Book Reviewing


How to write a Psychotherapy Book Review for the IJP

You have asked, or been invited, to review a book for the International Journal of Psychotherapy. Thank you very much for considering to do this. It is an absolutely necessary part of the whole professional and educational process connected to publishing within the professional field of psychotherapy, and it also helps to maintain a reasonably high quality of content and production. Please just make sure that you do not review a book written by someone that you have a professional or collegial relationship with as we require a degree of objectivity.

First read the book - right through. And then sit and think a little bit about it. How did you enjoy it? What do you feel about it? This is important information. Maybe make some notes. Now you can go back in and start to 'critique' it in a bit more depth. What did you like about it? What did you not like about it? Were some bits better than others? How did the author come across? What about the style? - the content? - the scholarship? - the language? - the 'production' of the book? Did you learn anything? Can you use this professionally? Did it catch your interest or put you off? Did it effect you personally in any way? These are all useful impressions and material to help 'inform' your review.

Please trust that your opinions are worthwhile: do not worry about whether they are right or wrong; do not censor them; do not limit yourself; – other than within the normal rules of politeness and professionalism. If a thought occurs to you about the book, please note it down: it might be worthwhile to the reader, or the author or publisher. While these are all subjective, we would also like you to write a "critique" of the book: this is not necessarily a criticism, it is a reasonably objective view, expressedopenly and frankly. You may need to find a balance between liking bits, not liking other bits, and feeling that some parts were not so well thought-out or worthwhile, or were (maybe) just mediocre.

Now you can start writing: please try to limit yourself to the 'normal' writing parameters for a Book Review. For the IJP, we usually like something around the 750-1000 word mark for book reviews. If you write less than this, are you really doing the book justice? We don't want much more than about 1000 words as we may have several book reviews in an issue. You also need to be aware of the journal's publishing requirements and deadlines: see IJP website ( 'Authors'. 

When writing the review: please make sure that you mention the title of the book and the author's full name somewhere in the first paragraph. What is the book about? Please give a brief overall description of the book in a sentence or two. Then give a few bits of more detailed information and perhaps also a couple of 'first impressions'. Then, perhaps, move into more detail about the main 'body' of the book; this section should not really be just a list of chapter titles, more a description of how the author takes you through the theme of the book (with - perhaps - a mention of a few of the chapters or sections). 

We (the readers) might need to know - in a little more depth and detail - what the book is really about; "What is the subject matter?" Please don't quote too much from the 'publisher's information' on the back of the book - that will be available to anyone who 'googles' this book. We want your 'sense' - and your priofessional opinion - of the book and what it is about: more a discussion of its contents.

Now we also want to get more of a feeling from you - about the book, the author, the sytle, the content and its strengths and weaknesses - this is where your impressions and thoughts and feelings come into play. Be relatively straightforward: if you didn't like it - say so, and then support this; if you did like it - say so and illustrate this. Give a few quotes, if you like (with page numbers), to support or illustrate your points. Or - as a fellow professional - do you have a very different perspective or opinion on the subject matter?

It is also totally legitimate to comment about the style: is it readable, interesting, dull, stogey, patronising, or 'wooly'? How about the presentation? Are there interesting lay-outs, diagrams, pictures and/or illustrations; or is it dense and uniform. Were there errors (typographical or others)? Was the bibliography and/or index useful?

You are also - as a professional, a student, trainee or intern - a potential buyer of this book: does it cover the stated topic well? Did it meet the aithor's stated aims? Did you learn something? Was it interesting? Was it worthwhile, or worth the money (if you had to buy it)? Maybe, you might recommend it to a library: or maybe it isn't 'good enough'. Did it miss anything out? Or just fail? 

Since you are writing academically or professionally, you might want to do a little research at this point. Has the author written anything else? Is this part of a series or a genre? Does it come from a particular (disclosed or undisclosed) perspective? Does the 'modality' of the psychotherapy, or the author's views or style, limit or enhance the topic or theme? If it is an edited book, what did the editors contribute? - what did they leave out? What other similar books are there "out there"? This gives you an opportunity to 'place' the book into a wider context or setting. This is very important and will 'make' the review - this is also what we (the Journal) want from you, as a reviewer.

You should now be well set for finishing the first draft of your review. Revising and re-writing is as important (if not more so) than the actual writing. Have you left anything out? Have you repeated yourself? Are the points well-made, or clumsy? Can you say what you want to say more simply? Have you justified or supported your points?

A couple of caveats may be appropriate here: (1) you are writing a professional review of a professional book: is your language, and the way you come across, both respectful and professional? If you need to be critical, be so - respectfully and professionally? If you think the book is poor - say so, respectfully and professionally? (2) You are writing a review of a professional book in an international professional journal - is everything you say reasonably understandable by other (professional) people, in other countries, possibly with English as a second language, possibly with different cultural sensitivities?  Think of the audience or readership. Try not to use too much jargon; slang; shorthand; etc.

Finally, if you are not familiar with writing reviews, get a colleague, friend, tutor, mentor - or whatever to read it through. Do they 'get' the points that you are making? Is the impression they get from your review, the impression that you wanted them to get? Do they have any comments or reactions that might improve your review? 

At the end of the review, please also make sure that you give the technical information: Author(s), their initials, (Ed.) or (Eds.) - if relevant, year, full title, city, publisher; paperback or hardback; ISBN; number of pages; - and whether it has an Index, Bibliography, Appendices, etc. You can put the RRP (recommended retail price - if given). It may also be available in different 'versions': Kindle, Nook, etc. Finish by giving your name, academic or professional qualifications, and e-mail address. Then submit it - and keep a copy!

This is not be the end of the story. You may be asked by the Book Review Editor, or the IJP Editor, to make some changes, cuts or additions. The review may be 'refereed' (put through a blind peer review process) - if it exceeds 1,500 words - and suggestions may be given by the referees. There will therefore be an opportunity to amend your review before final publication.

Once it has been published, you will need to make sure that the publisher gets a copy of the review. Then the task of reviewing is over and you get to keep the book - legitimately. You will have definitely earned it!   

 There is an article about writing Book Reviews here.