for the readers, a way of identifying new books, picking up the main ideas without having to read the book themselves, deciding whether a book is worth buying for themselves or for their library (if they teach in a seminary).
for the writers of the books, a way of publicising their books, so that people will buy copies. It is also a way of getting critical feedback.
for the writers of the reviews, a way of getting free books (usually) on the condition that they do actually review the book in reasonable time and do not just forget.
for students, models of either how to do reviews, or of how not to do reviews.
for the students, a useful way of developing critical skills for learning from and evaluating serious Christian writing, and for building confidence and helping them to recognise worthwhile books.
for the teacher, a useful way of facilitating learning as well as assessing progress and providing feedback through constructive comments.
Will do justice to the intentions of the author - what was the author trying to say?
Will evaluate the book first of all in terms of these intentions, not of the expectations of the reviewer, and only then in terms of wider considerations
Will discuss the issues raised by the book
Will indicate who wrote the book, why they wrote it and who for.
Give their own judgement as to who the book is suited for
Will be concise. 200 words is possible; 1000 plus is OK for a student review or if the book is a complex one
Ignore what the author has to say because the ideology of the author is different from one’s own
Indignation because of a misleading title or trivial mistake
Use the book review simply to promote one’s own ideas
Overcritical - failure to have any sympathetic understanding of what the author was trying to achieve.
Uncritical - too generous.
To think that “everyone should read this book”. This is unlikely.
A book is very bad - better not review it at all.
A book is not in your area - give it to someone else to review
A book seems so brilliant you cannot think of anything to say - discuss it with someone else; look for other reviews of the book by other people, think how the ideas might apply in your situation and ask if they would really work.
A book contains a lot of different material (e.g. a collection of essays) - review the book as a whole (ask what is it that brought the essays together in the volume), not each essay. Illustrate the points you wish to make from particular essays which are helpful.
Reviews can be found in scholarly journals. It is necessary to think about the quality of different reviews and to decide which are good models. There are always reviews which are superficial, where the reviewer is either very hostile, or simply accepts everything the author and the publisher say without forming their own opinion. A surprising number of reviewers do not read the book properly at all.
The following journals are suggested as sources for book reviews relating to mission:
International Bulletin of Missionary Research
International Review of Mission
Theological Book Review
Missiology and the International Review of Mission have bibliographies which can be helpful in locating books relating to different topics and to different parts of the world.
Mission Studies offers books for review from IAMS Book Reviews
Consider posting your reviews on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. I doubt you will get as wide a coverage anywhere else!