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Back to the Basics: Value in the Use of Reference Books

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The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

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With our infectious fast-pace lifestyles, fueled by an even faster cyberlife, it has become quick and easy to rely on the Internet for answers to just about every question, anything really. Teachers and tutors have grown annoyed by a student’s reluctance to use the old fashion print dictionary, much less a thesaurus. Accustomed to instant gratification and developing a sanguine temperament, students nowadays prefer to confide in Google rather than look up a word or two in the dictionary. I know I am consistently frustrated by a student’s lack of know-how in reading a dictionary effectively and efficiently.

I developed a love for print reference books in high school, toting around my English dictionary, Spanish/English dictionary, and thesaurus. When I arrived at Texas A&M University I was introduced to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the Spanish Diccionario de Sinónimos y Antónimos, and my all time favorite, 501 Spanish Verbs. As a linguist, language teacher, translator, and writer I have added numerous additional reference texts, favoring my Larousse Spanish/English Dictionary and my Diccionario de la Lengua Española, a two volume set by the Real Academia Española! I am happy to report that I use, at the very least, one each day. So when multi-faceted author Mayra Calvani asked for a review of the new edition of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing I was quickly intrigued by this new reference book on the market. I have taken my time reading through this book even though it is a brief 190 pages short. However, it has been worth my time spent reading, re-reading, highlighting, and making Post-it notes as it has proven to be a resourceful reference book, one that has garnered space on the reference section of my bookshelf.

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a comprehensive user’s guide for writing a credible, informative, and valuable book review. Composed of three parts: The Art of Reviewing, The Influence of Book Reviews, and Resources, this reference book details the components of a book review, emphasizes the priorities of which a quality reviewer must be conscious, and provides additional sources that a reviewer can access for further study. It also makes the reviewer aware of the importance and value that a competent book review will have for readers and the book industry itself, or not. A foreword by James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Review, complements the reference book by including his personal experience of a developing, reviewing profession among the big shot New York City publishing firms and his personal advice as editor, responsible for the submissions and publication of Midwest’s book reviews. As he so strongly counseled, I, too, recommend that anyone, whether writing a literary critique and/or a book review, should not only have the usual reference texts on hand, but also this new useful reference book that is, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing from one of the authors, however did not receive any type of compensation for its review.

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

By Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards

Twilight Times Books

First Edition, June 2008

ISBN: 9781933353227

Trade Paperback, 190 pages, $16.95

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