Anarchist book reviews

34 posts / 0 new
Last post
Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Nov 18 2015 13:45
Anarchist book reviews

So I've been thinking about this for a wee while, but it came into a bit of focus when I was sending out a new book to reviewers - we don't really seem to have a cultural website/or magazine doing reviews on a sustained basis and the number of left-wing outlets doing reviews generally is really low. And we don't have anything which is entirely culture-dedicated to my knowledge. Which is actually a bit of a block on getting the output of anarchist publishers out to market (and in terms of books there's actually a fair bit comes out month on month).

At my count there was Organise, Black Flag, Red Pepper, the Morning Star, London Review of Books, Peace News, Anarchist Studies, New Statesman... Guardian & Independent? [edit: I was also pointed to Review 31]

I guess the question is what people would think about organising a specific reviews section on libcom? It could maybe be run out of Freedom (so people can send review copies/correspondence somewhere), and would basically need a small group of people just to oversee what's coming out month by month, coupled with a decent number of people to then write reviews.

Upsides: Potentially a boost to libcom traffic and sales of important works, plus free books to reviewers!
Downsides: Keeping up with new published works and making sure reviewers actually review is obv a bit of work.

sihhi
Offline
Joined: 11-03-06
Nov 20 2015 00:14

What exactly is up for review though?
Would it be just culture or politics/science/history works etc aswell.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Nov 20 2015 07:01

Apologies, I may have been misleadingly vague, my main thought was politics/science/history books but I lumped it under the umbrella of "culture," so anything politically interesting potentially including theatrical, films works etc depending on who'd be reviewing.

My thought would be that there's easily enough coming out from AK, PM, Zed books, Verso and even Pluto (not to mention pamphlets from KSL, AF, SolFed etc) to provide works of interest in various genres to review month by month just on its own. Which they'd almost certainly be happy to provide assuming they got an audience out of it.

jondwhite's picture
jondwhite
Offline
Joined: 23-10-12
Nov 20 2015 15:29

Count me in

Kate Sharpley's picture
Kate Sharpley
Offline
Joined: 2-04-06
Nov 21 2015 15:57

Sounds like a reasonable idea. You start small with the idea of making some book (etc) reviews currently on here more visible? http://libcom.org/tags/reviews
The Kate Sharpley Library website has a 'how to' to encourage reviewers:
http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/jh9ws2
(I couldn't see if that's already here) - sorry, it's at http://libcom.org/organise/media/articles/book-review-how-to.php

Sleeper
Offline
Joined: 19-10-15
Nov 21 2015 17:06

Consider this an expression of interest smile

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
Nov 21 2015 20:53

I think this sounds like a great idea.. I'll flag it up with the other admins..

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Nov 22 2015 15:11
Quote:
You start small with the idea of making some book (etc) reviews currently on here more visible?

Yeah maybe start with bumping it to be a specific section (ie. libcom/reviews), and maybe have a grey secondary bar (like on the library) with specific arenas linked to tags? Minor problem of course is you need to divide it between both media (TV/Radio/Film/Theatre/Art/Books/Periodicals) and genre (philosophy, history, fiction, economics, arts etc). We'd also need a confirmed contact and send-in address prominent on the intro page, which I'd need to confirm with Freedom or elsewhere. Admin thoughts?

Once a clear navigation setup's in place then it'd just be an afternoon's work going back through stuff re-ordering, which shouldn't be too tough (I count 370 reviews overall atm, which is manageable).* That'd put it in good shape to become a specific go-to for interested reviewers/readers.

After that then we'd need to confirm enough people to be reliably reviewing, getting addresses to send books/arranging pickups from Freedom etc and once that's in place, promoting around a bit so people know it exists (particularly at bookfairs/through the Alliance of Radical Booksellers, publishers etc, who I reckon would be glad to have a more dedicated outlet to point people to).

====
* Incidentally, anyone else have trouble with the tag system? Sometimes when I try to go beyond page 1 it has a hiccough.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Nov 22 2015 15:18

Seems a bit like this is promoting the idea of a dedicated group of semi-professional anarchist or more broadly 'libcom' type book reviewers? Isn't it just better to have a book review section which anyone who is registered here can post to with a discussion thread included so we can all disagree with the reviewers take on any particular book? It happens already to some extent without anyone being committed in advance to reviewing just any old books thrust upon a dedicated team by eager publishers? Wouldn't need too many if any sub-categories. Such a section could replace one of the other rarely used sections currently clogging up the system!

