Why Textbook Reviews?

Posted by – April 10, 2012

After 10 years as a WPA, I have more textbooks than I know what to do with. Tribble-like, they multiply on my shelves. I take the “Instructor Copy: Not for Resale” seriously. I’ve pawned my desk copies off on colleagues, donated them to GED programs, begged the public library to take them. In my virtuous moments, I’ve taken the time to return them to the publishers. Others have landed in my recycling bin at the end of a frazzling day.

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by our field’s constant influx of new textbooks and new editions. What’s a compositionist to do? How can we possibly keep up, let alone choose the right text(s) for our classes and our programs?

These questions have prompted Composition Forum to include textbooks among the works we review. We’re committed to helping our colleagues navigate this ever-evolving, increasingly prolific genre. We aim to provide insight into innovative textbook publications while validating the scholarly work that goes into them.

We’re particularly interested in publishing textbook reviews that examine how our field’s theories can and do intersect with our pedagogical praxis. To this end, our Fall 2011 issue reviewed Wardle and Downs’s Writing about Writing. Spring 2012 included a review essay exploring Fountainhead Press’s Voices series of thematic readers through the lens of sustainability.

Forthcoming issues will extend and expand this approach. While we’ll continue to feature reviews of print textbooks, we look forward to reviewing digital genres, including open source textbooks, online accompaniments to conventional print textbooks, and e-reader editions. We invite our readers to send us ideas for textbook reviews by emailing And we hope authors and publishers will keep those desk copies coming!

Reviews at Composition Forum

Posted by – July 19, 2010

Featuring a mix of new and experienced voices—both in the texts we select and the authors who review them—is part of our mission as book reviews editors. Our reviews and review essays speak to the diverse interests of Composition Forum’s broad readership. The current issue—our second as book reviews editors—includes reviews that address basic writing pedagogy, pill linguistics, online writing pedagogy, writing assessment, and community literacy. Upcoming reviews will explore these and other issues. We’ll continue to highlight writing pedagogy, program assessment, and technology; we’ll also review texts concerned with literacy; critical theory; race, gender, and sexuality studies; visual and multimedia rhetoric; and writing centers. We are always looking to expand the types of texts we review, and future reviews could include style manuals, textbooks, multimedia texts, and even technologies themselves, like the Kindle or the Nook.

We typically commission reviews, an increasingly common practice at academic journals in rhetoric and composition. We strive to make the review process as fair and objective as possible, and we discourage reviews of texts written by colleagues in one’s own academic department, reviews of works by former mentors or students, or reviews of books in which one has participated in the editorial process (as a manuscript reviewer, for example, or as a member of an editorial board). In fairness to book authors, we need to establish that a reviewer has the credentials to review the text in question. While graduate students certainly can possess this expertise, reviews written as a seminar assignment may not reflect sufficient understanding of the review genre or the field.

A successful review does both. It shows a balance of summary and analysis, depth of critical assessment, and willingness to assert an opinion. A successful review also conveys an informed opinion, situating the text in question in relation to recent scholarship and larger trends in composition studies.

Our work requires a robust community of prospective reviewers with a range of expertise. With that in mind, we invite you to join our pool of reviewers by emailing your curriculum vitae to Please include a brief statement of your scholarly interests in the body of your message. We also welcome comments and suggestions.