Book Reviews

Included in this section are serials whose primary content is reviews. For indexes to book reviews, see sec. G: Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts/Book Review Indexes.


American Reference Books Annual, [1970– ] (ARBA). Santa Barbara: Libs. Unlimited–ABC-Clio, 1970– . Annual. Z1035.1.A55 011′.02.

ARBAonline. Lib. Unlimited, n.d. 29 Dec. 2014. <>. Updated monthly.

Prints brief reviews (typically 150–400 words) of primarily English- and (beginning in vol. 41 [for 2010]) Spanish-language reference works (print and electronic) published or distributed in the United States or Canada (with decent coverage of the latter beginning in vol. 18 [1987]). Although claiming comprehensive coverage, ARBA actually overlooks or ignores each year a substantial number of major works within its scope. Reviews are organized in four extensively classified divisions: general reference works (organized by types of works, including bibliographies, biographical sources, directories, encyclopedias, and indexes), social sciences (including sections for ethnic studies and anthropology, genealogy, history, library science, publishing and bookselling, and women’s studies), humanities (including general works; language and linguistics; literature; mythology, folklore, and popular culture; and performing arts), and science and technology. The literature section has subdivisions for general works, children’s literature, drama, fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and national literatures (with each of the national literatures having sections, as needed, for general works, genres, and individual authors). Some reviews conclude with citations to others in library journals. Two indexes: authors and titles; subjects. Cumulative indexes: Joseph W. Sprug, Index to American Reference Books Annual, 1970–1974: A Cumulative Index to Subjects, Authors, and Titles (1974; 364 pp.); Christine L. Wynar, 1975–1979 (1979; 407 pp.); Ruth Blackmore, 1980–1984 (1984; 402 pp.); Anna Grace Patterson, comp., 1985–1989 (1989; 275 pp.); Patterson, comp., 1990–1994 (1994; 288 pp.); Susan D. Strickland, comp., 1995–1999 (1999; 346 pp.); Martin Dillon and Shannon Graff Hysell, comps., 2000–2004 (2004; 332 pp.); Hysell, comp., 2005–2009 (2009; 281 pp.).

ARBAonline includes reviews from vol. 28 (1997) forward, with new reviews added each month. Users can search by keyword, author or editor, ISBN or ISSN, publisher, subject, and title; searches can be limited to classified divisions and their subheadings (see above), ARBA volume, monthly update (important for those who want to keep current with new reference works; click the last search box in the ARBA Volume line for a pull-down menu), and publication date of the work reviewed. Users can also browse records by subject or by update. Results—which can be sorted by author or editor, publication date, publisher, ARBA volume, relevancy (called # of Terms), or title—can be saved to a list for printing (but not downloading or e-mailing), but each review must be printed separately. ARBAonline saves researchers from having to consult the individual print volumes and is more current than ARBA, but users who want to retrieve more than a couple records will justifiably chafe at having to print (or save through a Web browser) one review at a time.

Although the quality of the reviews has improved a bit over the years, too many remain essentially descriptive, and many that attempt evaluation are simply inaccurate or insufficiently rigorous. In recent volumes, too many reviews are by the editor or an unidentified staff reviewer. Omitting too many significant publications within its scope and insufficiently rigorous in evaluations, ARBA is primarily useful for alerting researchers to some new reference books and to changes in serial ones (which are examined at intervals).

Selected reviews are reprinted in Best Reference Books, 1970–1980: Titles of Lasting Value Selected from American Reference Books Annual , ed. Susan Holte and Bohdan S. Wynar (1981; 480 pp.); 1981–1985, ed. Wynar (1986; 504 pp.); and 1986–1990, ed. Wynar (1992; 544 pp.). None fulfills the claim of the works’ common title and subtitle.


Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. 1964– . 12/yr. Z1035.C5 028.

Choice Reviews Online. Assn. of College and Research Lib., 2013. 21 Feb. 2014. <>. Updated monthly.

A selection guide for libraries, each issue prints approximately 600 brief notices of English-language books published or distributed in North America (for the most part), electronic resources, a few new journals, and some nonprint materials. (For a full statement of the selection policy, see Most issues also feature an extended bibliographical essay on a topic of current interest, and the January issue lists “Outstanding Academic Titles” drawn from works reviewed during the past year. The notices, which have been signed only since vol. 22 (1984), are organized by subject areas, including the humanities, language and literature (classified by language), performing arts (with sections for film and theater), and reference works (although coverage of the last is weak). Two indexes in each issue (authors; titles); annual cumulative index.

Reviews since January 1988 can be searched through Choice Reviews Online, whose interface is a vast improvement over the one used by Individual issues can be searched by keyword. Advanced Search allows for combinations of searches by keyword (author or editor, ISBN, LC number, publisher, Choice review number, and name or affiliation of reviewer), subject area (see above), readership level, recommendation level, copyright year, format, LC classification range, interdisciplinary categories, outstanding academic title, and Choice issue. Users can also search features (e.g., bibliographic essays, editorials, and letters to the editor) published since 2006.

The notices are too seldom by recognized scholars, reviewers are allowed insufficient space for more than a cursory report, and too many important books are ignored or overlooked. Nonetheless, the sheer number of publications noticed, coupled with the abundance of publishers’ advertisements, makes Choice one of the better sources for identifying new and forthcoming English-language books published in North America.

Current Choice reviews are included in Books in Print (Q4225). MLA members have access to Choice Reviews Online through the MLA member page at


TLS: Times Literary Supplement (TLS). 1902– . Weekly. Former title: Times Literary Supplement (1902–68). AP4.T45 072′.1.

TLS Archive. TLS: The Times Literary Supplement. Times Literary Supplement, 2011. 26 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated weekly.

TLS Historical Archive, 1902– . Gale-Cengage, n.d. 26 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated annually.

Publishes reviews of books in a variety of fields (but with a decided emphasis on the humanities, especially literature) and, in recent years, of art exhibitions, television programs, movies, operas, and productions of plays; occasional essays on literary and other topics; a lively, sometimes contentious, letters section; reports on book auctions; and requests for information from biographers, editors, and other scholars (with much fewer appearing in recent years). Since 7 June 1974, reviews are signed. Long regarded as the best general review publication, TLS is valuable for its broad, literate coverage; however, it sometimes still betrays a British bias, the quality of reviews and qualifications of reviewers vary considerably, and the occasional reference work accorded space is rarely subjected to rigorous examination. Author index in each issue. TLS Archive, which begins with 1994 and is free to TLS subscribers, excludes advertisements and some copyrighted material. Users can search by keyword, author, title, contributor, or ISBN. TLS Historical Archive, which identifies many of the anonymous contributors, can be searched in Search (which allows a keyword or full-text search to be limited by date) and in Advanced Search (which allows a search of keyword, full text, article title, book title, author, contributor, illustrator, editor, translator, and record number to be limited by date and article type). In addition, users can browse by issue. (Historical Archive supersedes TLS Centenary Archive [], which covers 1902–90.) Those without access to the Archives will have to consult the print indexes: the Times Index (M1450; coverage begins with 1973); Times Literary Supplement Index, 1902–1939, 2 vols. (Reading: Newspaper Archive Developments, 1978); 1940–1980, 3 vols. (Reading: Research, 1982); and 1981–1985 (1986; 407 pp.).

For the history of the weekly, see Derwent May, Critical Times: The History of the Times Literary Supplement (London: Harper, 2001; 606 pp.).

Times Higher Education (1971–, weekly) also reviews a number of books of interest to literature researchers.