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Nov 22 2015 16:04

I'd not discourage people from just submitting as normal (I'd certainly not be wanting to curate anything, no time/inclination). This would be in addition, aiming to increase coverage/audience and provide a hub for publishers to go to when they want their books reviewed.

Quote:
It happens already to some extent without anyone being committed in advance to reviewing just any old books thrust upon a dedicated team by eager publishers

If no-one wants to pick up a book that's been sent in then it still won't be reviewed, part of the point though is to expand the section and provide reviews of lesser-known or overlooked new works, which generally speaking are precisely the ones people don't usually review off their own bat. Which requires a bit more organising (and possibly the lure of a freebie wink).

Edit: I should note though that this is just how I'd see things, if upgrading a reviews section is to be successful it'd need a broader consensus of approach than merely my imaginings!

JoeMaguire's picture
JoeMaguire
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Nov 22 2015 16:38

I have done a few reviews for a few diffferent publications and would happily contribute to a similar endeavour in the future. It sometimes even gets me a free book from time to time grin

What I tended to find is if I wrote in to PM Press or whoever and expressed an interest and showed a previous review, along with a promise of a certain length article they would tend to happily send along a book. Now that I have written that I feel remarkably cheap, but I tend to read reviews more keenly than some opinion pieces, because they tend to condense a lot of information. So I'm not sure we need do anything other than list forth-coming publications and assign interested reviewers. Good reads tends to be good at listing book advances.

At Freedom we do occassionally get the odd review copy, but that sort of dried up when the paper ceased being regular.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Nov 23 2015 16:34

Who 'assigns'?

JoeMaguire's picture
JoeMaguire
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Nov 23 2015 20:24

The people will assign themselves we just need a stream of what books are forth-coming. Or, if anyone objects to the cult of the new, they could pick books already in print.

For example
Squatter movement in Amsterdam? June 2016

José Peirats and the Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalist Movement
out in December

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Nov 23 2015 20:42
Quote:
Who 'assigns'?

As Joe Maguire says, usually people self-assign. This is even the case with academic journals. Tkae the Marxist Historical Materialism for example, they maintain a massive list of books. You just pick one and ask the editor to review it. Though in some cases you may want someone specific to review it because they know something about the topic the book covers.

Say a book on Occupy Sandy comes out. May makes sense to ask someone who was involved to write a review if they have time and inclination. If a book on Proudhon is out, who better to review it than Anarcho?

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Nov 24 2015 10:10

Yeah promoting self-assignment backed up by soliciting people to fill in gaps seems like the best bet, once folks have a couple of reviews under their belt to point to and things are going up on the site regularly it shouldn't be hard to get review copies sent out. It'll be getting copies to new people who don't have a background of reviewing which'll probably need a sign-off from "libcom."

If I were looking at it from a publisher's standpoint, key things would be:

- A contact point to chase up where books have been sent out but not reviewed (no-one likes to be mugged off and if it happens a lot with no-one saying why they'll eventually just stop sending)
- Somewhere to announce upcoming books early (so review copies can be ordered/sent out early enough that it builds up interest with shops as well as punters)
- Somewhere to put contact details which isn't public (ie. if you want a book contact this number/email, but I'd rather not be spammed to fuck by randoms)

Having said so, some of them may also not be entirely convinced by sending review copies to people's homes I suspect, so it might also need an official office address (this'd also be somewhere that more automated sendouts would go to).

factvalue
Offline
Joined: 29-03-11
Nov 24 2015 17:33

I'll have a crack at any science ones if you need someone.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Dec 2 2015 14:22

Bumping for admins - what you think folks? Maybe start with a reviews subforum off-tracker and promote the reviews tag to a specific section? I'd be up for helping mod it.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Dec 2 2015 15:36

Seems like a good idea.
I never know where to start with anarchist books and as a result read little to nothing, it's got worse now libcom carries a lot less news

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
Dec 2 2015 18:44

Yeah, we're up for it.. I was supposed to get in touch with you days ago to sort out details but basically forgot coz I've got a lot on at the minute.. will send you a message later tonight (hopefully!)

