Since the beginning of 2015, I have been solicited to write reviews of four recent books on American sculpture and monuments. Before this year, I had never received an invitation to write a review before, and I imagine the increase in requests might be related to my recent graduation from the University of Delaware. I have accepted all four requests, and at times I have been unsure whether this is the right step at this point in my career – for instance, Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In has suggested that early career scholars should not write book reviews at all. Certainly, I am (and should be!) spending much of this summer focused on my own research and writing projects.
But despite Kelsky’s excellent advice, I have found the process of writing book reviews quite enjoyable and rewarding for my personal growth. First of all, all of these books are closely related to my field of research, and as I work on my book, I am happy to keep abreast of the important work going on around me. Many of them are by scholars I have long respected, and I enjoy keeping up with their work. Along with this, I am glad to have the incentive to devote time to reading in my field, a pleasure that is sometimes lost in the pressures of research and teaching obligations. And the process has proved useful for my teaching portfolio as well, as I have encountered readings and ideas that will appear on future syllabi.
In addition, as I begin to consider shopping my own book to publishers, I am thinking about the materiality of books and the work of university presses in a way that was not as much on my mind when I was a graduate student studying for comprehensive exams. And I certainly enjoy receiving a free book from time to time!
All in all, while this activity may or may not have an impact on my search for permanent employment or an eventual case for tenure, I have found it deeply rewarding and useful for my growth as a scholar and educator. For now, that is enough for me.