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Home » Book reviews and a poll – what about ‘bad’ books?

Book reviews and a poll – what about ‘bad’ books?


Books and Journals - current reading and for review
Books and Journals - current reading and for review

Development of thoughts or ideas, and dissemination of techniques or methods, happens not only in the pages of Journals or on the web, but in books too. Over the last couple of years, we have increased the number of book reviews in Annals of Botany, and put them prominently at the front each issue. For me, reviews have always been part of a lively Journal, and diversity makes them great to read – there is a place for the long, reflective piece, and for the short sharp blow-by-chapter (or should it be chapter-by-blow?) account. We have had free e-books reviewed, and I expect this category will increase. Our instructions have been strict in saying Annals of Botany “publishes reviews of current academic books”, but we are relaxing this criteria, and will use both and the Journal (with coverage in the blog too) to review popular books, texts and others where there is some link to botany.


I’m confident this is what I want to do, but now for the poll: what about bad books?

(Off-site voting at

I have used the answer options to give succinct thoughts about the pros of reviews of different qualities of books, but please feel free to amplify in comments! Stacked on my bedside table, along with journals, there are many review copies of books.  Two received recently, while not exactly bad, are not worth anyone’s time to read and there are better out there. One is a perfectly acceptable book on hybrid plant breeding written for a general audience, but I can’t imagine anybody enjoying reading or learning much from a volume that is entirely devoid of illustrations: even crossing and backcrossing schemes are described rather than drawn, and wild relatives are not photographed. The second book has a series of chapters with lengthy discursive reminiscences; at 10% of the length each would make a nice blog post once a month, but I (unlike the subject of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler) would be hard pressed to say of the author, “in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.”

Do you want reviews to tell you why I’m not recommending these books, or should they disappear without trace? We have had a few reviews of ‘bad’ books: obviously, sometimes the opinion of the particular reviewer, but more often than not, the book has not reached the standard you would have hoped from the distinction of the editor or authors. I feel deceived by these, so want to see such reviews, although I have to say I would be reluctant to write such a review.
Anyway, with the following of AoBBlog, I’m looking forward to having some help in deciding what to review. As always, we welcome suggestions of books for review, particularly with the wide definition above with the option of going on – whether on paper, electronic, or free.

Editor Pat Heslop-Harrison

Pat Heslop-Harrison is Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics and Cell Biology at the University of Leicester. He is also Chief Editor of Annals of Botany.

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