If I leave aside the ones I liked primarily because I was interested in the topic, the first ones which come to my mind are:
- André Padoux’ review of Hindu Tantrism (by Sanjukta Gupta, Derk Jan Hoens, Teun Goudriaan), review published in 1981
- John Taber’s review (called Much ado about nothing, 2001) of B. Kellner’s Nichts bleibt nichts and his review of Franco’s Dharmakīrti on Compassion and Rebirth(called Dharmakīrti against Physicalism, 2003)
- Simon Brodbeck’s review of Ch. Framarin’s Desire and motivation in Indian philosophy, 2010
- Robert Leach’s review of A.Nicholson’s Unifying Hinduism (also discussed on this blog, here), 2011
The common feature in all these reviews is that they are critical in an intelligent way. They do not impose on the reader useless lists of typos or of similar minor points, rather, they engage with the text and see its points of strength and, through them, its weaknesses. They are also critical in a constructive, non demolishing way. They do not aim at the demolition of the book or of its author, but at its enhancement. They, I imagine, did good to the author and to his/her readers. (What do Chris and Andrew think, if they want to share it?) Yet, critical reviews are often feared. Some journals (e.g., the JAOS) especially warn reviewers asking them to avoid critical reviews. The Dissertation Reviews website forbids them. I am all for a ban of useless critical reviews, filled with ad hominem attacks or list of minor mistakes. But don’t we in this way run the risk to end up with uniformly favorable reviews, ones which do not allow readers to distinguish between good and bad works? Last, as an author myself, I fear not being read much more than I fear critical reviews written by people who engaged with my work.
Do you agree? If so, why don’t we think of lunching a “honest reviews” section on this blog? In my opinion, the featured reviews would need to be
- critical (no discount here)
- dedicated to important works (it is neither fun nor useful to criticise books that are just worthless)
Hopefully, 2. should make authors happy to have their works dealt with here, albeit in a critical way.
What do you think? Which reviews would you like to read or write here? And which reviews did you like more?
More on my ideal reviews, with further remarks about Amod Lele’s ones, can be read here