Books reviews are with many other aspect of scholarship, an important component of the ongoing advancement of knowledge. critical reviews are very useful for any author when they are fair and balanced, and can reveals facets of the topic taken for granted by the original writers. But it is more and more common for some colleagues to discharge their frustrations and settle scores in books reviews.
Some journals, as the Journal of Anthropological Research, have established precise guidelines to avoid the mis-use of the book reviews. Most journals still trust individual contributors and in this sense, keep the Pandora Box open. Two of my recent books went through unfair and blatantly hostiles reviews. The review of "Ethnoarchaeology of Shuwa-Arab Settlements" by Dr. N. David (Antiquity ) and Dr. MacEachern (Journal of African History 45:347-8, 2004) are patronizing and insulting. that of "The Land of Houlouf.." by Dr. S.K. McIntosh (Antiquity 79 (304), June 2005, is the materialization of profound dishonesty, articulated on allusions and fabrication.
It is important to protect books reviews from ill-intended scholars, who target some individuals they dislike, and chase them all over the academic landscape.