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 (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 information not covered here.
Purpose. Book reviews are 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 400 words (or less if there is not that much substantive to say). The current format of the print magazine accommodates only short reviews; however, longer reviews can be published on our website.
Reviewer information. Reviewers should include a brief biography, including current job title and any current ASIS volunteer positions, such as council member or chapter officer. 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 a 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?
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.
The reviewer must not be closely acquainted with the author. Even the appearance of subjectivity must be avoided.
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.
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 the material and comment 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.
Audience. A reviewer should ascertain and state the book’s audience. Would the book appeal to practitioners, instructors, or consultants? Does the author write to the intended audience successfully?