I’ve just started writing the book review for “Pro LINQ – Language Integrated Query in C# 2008” and I wondered what people look for in a review. I’ve talked before about who is in the best position to write a review – but this is slightly different. In particular, what sort of balance do you want between totally factual aspects (what’s covered, the kinds of mistakes I found) and pretty subjective aspects (the writing style, quality of advice given)? Is a long and detailed review useful, or are you likely to just skip to the conclusion anyway?
I guess it’s worth answering my own question, partly in the hope that someone will write this kind of review for C# in Depth. (There are plenty of reviews, but not many in significant detail.) Here’s what I like to see:
- A mixture of subjective opinions and objective facts
- An example or two of the kind of technical errors found, and a rough idea of how often such errors occur
- Who the book is aimed at, and more subjectively who it wouldn’t be useful for
- A brief summary of what’s covered – and what’s not covered, if that’s relevant
- A feeling of how well structured/ordered the book is – does it lead the reader through the technology, or jump around?
- An idea of the author’s style – formal or informal, reference or tutorial, etc
- Which aspects of that style irked the reader, and which worked well
- Exampes of all of this! It’s one thing to say that a style annoys you – it’s another to give an example which will let the review’s reader judge for themselves.
- How the author could improve, and their existing strengths
- A final gut feeling of how much you like the book, despite/because of the above
Not all of these are suitable for all books, and I wouldn’t like to say that my own reviews have included all of them so far, but I think that’s what I’d appreciate reading. That suggests a fairly comprehensive review, of course – which is just what I’m after when making a reading decision.
I’d love to know what you think – it won’t be in time to affect the review I’m writing now, of course, but I’ll try to take comments into account for future reviews.