I review Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw for Alimentum here.
For those who don’t know, book reviews are a nice way for an emerging writer to get a few publications. The Unattainable Quarterly might not give your short story the time of day, but they will probably publish your review. (I admit, this CV line might apply more to those of us striving for teaching jobs, than writerly fame.) Anyway, it’s a way to enter the conversation, and if your cover letter looks like West Texas, it’s a publication credit.
It’s also satisfying to be given an assignment, finish it, and then see your byline. All that workshopping can feel like a giant circle. I have stories I’ve been strokin' to the east and strokin' to the west for years now. Years! When editors actually need copy, they give slash and burn feedback to get your piece ready to go. What I’m saying, is that it’s a different experience writing for the express goal of publication, versus writing to write and hoping someone will like it.
Perhaps now you are wondering how you get someone to publish your review. I’ll be honest, mine were hook-ups from professors. So if you are in school or know someone involved with a lit mag, then ask them. I bet a cold query would work, too, though. I would present a few ideas for book reviews (to show you know the publication), and then ask for a suggestion. Chances are the editor has a pile of books stacked on the desk.