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FAQs

The listing marked the book as "Reviewed" but all there is on the page is a note with the BLL Committee's rating. Is there a broken link?

Alas, no. While we are working on obtaining reviews of all BLL books (or at least of all of which we can still find copies), it's going to take a long time. So, for now, some books have only the BLL notation with the Committee's rating. In many cases, we are working on getting a review. (Volunteers always welcome. Publishers, if one of your books is in this situation, I'd be happy to arrange a review if you send me a copy.)


Some books have links to a table of contents, but not the one I was looking at.

We can only list contents if we have them! In some cases (for example, a novel) there may be no contents to list. In others (for example, a book collecting "best papers" on some subject), that table of contents may be the part of the book that is intellectual property. Whenever we can, we will include the contents.


How do you decide which books get reviewed?

Some critical conditions have to be satisfied before we can review a book:

  • We must get a copy of the book. If we don't have it, we usually can't review it.
  • We must be able to find a reviewer who is willing to do the review.

There are other factors that play an important role. In order to be reviewed, the book should appeal to more than a strictly specialist audience. It should be good enough (or, sometimes, bad enough) to merit the attention. If a book fits very well with the interests of a particular reviewer, it has a higher chance of being reviewed even if it is quite specialized: reviewing has its privileges!

In general, we will not produce MAA Reviews for books that are collections of articles or proceedings from conferences. For those books, often all one really needs to see is the table of contents, which we try always to include. We will rarely try to review books that are very technical. At the other extreme, we will do our best to review books that have the potential to serve as textbooks.

Of course, all of the above can be overruled in special cases. That's why MAA Reviews has an editor, after all.


Are all new reviews highlighted on the front page?

Yes, except for "reviews" that are really short editorial notes like "see our review of the previous edition". Sometimes, however, it will be a month after they are posted. If you want to see everything that has been posted recently, use the Advanced Search. 


What does it mean when a book's page says "An MAA Review is planned"?

It means that we hope to review the book. That said, we could be at several different stages of the process: 

  • It could be that the book has been received and is sitting on my "to be reviewed" shelf waiting for a reviewer.
  • It could be that a reviewer has been found and is working on a review.
  • It could be that we have a review in hand but haven't posted it yet.

The third stage is usually very brief, so if you see a book with that notation it will almost certainly be in either the first or second stages of the process.

If you see such a book listed and it is something you're anxious to see and would like to review, email the editor. There's a decent chance that we'll still be looking for a reviewer, particularly if the book came out recently.


What does it mean when a book's page says "MAA is not planning a review of this book"?

It means that we aren't currently planning to review the book. It doesn't mean that we would turn down a review if one were offered; we'd certainly consider an offer to review such a book, though we may no longer have a copy to send you. See also the next question.


This book had "a review is planned" and now it says "MAA is not planning to review"!

Alas, if a book sits on our "to be reviewed" pile for too long, we'll eventually give up.

Also, alas, sometimes a reviewer agrees to look at the book, but hates it so intensely that we decide that reviewing it is not worth the time and effort. And sometimes reviewers fail to get back to us at all.

Finally, clerical errors do happen!


What's with these categories? What's the difference between an anthology and a collection?

We actually started with only two of these: "textbook" and everything else. But then it became clear that we should have a few more. So here is a rough guide:

  • Anthology: a collection of papers by several different authors. See also "Festschrift" and "Proceedings".
  • Collection: a collection of papers by one author.
  • Dictionary: anything that has entries and definitions.
  • Festschrift: an anthology put together in honor of someone.
  • General: anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but especially "trade books" aimed at the general public.
  • Handbook: an overview of some topic intended as a "ready reference."
  • Manual: in our usage, restricted to a software manual.
  • Monograph: a book whose main goal is to explain a specific subject.
  • Problem Book: a collection of problems.
  • Proceedings: an anthology connected to a conference or meeting.
  • Report: an official report from some entity.
  • Sourcebook: a collection of (usually historical) source material.
  • Student Helps: a book meant to supplement textbooks.
  • Textbook: a book intended for course adoption.

At the graduate level, the difference between a textbook and a monograph becomes very tenuous. Our decisions there have been somewhat arbitrary.


Do you list every book you receive?

We list every mathematics book we receive. We interpret that very broadly. But we won't list a biology book, a book on how to build furniture, or the latest Susan Grafton book (unless it has a mathematician in it).


I clicked something and got a blank page.

Yes, every site has problems now and then, and there's always a chance that something will go wrong. Feel free to email the editor about the problem.


 

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