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Book Reviews and Literary Criticism

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Library Guide


Book Reviews and Literary Criticism

Summaries can provide useful background information on a work, as well a brief explanation of major themes and the work’s significance.  However, they should not be used as a substitute for reading the entire work, since in their brevity they may omit many scenes and characters.


A book review is a brief evaluation of a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, that may or may not be critical in nature.  It can be published in a magazine, journal or newspaper.  Book reviews are particularly useful when you are studying a work of non-fiction and want to know how well the book was received by scholars in that subject area.  


Literary criticism is an in-depth, critical examination of a fictional work, usually, published as a book, an article in a scholarly journal or as part of a collection of essays.  Literary criticism will analyze the book’s themes and characters to provide a deeper understanding of the author’s message, the climate in which the book was written, or how modern audiences interpret the author’s message.


The online resources listed below are available on the Library’s web page at http://www.marymountpv.edu/academics/library




Magill’s Literary Annuals

Provide summaries of 200 major examples of serious literature published during the previous calendar year. The Library has editions covering 1977 to 2003.

REF PN 44 .M35

Shelved in the Periodicals Section

Critical Survey Series

Provide summaries of major works (drama, long fiction and short fiction series), with brief bibliographies of sources for further study.


REF PN 1625 .C68 2003 (Drama)

REF PN 3451 .C75 2000 (Long fiction)

REF PN 3321 .C7 2001 (Short fiction)



Provide summaries as well as an analysis of literary themes and a critical and historical context in which to place the work. Twelve (12) Masterplots series are available at the Marymount Library.


REF PN-PS range


Book Reviews


In addition to the above sources, many online booksellers now offer book reviews (both reprints from well-respected magazines and those written by customers).  See Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com and Barnes and Noble at http://www.bn.com.


Academic Search Premier

Full-text articles from over 4,700  scholarly journals in all subject areas. To find only book reviews, use the “Advanced Search” tab and choose “Book Reviews” from the “Document Type” menu in the box labeled “Refine Search.”.



ProQuest Direct

Contains full-text of reviews published in mainstream magazines and journals.  From the “Basic Search” screen you can limit your search to book reviews by choosing “Book review” from the “Document Type” menu.




Literary Criticism


Literature Resource Center

Covers over 128,000 writers with in-depth coverage of 2,500 most studied.  Includes author biographies, critical analysis, and bibliographies of critical sources.  Search by author, title, genre, literary movement, or literary theme.  The Library also carries the print versions of Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Contemporary Authors, and Contemporary Literary Criticism.


ProQuest Direct

Literary criticism available full-text from magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals.




Author Information


American National Biography

Includes many American authors; search or browse by name.



Biography Resource Center

Extensive biographies with basic and narrative biographical information and bibliographies of further sources.  Search by name or characteristics such as ethnicity, place of birth, or time period.



Current Biography Yearbook

Includes many authors; use index to locate entries.


REF CT 100 .C8

Literature Resource Center

LRC (see above) includes biographical information for over 128,000 authors.



Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Includes many British authors; search or browse by name.




Reference Works


Cuddo, John Anthony. A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. 4th ed.
    Malden: Blackwell, 1998.

Provides definitions and brief articles on literary terms, genres, and movements.


REF PN 41 .C83 1998

Harmon, William, and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 8th ed.
    Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 2000.

Provides definitions and explanations of words and phrases related to English and American literature.  Includes an index of names and cross-references between related articles.


REF PN 41 .H355 1999












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