Meet LJ‘s reviewers of the year, eight librarians from around the country who are among the hundreds of professionals who work to keep our readers informed about print books, ebooks, videos, audiobooks and more, issue in, issue out. A big thank you to these valued contributors to the magazine; they make it a richer resource and we couldn’t do it without them.
Jeff Ayers Seattle Public Library
Since June 1999, Jeff Ayers has been my go-to guy for reviewing thrillers and suspense novels. (Jeff remembers the exact month because his son was born a month after he started reviewing for LJ!) From spotting the potential blockbuster appeal of a little thriller called The Da Vinci Code (“Brown solidifies his reputation as one of the most skilled thriller writers on the planet”) to jumping into the brave new world of digital book critiquing with LJ’s first review of an e-short thriller (Nelson DeMille’s Death Benefits), Jeff has long kept librarians abreast of thriller fiction’s many permutations. And 2012 was a watershed year for Jeff. At our Day of Dialog program prior to BookExpo last June, he moderated a panel of spy-fiction authors—including such luminaries as Alan Furst and rising stars like Chris Pavone—with easy humor and graceful intelligence. Jeff also surveyed this genre’s revival in an insightful June 15 roundup of espionage titles. His recognition as a Reviewer of the Year is long overdue.—Wilda Williams
Lisa Campbell Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor
Cookbook columnist Lisa Campbell is both a literal and figurative tastemaker for the library market. She stays up to date on the latest trends in food and cooking, and puts that knowledge to work as she sorts through scores of new releases to determine which ones will be best for library patrons. She makes the additional effort to prepare at least one recipe from every cookbook she reviews, in the process judging the clarity of the directions and the quality of the finished dish. Her reviews are smart and engaging, and, most of all, useful for her fellow librarians, since she has a knack for distilling what sets a cookbook apart from its peers and expressing that clearly and succinctly. Almost all of her reviews suggest other titles that support the book’s content and could be displayed with it. Lisa thinks big, pays attention to the details, and does it all cheerfully and efficiently. I’m delighted to suggest her as a Reviewer of the Year.—Stephanie Klose
Janet Ingraham Dwyer State Library of Ohio, Columbus
Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Library Consultant for Youth Services at the State Library of Ohio, has specialized in public service and outreach for over 20 years, and is my book reviewer of the year. An LJ reviewer since 1991, Janet covers books in the social sciences, taking on a range of subjects reflective of contemporary issues, from investigations of marginalized lives to monographs that question our assumptions—whether about Jesus Christ, marijuana, or what defines a family. No matter the topic, her beautifully modulated prose, her skillful balance between informing and assessing, and her incisive recommendations, not to forget her benevolent temper that always shines through, result in reviews that enrich LJ and make me sit back and utter a one-word verdict: “Wow!” Thank you, Janet!—Margaret Heilbrun
Ilka Gordon Aaron Garber Library, Cleveland
Ilka Gordon is a librarian/cataloger at the Aaron Garber Library, a small Judaic academic library in Cleveland. She has been reviewing audiobooks for LJ since 2006, from thrillers to Judaica, and has consistently contributed high-quality fiction and nonfiction reviews across a variety of subjects. When assigning Ilka a title, I know she’ll return a well-thought-out and succinct review, which takes into consideration not merely the story and characters but the narration, the sound quality, and the other elements that separate an audiobook from its print counterpart. A full-bodied audio review requires additional facets not considered when critiquing a print galley, and Ilka unfailingly nails it. She is a pleasure to work with, and I’m pleased to dub her the 2012 Audio Reviewer of the Year.—Michael Rogers
Douglas King University of South Carolina, Columbia
LJ is generally delighted to add to our corps of video reviewers as there are always more programs available than qualified specialists to evaluate them. And even better when a new reviewer comes highly recommended from one of my Book Review colleagues. Such was the case in 2007 when Douglas King, Special Materials Cataloger, Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, joined my video force. Initially, I needed a reviewer for a two-disc Beatles program. Now five years and 113 reviews later, I have an exceedingly prolific expert on golf and most other sports, arts, Florida (his hometown) history, Southern culture, and music, music, music. Thank you, Anna Katterjohn, for the best referral ever.
