An American Editor

May 4, 2010

Worth Noting: The Jewish Review of Books

There is a new book review magazine available, the Jewish Review of Books. It wants to be a New York Review of Books but with a Jewish slant. The link in the preceding sentence will take you to its first issue, Spring 2010. The publication schedule is quarterly and subscriptions cost $19.95 for 1 year and $29.95 for 2 years.

After reading at its website the article Why There Is No Jewish Narnia by Michael Weingrad, I decided to try a 2-year subscription. The Review has potential, especially if it sticks to its goal of emulating the New York Review of Books, which I consider the finest book review magazine available in the United States. The NYRB publishes 20 issues a year and a subscription runs $69.

The Jewish Review describes itself as follows (from its About Us page):

The Jewish Review of Books is a quarterly publication (in print and on the web) for serious readers with Jewish interests. In our pages, leading writers and scholars discuss the newest books and ideas about religion, literature, culture, and politics, as well as fiction, poetry, and the arts. We are committed to the ideal of the thoughtful essay that illuminates as it entertains.

(Before I forget: I have absolutely no connection to/with the Jewish Review of Books other than having paid for a subscription for myself.)

Another review magazine to which I once did subscribe is the London Review of Books. I stopped subscribing when I found myself struggling to get through the articles — the writing style was too dry for me — and when I realized that many of the reviewed books weren’t readily available to me. The focus was on UK-published books, many of which hadn’t crossed the Atlantic. However, I am considering resubscribing because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten drier myself and the LRB‘s quality is on a par with that of the NYRB. Plus the Internet makes it easy to buy books from the UK. The LRB publishes 24 times a year and a subscription runs $35.

Another book review magazine to which I also once subscribed is Boston-based BookForum. BookForum publishes 5 issues a year and subscription rates are $16 for 1 year and $24 for 2 years. I found that it focused too much on fiction for me, and I read mostly nonfiction and what fiction I do read is generally in the scifi/fantasy genre.

Of course many of the magazines to which I subscribe also carry book reviews, but none are the equivalent of the NYRB. If you know of other top-notch book review magazines, please share the details with us. I, for one, am always on the lookout for a high-quality book review magazine.

On the side: As you know, last week there was a series of articles on the downfall of literature (for the first in the series of 4 articles, see eBooks & the Downfall of Literature: The Great Debate – Round I). My local paper today, had an opinion column by Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Clarence Page that was more broadly focused. His lament is worth reading: Quality Suffers with Rise of Amateur Critics.


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