Database Highlight: Book Review Digest Plus

In this post we feature Book Review Digest Plus, a valuable source for finding book reviews on virtually every subject.  The database contains more than 900,000 full text book reviews and more than two million citations to book reviews drawn from thousands of indexed newspapers, scholarly journals, and popular magazines.  Reviews cover works of fiction and non-fiction for adults, young adults, and children, and date back to 1981.

Book reviews are useful for quickly evaluating books you are considering for your research. They can also help you gauge the critical reception of older works when they were initially published and help you get a feel for the scholarship in your field during that time period.  And, as noted in the Information-Literate Historian, reading reviews can help you develop your research skills as well (Presnell, 38).  Learning to read actively and to critically evaluate texts will help enormously as you write up your own research and engage in the scholarly conversation around your topic.

Reviews in popular sources like newspapers and magazines will usually appear shortly after a book is published and contain a brief summary and critical assessment of the work to help you decide whether or not you want to read it.  Reviews in scholarly publications, on the other hand, may appear years after a work is published.  They are often written for people who have already read the work and who are interested in a thorough analysis of the text – its thesis, arguments, and sources consulted – and how it compares to other works on the subject.

Searching Book Review Digest Plus on a book’s title or author will yield two types of results:  Reviews and “Master” book records.  You can browse through all of the search results immediately or limit to Reviews or Books by selecting from the search facets on the left side of the screen.

Book records provide full bibliographic details for a title, including Author, Publisher, Publication Year, Number of Pages, Library of Congress and Dewey Classification numbers, Subjects, Abstract, Notes, ISBN, etc.  Click on “Reviews of this Title” directly from the book record to see all of the reviews of the work in the database, whether full text, abstracts, or citations for reviews.  At the bottom of the book record screen, click on links to find “Similar Books,” or “Other Books by this Author.”

A search for Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (with the title in quotes), for example, turns up 36 Reviews and 4 Book records.  One of the four book records contains an abstract; otherwise they are virtually identical.  [As you have no doubt noticed in your own database searching, duplicate results sometimes appear.]  Clicking on “Reviews of this Title” brings up the 36 reviews.  The “Publication” facet on the left side of the screen shows that the book was reviewed in a wide range of journals, from African Business to The New York Times Book Review to Women & Environments International Magazine.  Click to access full text, where available, or follow the blue Find it! @ CUNY buttons to find full text or request the article via Interlibrary Loan.

If you are looking for reviews of older works, see Book Review Digest Retrospective, which contains over 41,000 full text book reviews, nearly 1.5 million citations for book reviews, and Master book records for the reviewed titles.  Coverage spans the years 1903 to 1982.

Book Review Digest Plus and Book Review Digest Retrospective are just two sources for book reviews available from the GC Library.  You can also find them in Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, Project Muse, and most subject-specific databases.  Check the Research Guide in your subject area to find recommended resources.

All of these resources are available to the GC community by logging in with your network credentials.  Happy searching!

About the Author

Donna Davey is an Adjunct Reference Librarian at the Graduate Center Library.