Jacques Roux's picture
Jacques Roux
Offline
Joined: 17-07-06
Dec 2 2015 18:56

Sounds like a great idea, I remember this being discussed before within the libcom group and some sort of structure came up but I can't remember any details.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 2 2015 19:50

jef,
I presume it's not just about reviewing 'anarchist' books but any books of interest to any registered posters.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Dec 3 2015 08:32

Just to say yeah this is a great idea, thanks! We're happy to help facilitate in anyway we can

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Dec 3 2015 13:25

Proper job 8-)

So related to this I guess it'd be a good idea to work out where to keep an eye on for releases. Off the top of my head, book publishers would include:

AK: http://ftp.akuk.com/index.php?_a=category&cat_id=32&sort[date_added]=DESC
PM: https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?m=&c=9&l=product_list&sortby=id:desc
Zed books (forthcoming: http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/forthcoming-books)
(Out now: http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/recent)
Verso
Pluto: http://www.plutobooks.com/results.asp?dtspan=60%3A0&ds=New+Releases&sort=sort_date/d&sf1=format%5Fcode&st1=bp&%3c%=PROP%25%3E

(Where possible the URL links to the "most recent" publications section of each publisher, the bracketing makes them a bit hard for libcom's scripting).

Ideally, it'd be good to have the press dept. of the publisher posting news on their upcoming books to the forum or setting up a single feed for it so reviewers aren't having to go back and check manually, but that's for later I guess.

Who else do folks reckon would be worth looking at?

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Dec 3 2015 17:02

Thoughtcrime Ink. https://thoughtcrimeink.com/

While publishing schedule is infrequent, they publish some good stuff.

Jim
Offline
Joined: 30-04-06
Dec 3 2015 20:36

I am pretty sure every one of those publishers would send out a review copy if you said you were doing a review for libcom (some have done before). We'll share anything decent on social media.

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
Jan 11 2016 19:15

So just to let everyone know, we're definitely pushing ahead with this, with Rob Ray as the point person to contact if you're up for reviewing stuff. For the minute we've decided to just do it as part of the reviews tag but aim to expand it into a proper section once the redesign is sorted later in the year..

Apart from that, I think the list of potential publishers above is a good start. Rob, would you be up for sorting out the email to send out to them? Just PM it to me or one of the admins and we'll email it from the libcom email.

From reading the thread, it looks like the following people are interested:
Joe Maguire
factvalue
jef costello
jondwhite; and
sleeper

Anyone else? And is there anything else logistical that I've missed out?

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Jan 12 2016 13:49

AF Book review of Communal Luxury:
https://afed.org.uk/communal-luxury/

Battlescarred
Offline
Joined: 27-02-06
Jan 12 2016 13:57

AF review of Underground Passages:
https://afed.org.uk/book-review-underground-passages/

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Jan 12 2016 16:37

Cheers Ed, I'll try and draft something this week and I guess once we have a few publishers knowing who we are we can start reaching out to folks to up the number of reviews round here smile.

Ta for the links Battlescarred, any AFers you know of who might want to do reviews in between magazine runs and/or mirror stuff on the Afed site?

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Jan 13 2016 12:22

On a related note, anyone fancy reviewing either of the following?

THE TYRANNY OF THEORY
A Contribution to the Anarchist Critique of Marxism
by Ronald D. Tabor
ISBN 978-1-926878-12-6
20.5 cm x 13.2 cm; 488 g
358 pp, perfect-bound
$29.95

NO REGRETS
Counter-culture and Anarchism in Vancouver
by Larry Gambone
ISBN 978-1-926878-15-7 (paperback)
200 pp., index; 213x134x13mm, 281 g.
$19.95

Both Black Cat press, so Canadian or US-based reviewers make for cheaper mailout wink.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Jan 16 2016 12:29

K so I'm starting to get in touch with various people about maybe getting involved with the reviews process, one thing I've also realised is that I have a wealth of stuff from 2003-2007 when I was editing Freedom as I kept most of the text files, so I'll also be asking various authors whether they mind it being uploaded.

The other thing I was wondering was about the Kate Sharpley reviews section. They have an absolute shedload of stuff on their site, would it be worth mirroring?