How do you find good scholarly criticism of a book?

post by Emile · 2012-05-24T10:51:38.884Z · score: 7 (8 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 6 comments

When I read a book with new and interesting ideas, I usually want to know if there are major flaws that any knowledgeable scholar in the field would point out immediately (Two recent examples are Pinker's "The Better Angels of our Nature", and Harriss's "The Nurture Assumption")

I usually:

One problem is that I end up spending a lot of time reading stuff of no interest - either reviewers explaining the book to people who haven't read it (and sometimes even misrepresenting it's arguments, or framing them in terms of their pet controversy), or bloggers/posters who haven't read the book so go off a summary and come up with arguments that are already well-addressed in it.

So, what tips and strategies do you have for finding solid scholarly criticism ?

6 comments

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comment by lukeprog · 2012-05-24T14:15:00.500Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Wait 2 years, which is how long it often takes for 2+ scholarly book reviews to show up in different journals.

comment by ghf · 2012-05-25T00:06:43.229Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And, if the research is fundamentally new, you may have to wait another few years (at least) before the good scholarly criticism comes out.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-05-24T15:25:08.857Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In the case where you are a knowledgeable scholar in the field, write one. :-)

comment by gjm · 2012-05-25T11:38:22.590Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Emile, do you mean that the Pinker and Harriss books are (1) recent examples of books with major flaws that any knowledgeable scholar would point out, or (2) recent examples of books for which it would be interesting to know whether they have such flaws? (If the former, then I'd be interested in a brief summary of the flaws and where to find evidence that they are real; for the avoidance of doubt, that isn't code for "I think there are no such flaws", and that isn't code for "I think there are such flaws".)

comment by Emile · 2012-05-25T11:52:05.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant (2) - I don't know whether there are flaws, and want to find out; and more generally, I want to know whether the book is rehashing old ideas, or taking sides in an existing controversy, or presenting brand new ideas, or is considered as ramblings of a cranky outsider not worthy of attention, etc.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2012-05-24T19:56:19.765Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

IME it's rare to find someone more qualified than me to criticize it unless it deals directly with research claims. Non-hard science scholarship in general is shoddy and ad-hoc anyway.