Book Review Indexes

Bibliographies of Bibliographies


Gray, Richard A., comp. A Guide to Book Review Citations: A Bibliography of Sources. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1968. 223 pp. Ohio State U Libs. Pubs. 2. Z1035.A1 G7 016.0281.

A bibliography of serial bibliographies and indexes, closed bibliographies, and other works (through the mid-1960s) that cite reviews from more than one periodical. The 512 entries are organized by author or title in nine variously classified subject divisions: general works (including general book review indexes); philosophy and psychology; religion; social sciences (with a section for anthropology and folklore); ancient, Asian, and African civilizations; modern languages, philology, and literature; geography and history; fine arts (with sections for the performing arts and theater and drama); and science and technology. In the language and literature division, sections for general indexes, comparative literature, and periods are followed by sections for various languages, with that for English subdivided by period. Additions are printed on pp. 194–97. Annotations first describe the general scope of a work, then the organization of review citations. Five indexes: subjects; persons who are the subjects of bibliographies; titles; works indexing reviews before 1900 and before 1800; country of origin (listing works that review or cite periodicals published in a single country). The lack of headings for sections leaves readers unable to skim effectively or locate a work easily, but the full descriptions and international coverage make Gray an indispensable guide to identifying sources that index reviews. A revised, updated edition that evaluates sources is badly needed, however.

Supplemented by Donald Altschiller and Sarah G. Wenzel, “Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online,” Reference and User Services Quarterly 42.3 (2003): 193–98, 200–05.


Book review indexes are essential tools for locating reviews of a book and tracing the critical reception of an author or work. Unfortunately, there is no adequate current index of reviews of belles lettres or of books on literary and linguistic topics. Most vendors of collections of electronic journals fail to identify adequately book reviews in tables of contents: some merely use the label book reviews, others cite reviewer and short title (sometimes within brackets to distinguish a review from an article), and yet others make no distinction between a book review and an article.


Book Review Index. Detroit: Gale-Cengage, 1965–69, 1972– . 3/yr., with annual cumulation and ones for 1965–84, 1985–92, 1993–97, and 1998–2002. Z1035.A1.B6. <>.

An index of reviews of books and serials in about 400 (as of March 2013) newspapers, library and popular periodicals, and scholarly journals. Books reviewed are listed by author or editor; periodicals and some reference works, by title; all are included in the title index. Although Book Review Index lists numerous brief mentions and uncritical summaries and at one time covered few serials that offer substantial and substantive evaluations of scholarly books, it is the best source for identifying reviews of creative works and thus for tracing their critical reception; recent volumes have substantially increased the number of reviews of scholarly books.

Reviews since 1965 can be searched online through four search screens: Author [of book] Guide; Title Guide; Advanced Search; Journal Search. Searches in each can be limited to full-text reviews and by date, journal, type of review, length of review, reading level of book reviewed, and form (e.g., blog); in addition, Advanced Search allows record field searches to be limited by reviewer, publisher, and other record fields. Records are returned in descending order by date of review.

Entries for children’s books are repeated in Children’s Book Review Index (U5495), but this clone and two cumulations—Book Review Index: Reference Books, 1965–1984 (1986; 700 pp.) and Book Review Index: Periodical Reviews, 1976–1984 (1987; 295 pp.)—are hardly essential for those with access to the 1965–84 cumulation.

To locate reviews before 1965, see Book Review Digest (New York: Wilson, 1905– ; 10/yr., with annual cumulation). Because of its weak coverage of the humanities, limited scope (currently, about 109 periodicals, many of them popular), and numerous restrictions—in many volumes books must be published or distributed in the United States, reviews must appear within 18 months of publication, a nonfiction work must have two reviews (fiction, three) in the periodicals indexed, at least one review must be published in the United States—Book Review Digest is more useful for identifying reviews of popular fiction and nonfiction than scholarly works. Since brief excerpts from three or four reviews are reprinted and citations indicate the approximate number of words, users are generally spared from searching out the brief uncritical summaries. Cumulatively indexed in Author/Title Index, 1905–1974, ed. Leslie Dunmore-Leiber, 4 vols. (1976); 1975–1984, ed. Robert E. Klaum (1986; 1,488 pp.); and 1985–1994, ed. Martha T. Mooney (1996; 1,261 pp.). Entries can be searched most efficiently through Book Review Digest Plus (; updated daily), which expands coverage of the print version to include reviews indexed in several other Wilson publications and the full text of many reviews, and Book Review Digest Retrospective: 1905–1982 ( Entries, which bring together all reviews under a citation to the book reviewed, can be searched by such fields as keyword, title, author, reviewer, and ISBN. (For a full discussion of the EBSCO search interface, see entry I512.)


Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Humanities Journals, 1802–1974. Ed. Evan Ira Farber et al. 10 vols. Woodbridge: Research, 1982–84. Z6265.C65 [AZ221] 001.3.

