I really like book reviews. No, I mean, I really like book reviews. I like reading them—I subscribe to the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books, and I read a number of on-line book reviews regularly (my favorites are those in the International History, Philosophy, and Science Teaching Group newsletter and Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews). In part, that’s just because of practicality. I’m a voracious reader, but there are only so many hours in a day, so I have to be selective. But it’s also because I like the genre. I like writing them. So much so, indeed, that looking at my publications, I count twenty-two book reviews, plus two essays reviewing a host of books together. So it’s small wonder that I became the book review editor for Reports of the NCSE.
I’m the first person to hold the position. Before I started at NCSE, a lot of reviews came over the transom, a few were reprinted, and a few were specially commissioned, but for the most part there was no systematic effort to ensure a thorough coverage of new books relevant to NCSE’s mission. Now, however, Reports of the NCSE makes a systematic effort to arrange for reviews of books relevant to evolution, evolution education, and threats to evolution education—and, starting in 2012, of books relevant to climate science, climate education, and threats to climate education. Questions about the policies and procedures of reviews reach my desk occasionally. Herewith, then, are the book review editor’s answers to the three most frequently asked questions about book reviews.
When are you going to publish my review?
Soon, I promise! There was such a spate of publications around 2009—the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species—that a backlog in the review pipeline ensued. Only now, in 2013, is it beginning to clear. At the moment, there are about thirty-three reviews awaiting publication in Reports of the NCSE; typically, six appear in each issue, so the backlog is diminished to about a year’s worth of reviews. True, now that the journal appears on-line, there’s nothing preventing the publication of reviews as soon as they’re copyedited and typeset, which is usually a swift process. But (at least from the book review editor’s perspective) publishing all the pending reviews at once would be uncomfortably like eating the seed corn.
Why haven’t you reviewed such-and-such?
Any number of possible reasons...