have been reviewing books since 1984. During that time I have developed
a policy which, I believe, allows me to comment fairly on books so that
both publishers and readers can see what criteria I apply (I send reviews
to publishers for comment before they appear on the web!).
Must be readily available in the UK;
Be within the price range schools could afford. In reality this usually
means paperbacks with a maximum price of £35.00;
Contents should be of use to students up to undergraduate level. The
focus is ecology and environmental science and the books should deal
with aspects of these topics. However, it is often the case that more
specialised texts have a wealth of information that teachers can easily
use in lessons and these are also reviewed;
Focus: Reviews focus on the range of material presented, the quality
of presentation and overall educational stimulation. This differs from
the more traditional academic review because there is not the emphasis
on testing ideas and hypotheses - it is assumed that most of the material
is regarded as "standard" for that topic. A large number of
academic errors detract from any book but a few minor controversies
are not usually part of a students initial education (or, therefore,
part of the review).
Before any review is published in any format it is sent to the publisher
so that they may have the right of reply. This does not alter my view
on the subject but might show an error in pricing, ISBN etc. In hundreds
of such reviews only one review has ever been commented upon!
these web reviews I am using a summary table so that people can see
at a glance how I felt about the book. Mostly, the greater the number
of stars the better! For more detail on each term:
Readership - Stars don't work here! I use the standard school ranges:
Primary ( age 5-11), Secondary (age 11-16), Senior secondary (age 17-18),
educator and undergraduate. Books often have a wide range of readers.
I have used as my guide the lowest age range that would be able to use
the book. It follows that educators/teachers would be able to use it
in their work;
- the flair with which the whole package has been put together. The
better the presentation (diagrams, photographs etc.) the more likely
the book is to be picked up by students. 5 stars here is an outstanding
design and production effort;
- the range of material written about. This depends on the actual
book but here is where I comment on the depth and breadth of academic
argument. It might be that an otherwise excellent text gets a lower
rating because it concentrates just on one area e.g. North America and
is less applicable to the British teaching scene;
- some books are written so well that they ought to be bought just to
show students what good examples look like. Its also possible to find
great material hidden beneath obscure language. This is where you see
which is which.
- how much of the material or perspective is "new" to standard
ranking - one star suggests a library loan; 5 stars is a must-buy!