An index to reviews in about 150 philosophy, classics, folklore, linguistics, music, and (primarily) literature journals, all but a few of them published in English in Great Britain or North America. Although the criteria determining the choice of journals are never revealed, most of the important literature journals are indexed. The work excludes brief summaries or annotated listings, and—unfortunately—review articles whose titles do not cite the books reviewed. Organized alphabetically by primary authors or editors and then by book titles, reviews are listed by journal title and cite publication information and reviewer. Users searching for anything other than a single-author monograph should begin with the title index (vol. 10) because names are not thoroughly edited for consistency, critical editions are inconsistently entered under author or editor, authors are confused (see, e.g., Robert Herrick), reference works are usually listed by primary editor, and there are no cross-references. Unfortunately, there are numerous omissions of reviews in journals that are supposedly fully indexed. Although flawed in organization and untrustworthy in coverage, Combined Retrospective Index is undeniably valuable as the only source offering retrospective indexing of reviews in a significant number of scholarly humanities journals. For reviews published between 1960 and 1974, Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities (G425) usually offers fuller, more accurate indexing. Researchers should also check ABELL (G340) for reviews of scholarly books.

Some additional reviews can be found in Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Scholarly Journals, 1886–1974, ed. Evan Ira Farber, 15 vols. (Arlington: Carrollton, 1979–82), which indexes about one million reviews in 459 scholarly periodicals in history, political science, and sociology.


An Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities, [1960–89]. 30 vols. Williamstown: Thomson, 1960–90. Annual. Z1035.A1 I63 028.1.

An index to reviews in scholarly journals devoted to literature (primarily), language, philosophy, the arts, travel, biography, dance, folklore, and sports and pastimes. Coverage underwent a major change with vol. 12 (for 1971): history and social science journals were dropped; journals in major foreign languages were added; the emphasis became more literary; and except for those of children’s books, all reviews—not just of humanities books—were indexed. Organized for the most part by author or editor—but occasionally by title for some reference works, with cross-references for compilers or editors—entries cite title and reviews. (Since names of authors are taken from reviews and not edited for consistency, users must check all forms of a name, including pseudonyms.) An asterisk following a title indicates that reviews are cited in the preceding volume. Since most review citations identify journals by a number code (with many omitting the MLAIB [G335] acronym that the compiler claims to use when possible) and cite date but not volume number, users must continually flip to the prefatory list of journals (and issues) indexed and then waste time hunting out issues by date rather than the more convenient volume number. Although it omits numerous important journals, is difficult to scan in the volumes printed from uppercase computer printout, is inconsistent in covering titles, and lacks an adequate statement of criteria governing the selection of journals, Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities was by far the best, most trustworthy source for locating scholarly reviews of books on language and literature; its demise leaves no remotely adequate index to reviews of scholarly books in the two fields.


IBR-Online. De Gruyter Online. de Gruyter, 2011– . 11 Mar. 2013 <>. Updated monthly.

Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlicher Literatur / International Bibliography of Book Reviews of Scholarly Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences (IBR). Berlin: de Gruyter–Saur, 1971– . Title varies. Z5051.I64 [AS9] 001.2.

A database of more than 1,300,000 reviews published since c. 1984 of books primarily in the social sciences and humanities; according to the publisher, approximately 90% are in English or German, and the remainder in other European languages. In the Search screen users can limit keyword searches of the full text or of the following fields: book author, reviewer, book title, journal, subject heading, broad classification, year of publication, publisher, or ISSN. Results can be sorted by year of publication of reviews, book title, book author, or relevance (avoid this option when dealing with large numbers of records). Records can be marked for e-mailing, printing, sharing, or saving, but they must saved one at a time. Although not an especially sophisticated interface, it is far superior to the original one, which caused most users to exit in frustration before extracting anything.

The print version indexes reviews (published since c. 1969) in journals devoted to the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Coverage extends to more than 10,000 journals published worldwide, excluding only those in Asian languages; until vol. 27 (1996) coverage extended to all topics (and included reviews of belles lettres). The last few half-year parts of the print version have four divisions:

  1. books reviewed (organized by author, with a full citation for the book and a list of reviews but, unfortunately, with periodical titles keyed by number to the periodicals indexed); the next three indexes are keyed to this one

  2. reviewers

  3. titles of books reviewed

  4. periodicals

The work is needlessly complicated and time-consuming to use, since a researcher must consult two indexes to locate all publication information for a review. The criteria governing selection of journals and reviews have never been explained; coverage of a journal is often erratic and issues incompletely indexed; and the compilation procedures and editing hardly inspire confidence in the accuracy and thoroughness. However, the breadth of coverage—the most wide-ranging of any single index—makes IBR a useful complement to the other review indexes in this section.

IBR continues Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur, Abteilung C: Bibliographie der Rezensionen, [1900–1943], 77 vols. (Osnabrück: Dietrich, 1901–44), which inconsistently covers non-German periodicals.

See also

Sec. G: Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts/Serial Bibliographies/General Bibliographies.

ABELL (G340): Coverage of reviews is neither thorough nor consistent, however.

Index to Book Reviews in Religion (U6350a).

Index to Reviews of Bibliographical Publications (U5275a).