Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Looking for people to review books for my column

I am looking for reviewers for the following books for my SIGACT NEWS book review column. I will try to edit this post to keep the list up to date; however, if you are reading this past July 28 then you should look at the this list which I am constantly updating.
  1. Look here for advice for reviewers.
  2. Look here the LaTeX template.
  3. Look here for past columns.
IF you want to review a book then FIRST goto the advice for reviewers and see if you really want to review a book. If so then email me your name and postal address to send the book (if you are out of the country I will have the publisher send it to you). Your reward for doing the book review: a free copy of the book! I would like to get requests before July 28 since that is when the next column goes to press and I would like to have an updated books list there; however, if you ask me past that date, and the book is still available, you can still review it. (ADDED LATER- DEADLINE IS MID-OCT OR MID-NOV, BUT CAN BE NEGOIATED IF THERE IS A REASON FOR LATER.)

Bio Comp
  1. Introduction to Bio-ontologies by Robinson and Bauer.

  1. The Dots and Boxes Game: Sophisticated Child's play by Berlekamp.
  2. New Mathematical Diversions by Martin Gardner.
  3. The Magic Numbers of the Professor by O'Shea and Dudley.

Books on Misc-Comp Sci
  1. Random walks and diffusion on graphs and database by Blanchard and Volcanic.


  1. Bill, I have never understood quite well what is the real sense of book reviews. Reviews of papers (before they are published) is a great thing. Reviews of books before they are published is also great (this happens right now with my forthcoming book). But what is a "book review" after the book is already published? Is it advertising? Is it a (too late) critics? Is it a place to put ones frustration? Focusing an attention? After the deal is done (the book is already published)?

    After my book "Extremal Combinatorics" was out, I found one very interesting review by Imre Leader in "Combinatorics and Computing" journal. (B.t.w. this was the FIRST book review in this journal, guess why?) He just blamed me for not including things which I explicitly stated in the Preface as not being included, and why. Luckily, I am not reading reviews for my book. I read the feedback from my readers. Also sometimes critical - these are most stimulating. So what is the sense of "book reviews"?

  2. Well, an enormous amount of books is published each year, many of them on the same topic(s). Some of us are not fortunate enough to be able to buy everything that's published, or even to ask an institution to do that for us just to have a look at what *might* be interesting. And publishers, let alone authors, don't always make a portion of their books available so we can get a taste. Reviews allow us to have a better idea of what to expect, and in that sense, I agree with you that this use lies somewhere between advertisement and critics.

    I don't get the "frustration" part however. Although I sympathise with you getting your book bashed. But the reviewer should be able to speak his mind, otherwise what's the point? In that regard, it's good that book reviews are NOT anonymous, as opposed to paper reviews: people might be more careful about what they write.

    (... says the guy who posts something anonymously ;-) Then again, I don't see why who I am would matter here.)

  3. Ideally the reviews in my column serve two purposes

    1) Let my readers know that a book on topic X is available
    and something about it so they can decide if they want to buy it or download it or whatnot.

    2) Even for people who likely will not read the book, I like if the review says something about the area so readers can be enlightened.

  4. KUDOS to my readers: I posted a list of 27 books I wanted reviewed an already 18 of them have been claimed
    (an additional one I found a reviewer locally for).

  5. Well, I agree that a review is just to: (1) let people known "the book is out", (2) give an idea of what about it is, and what is its level, (3) likes the reviewer it, or not.

    But each review contains "my personal view" (the 3-rd item). And when writing this "personal view" the reviewer should be very careful. This is not "just a personal view": this is a view supposed to be delivered to potential readers. They will accept this view, just because they haven't seen the book yet. Thus, the reviewer should at least study very carefully all "this is not my goal" statements in the Preface. (As was in my case and, as I know, happened with some other authors.) When formulating his own "personal view", the reviewer should keep in mind that this should be an accumulated "personal view" of many unaware readers. A huge responsibility! Only the fact that the reviews are not anonymous doesn't change the situation much. A negative "personal view" does not make the author too sad; after all, he has probably received much more positive views. It just pushes this negative view to lots of readers, without allowing them to make their own opinion.

    Needles to say: I am not against book reviews as such. And Bill is doing a great job with his column! I would only wish reviewers be more responsible in what they are doing: who should read the book, who shouldn't, and why. Analysis of contents and presentation (not just their listing), and not just "personal views".