Why – and how – to be a book reviewer

A conversation with reviews editor Marit Hammond on the review process for ‘Environmental Politics‘.

As a reviews editor for EP, what do you look for in a book review? 

We find that the most interesting book reviews are those that tell us both something broad and something deep about the book in question. Broad in the sense of contextualising where the book fits with previous literature and the field of environmental politics as a whole; what is its contribution and significance? Deep in the sense of perhaps picking one or two particularly interesting points from the book and describing these in a bit more detail. Both of these are things a potential reader of the book couldn’t glean from just the book publisher’s website or from the table of contents; as a result, they are the things that make book reviews valuable to readers of our journal. What we explicitly do not want are reviews in the form of a linear, superficial, chapter-by-chapter summary of a book. 

What do book reviewers get out of the process? 

Besides a complimentary copy of the book, I’d say what’s in it for anyone is an extra push to read and reflect on a book within their area of interest in some depth, in some sense situating themselves and speaking to the book author through the review; and for early career academics especially, a fairly straightforward publication to bulk out the CV and a way of signalling interest in, or belonging to, a specific subfield of the discipline.

Can authors pitch book reviews to you?

We are always very glad to receive emails from prospective book reviewers suggesting a book to us. It means we are made aware of an interesting new book that we may not yet have come across, and we don’t have to find a suitable reviewer ourselves. Please do always get in touch with us first before writing your review, though: We can then check that we haven’t already solicited a review of the same book from somebody else, and that it is a suitable book for the journal, of course.

Is there anything else to bear in mind? 

People may not be aware that we are using a very broad definition of ‘book’! We are interested in reviews not just of academic books as such, but also other media that have something interesting to offer to the field of environmental politics. For example, we have published reviews of art projects about environmental issues before, and would consider fiction books or films with particular relevance to the field. We are also open to experimenting with new formats, including reviews of multiple books together (for which you are granted a more generous word limit, too).

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