by critics at or near the time of a book’s publication.
Literary criticism is the scholarly evaluation and critical analysis of literature. It can be written at any time, even centuries after the publication of the literature it critiques. This critical assessment is often found in scholarly journals or books and usually changes and develops over time.
Why are we looking for book reviews?
Reviews are important tools for evaluating newer works and generally try to answer the question "Should I read this book?" Book reviews can also give you a sense of the initial reaction to, and reception of, a book in its cultural moment.
Read the following book review of Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones published in Callaloo. What kind of information is contained in the review? What is the author's evaluation of Ward's text?
Johnson, Andy. "Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (review)." Callaloo, vol. 39 no. 2, 2016, pp. 493-495.
Searching for Book Reviews
To find a book review, you would typically search by the author's name, title of the book, and/or the date of publication. For this assignment, you may start by searching for keywords/concepts related to your group's chosen theme or topic. Once you've identified a potential selection for your list, search for additional reviews by title and author.
When using databases, limit your results when you can to the document type "book review" or "review".
Don't restrict your search to just one source! There are significant differences in content, date ranges, and full-text availability among the resources featured on this page. Additionally, you'll want to consult several reviews of each book under consideration to make a more balanced evaluation.
Review Publications for Literary Works
Reviews of literary works can be found in a variety of places. Here are some publications to start with for reviews of contemporary literature.
New York Times Book Review
A weekly magazine featuring book reviews, articles, author interviews and book excerpts. If you have registered for your NYT account (free for Puget Sound students!), sign up for the weekly newsletter!
New York Review of Books
Archive of issues from 1963 to the present.
Los Angeles Review of Books
LARB publishes new reviews, essays, and interviews online every day, as well as a print journal.
General-interest monthly magazine that publishes a wide range of content, including book reviews.
A bi-monthly American book review magazine.
The Women's Review of Books
Features essays and in-depth reviews of new books by and about women.
The Black Book Review
National book review publication exclusively dedicated to books about the black experience.
Databases for Book Reviews
Many of the databases that the library subscribes to include book reviews alongside journal articles and other documents. Below is a list of some of the most useful databases for finding book reviews in the popular press, literary magazines, and elsewhere.
Literature Resource Center
Includes publications such as Library Journal, The New Statesman, Publisher's Weekly, and many more. Use the advanced search and limit the content type to "Reviews and News".
Literature Criticism Online
Includes overviews by topic, author, and work, as well as excerpts from articles, books, and essays written by scholars. Use the advanced search and limit the content type to "Reviews and News".
MLA International Bibliography
The key database for identifying sources on modern literature in all languages.
Academic Search Premier
A multidisciplinary database containing full text journal, magazine & newspaper articles. Use the advanced search and select the document type "Book Review".
An interdisciplinary journal archive. Use the advanced search and narrow by item type "Reviews".
Interdisciplinary database with a focus on humanities and social science. Run your search and then filter your results by "Reviews".
Online sources are often easy to access and search. However, sometimes print resources offer better coverage for a specific information need. Book review indexes can be arranged chronologically, by subject, or alphabetically by author or title and provide you with detailed, accurate citations for published reviews. Search the newspaper, magazine, or journal title in Primo to locate the full-text of the review.
Book Review Index by
Call Number: Z1035.A1 B6 Reference
Provides access to reviews of books and other media. More than 600 publications are indexed, including journals, general interest publications, and newspapers. Coverage: 1965-2018.
Book Review Digest
Call Number: Z1219 .C96 Reference
Book Review Digest contains excerpts and indicates the size of many reviews. Reviews are listed alphabetically by authors of books reviewed, with indexes by title and subject. Coverage: 1906-1982.
There are many places where you can find book reviews online. For this assignment, stick to websites that provide professional reviews of books rather than reader reviews (such as those found on Amazon or Goodreads). A few options are listed below.
Arts & Letters Daily
ALD links to articles, book reviews, and essays on topics related to literature and the arts. Check out the resources for book review on the left side menu.
An online community for literary culture that also aggregates book reviews from a variety of sources.
An online magazine offering coverage on books, arts, and culture since 2003.
The New Yorker
NY's website features the full contents of each week’s magazine.
Reviews and interviews with authors.
Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review
Reviews and interviews with authors from Amazon Books editors.
Publisher's Weekly Reviews
A trade magazine for the publishing industry, this magazine reports on publishing trends and new book deals.
Your recommended reading list should consist of these parts:
Complete citation for each literary text
- Provide an overview of the book in a few sentences. Don't just summarize the plot! What is the essence of the work? Its major themes? Style? What are its most interesting characteristics?
- Evaluate the overall quality of the book. What are the book's strengths and limitations? What is its contribution to contemporary American literature? How does it relate to other texts on your list?
- Assess the significance of the text within your list. Does it provide readers with new insights about your topic?
Write the annotation in complete sentences. If you quote text from one of your sources, cite it. The average length of an annotation is about 100-150 words.