Book Review Guidelines
Security Management solicits security experts to review newly published works in the topics of their specialty. If you would like to review a book, please contact Flora Szatkowski, book review editor (703-518-1464; [email protected]), to discuss upcoming titles slated for coverage.
The following guidelines are offered for consideration when writing a book review, but a reviewer should feel free to include any pertinent comments not covered here.
Purpose. The “Reviews” column is intended to help Security Management readers buy books intelligently; therefore, the review should not be a synopsis of the book but an analysis of it.
Length. Reviews should run approximately 500–600 words (or less if there is not that much substantive to say). Copy should be typed; e-mailed submissions, either as plain text attachments or within the body of the messages, are ideal, or use fax or mail.
Author information. Reviewers should include a brief biography, including current job title and any current ASIS volunteer positions, such as committee member or chapter chairman. Qualifications for reviewing the book should be noted.
Style. Reviews should be written in the third person. Instead of writing, “I would strongly recommend this book to security professionals,” the reviewer should write, “This book would be useful to any security professional.”
Structure. Avoid a chapter-by-chapter recapitulation of the book. That is the surest method of losing the reader’s interest, and reviewers’ most common mistake. Usually, a quick (one paragraph) overview of the book will suffice. Chapter descriptions should be included only if the chapter is novel, very well or poorly done, or otherwise noteworthy.
Focus. Tell the reader what the author’s focus is and whether the author achieved the intended goal of the book. For example, the thrust of the book may be to inform readers about products or technologies, to give an overall background understanding of the security industry, or to persuade readers into a particular line of thinking or method of operation. Other questions of importance that should be answered include: What are the specific ideas that support or refute the purpose of the book? Are they clear? Are they sufficiently substantiated by references, examples, and/or statistics? Does the author make unfounded claims or is the supporting material weak?
Remember: all statements about the book should be backed up by examples. If you contend in the review that the book has factual errors, make sure to say specifically what those are.
The reviewer should decide whether the book lives up to its purpose—does the author do what he or she claims to do, and if so, how well? Does the author cover tangential areas and muddy the focus? Does the author thoroughly cover the subject? If not, what is left out? Is the subject too broad? Does the author lack the necessary expertise?
Audience. A reviewer should ascertain the book’s audience—is it meant for the security professional or the security novice? Remember that writing for the latter is a worthy pursuit, if done effectively. Would the book appeal to practitioners, instructors, or consultants? Does the author write to the intended audience successfully?
Personal opinion. The reviewer must divorce his or her personal convictions from the book review. A reviewer may disagree with an author even though the book strongly supports and provides evidence for a particular way of thinking. A reviewer must never disregard a book’s merit simply because he or she disagrees with its premise. If the author makes a good case, give the author the credit due.
Quality. The most pertinent question for the reviewer to answer is whether the book is worthwhile. The reviewer should ascertain if the information presented is new or merely a recapitulation of old ideas. The reviewer should decide whether the book gives enduring information or whether the author merely selected a hot topic to make a fast buck.
The magazine does not shy away from negative reviews, but any negative comments must be anchored in supporting evidence. A book should not be called “a waste of time and money,” for example, without adequately explaining why. After all, several years’ work by an author should not be undone by an unsupported comment by a reviewer.
Stylistic features that hinder or help the presentation of information should be identified. For example, if the author has a lively style of writing that makes dry material easier to digest, that should be noted. A reviewer should also discuss the author’s organization of material, commenting on readability.
If noteworthy, supporting materials should be brought to the reader’s attention, and their help or hindrance to the book made clear. Supporting materials include tables, charts, graphs, bibliographies, drawings, photographs, and appendices.
Star ratings: Reviewers award zero to five stars to the book based on its overall quality and usefulness. Five stars means exceptional, three is average, one denotes poor, and zero is reserved for a worthless book. Half-stars cannot be used.