Novels: finding literary reviews and criticism

Reviews of books using current and historic sources, online and in print.

Subject librarian

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Barbara Carswell
Contact me via our online reference service citing my name and the title of this guide

Children's literature

For information on children's and young adult books, see our separate Children's literature guide.


Literary novel

Literary fiction focuses on the subjects of the narrative to create introspective, indepth studies of complex characters. The tone of literary fiction is usually serious, it has layered meanings and the pace is slower than lighter fiction. Much of this literature remains relevant for generations, even centuries.

Popular or genre novel

Usually the plot is important in the popular novel, the pace is faster and the characterisation is uncomplicated. Action is more important than reflection. Murder/mysteries, thrillers and romances fall into this category.


A book that deals with real events by presenting and interpreting verifiable facts and proofs.


Print and online publications that give the exact publication details for a  book review: the title of the journal or newspaper and the exact date and page number of the review. This lets you go to the print journal or newspaper  and find the article quickly, rather than browsing the whole collection. They are still necessary for older reviews which do not appear online, especially reviews published before the 1990s.  Many online indexes  have expanded to provide the full review (full-text), rather than just the citation details or abstracts. This means you can search online using keywords and author or article title.

Journal citation

This is a reference to a published article and provides detail on how to locate the article.

Usually a citation includes article title and author, the name of the journal the article was published in, the volume number, date and page numbers.

Introduction to book reviews

The State Library has a rich collection of classic and modern fiction. We collect international material, all Victorian-published fiction as well as prize-winning novels. 

Novels and other books are listed on the library catalogue.

Works by famous authors such as Shakespeare have books which review the works, so you can find these listed on our  catalogue. Use  the subject literary criticism and the surname of the author.

Most  book reviews appear in journals, newspapers and books and aren't listed on the  library catalogue. You can find reviews of novels and non-fiction books on our  Australian and overseas online databases.

For popular fiction, we have a database called Fiction Connection.

You can browse  these databases by title, topic or author. They are ideal for searching for  reviews of a particular novel.

Books published before around 1990 may not have an online review. Before 1990,  reviews appeared in printed journals and newspapers. People wanting a review of a book consulted a printed index which listed the journals and newspapers which held the review, and the date of the review. With the journal name and date, you could then search our catalogue for the journal.

Fortunately, the State Library  holds book review encyclopedias which review thousands of nineteenth century, twentieth century and contemporary works.  The last few years are now online and the older ones are in print.

Lbrarians can help you find the most relevant resources for your needs, so don't be afraid to ask.


    Newspapers are often a good source of book reviews. The Library has a very large newspaper collection. Most daily newspapers include weekly literary pages containing book reviews. 

    Many newspapers published since the mid 1990s from both Australia and overseas are available through the Library's online databases.

    The Library also subscribes to online archives of several major overseas dailies extending back as far as the 18th century.

    If newspapers are not online or indexed, you could narrow down the likely date a review might have been published and browse through the literary pages of specific newspapers.


    The Library offers a large number of online databases which index articles from journals, newspapers and other publications. Many articles give the full text of the article, which you can email or download. Most of these articles were written since the 1990s, but some older articles and citations may be included.

    The easiest way to search is by using keywords from the author or title of the book you are interested in.

    Many of these databases are also available outside the Library to registered Victorian users. You will find them on our eresources page.

      State Library Victoria

      In print

      The Library holds an excellent range of print resources. These include:

      Encyclopedic publications
      Critical works
      Reader's guides
      Indexes to published reviews

      In-house indexes

      The Library has developed some in-house indexes that might be helpful for reviews of Australian books. These include:

      Card and like indexes
      Book review index (cards)
      Age index