Doug King responds: “It is an honor to be recognized for my work reviewing videos for Library Journal, but I shouldn’t call what I do ‘work.’ The privilege of evaluating new and upcoming DVDs and Blu-rays and suggesting appropriate audiences is anything but work. However, it is a responsibility I take seriously, for I know that a review can impact library sales and influence collection development decisions. But it is nothing less than thrilling to come home to a new and mysterious package from Bette-Lee, tear it open, and discover what I get to review next. I always cross my fingers for something having to do with Bob Dylan, but, of course, I am grateful for whatever she sends.”—Bette-Lee Fox
Lawrence Rungren Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA
What’s better than a sharp, intelligent, elegantly written novel?
A sharp, intelligent, elegantly written review. And that’s what Rungren has been delivering consistently for nearly three decades; a reviewer with true lasting power, he’s been reviewing for LJ since 1985. With nary a missed deadline, Rungren confidently nails a book’s essence and appropriate audience. He takes on heavy hitters like Jim Harrison and Will Self while also gracefully assessing edgier works from the likes of Percival Everett and Max Schaefer, and he can be depended upon to pick out rising stars with aplomb. In the realm of the literary novel with crossover popular appeal, the sophisticated novel of ideas with dark, gritty undertones, he’s a master. Here’s to three more outstanding decades.—Barbara Hoffert
Laurie Selwyn formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX
When I took over as reference editor, the in-house list of subjects Laurie would like to review was headed by the words “GREAT REVIEWER.” For once, all capital letters were perfectly apt. The diversity of Laurie’s interests mean that her reviews cover many reference genres—in the past year alone, she offered her expertise on the Encyclopedia of Alzheimer’s Disease (McFarland) and Encyclopedia of Gender in Media (SAGE), and even tried her hand at assessing a database, IGI Global’s Transformative Tools and Social Advocacy. That she can turn her hand to many subjects makes her a dream for me as an editor. Most importantly, though, her comments make clear to our readers whether they should buy a particular item or save their precious budget dollars, and—a boon as she often reviews law and science materials—indicate whether the material is suitable for lay readers or is more specialized.—Henrietta Thornton-Verma
Scott Vieira Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX
Scott Vieira is never afraid to venture into areas other reviewers might shy away from: his first review this year, for example, was of an anthropological look at BDSM subcultures. A wide-ranging and voracious reader, Scott has tackled a whopping 14 titles for me in the past 12 months, covering science, psychology, and all things human sexuality. His sharp evaluation of these titles (he always knows what’s missing, or what’s special, about a book), his attention to their appropriate audience, and his familiarity with the field (he often suggests a similar—or better—title) make his reviews especially useful. Scott is always willing to untangle the thorniest academic subjects (Borges and Memory) and take on the quirkier titles (Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?): an ideal combination in a reviewer. Not only is he an essential part of my roster, but Scott is also always on the lookout for new LJ reviewers among his colleagues. What more could an editor ask for?—Molly McArdle
Expand your library’s collection and your résumé all at once! LJ is looking for reviewers in all subjects, and some of our editors seek reviewers in specific categories. Senior Editor Margaret Heilbrun is looking for reviewers who can cover books on African American history; religion, especially Islam, Judaism, and Christian theology; Latin American studies; and serious literary biography and criticism from all centuries and all countries. She also seeks generalists on pre-20th-century European history and on pre-20th-century American history. Assistant Editor Annalisa Pesek is eager to find reviewers for books on psychology, business, education, and careers. Barbara Hoffert, Editor, Prepub Alert, would like to recruit reviewers for material from small presses. Please contact us for details.