Guidelines for book reviewers

There is no rigid format for book reviews, but there are general guidelines that should be followed.

It is important to remember that a review is not the same as a summary.  A summary is simply a factual account of the content whereas the primary purpose of a review is to enable the reader to benefit from the experience of the reviewer in determining whether or not to read the publication.


The header of your review should include the title, authors, publishers, date of publication, number of pages and details of the book in the order and format indicated in the example below: 

Forest Landscape Ecology: Transferring knowledge to practice

A.H Perera, J.B. Buse and T.R. Crow

Springer, 2014, 224 pages, ISBN-10: 0387342427, £77.00


The review should be between 500 and 1000 words.

Points to cover

  • The intended audience. Who is the book aimed at? What level of experience is needed use the information in the book effectively? Who will find it most useful?

  • The background of the author(s) in relation to the publication.

  • The context or impetus for the book - e.g. political controversy, review research or policy, etc.

  • Summarise the content. What is the book about? What is the scope? Is the title accurate?

  • For edited books: dominant themes with reference to specific chapters as appropriate; and implications of the book for research, policy, practice, or theory.

  • A comparison with other works on this subject.  Is there an existing publication which already covers the same ground?

  • Is the book readable as well as technically accurate?

  • What is the expected life of the book, i.e. is it an up-to-date account that will no longer be relevant in two year’s time, or do you expect it will be a classic that will be referred to for many years.

  • What's missing from the book?

Points to remember

  • Readers of the review may not be as familiar with jargon or acronyms as you so use them sparingly and explain them where necessary.

  • Comparisons with other publications are encouraged but in doing so it is particularly important to be careful to make sure that such comparisons are not unduly critical of either publication. 

  • It is important to remember that the reviewer has a duty to report accurately their views on the book.  This means that if it is poor, you must make it clear that this is the case and explain why. 

  • Most readers will want to know whether or not you would recommend they read the publication. You can provide this information either directly in a statement, or indirectly through the comments that you have made in your review – but make sure the reader is left in no doubt on this point.

  • Finally, please refrain from the temptation to highlight minor, unimportant issues such as the occasional typographic error, or an obscure point of fact or opinion in which you feel the authors are incorrect.