Most journals, though, also accept reactive commissions, where a potential writer him/herself reaches out and proposes a review, and many will accept them from graduate students.
If you are keen to write your first book review, a reactive commission is probably the way to go.
Counterintuitively, it is actually best to begin by explaining how to get reviews published.
There are, broadly speaking, two ways that editors of academic journals and other periodicals solicit book review writers: 1) proactive commissioning and 2) reactive commissioning.
Before working at The New Yorker, Hilton Als was a staff writer for The Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe.
He has also written articles for The Nation and collaborated on film scripts for Swoon and Looking for Langston.
Although of course this may vary slightly by discipline and/or publication venue, my advice is, if in doubt, to use the following framework, with one paragraph for each of the following seven sections: Introduction.
All good pieces of academic writing should have an introduction, and book reviews are no exception.
You may find that particular books are deemed inappropriate or otherwise have already been allocated, but the response is usually receptive, and it should take no more than two or three good, concerted tries before you have landed your first opportunity. Don’t forget: you are writing about a book, and you probably only have between 800 and 1,000 words in which to do it.
So now you’ve got a book to review and reasonable assurance it will be published if you do a good job. Some academics, including very senior ones, see reviews as an opportunity to hold forth at great length on their own strongly held views. While your readers may be interested in your opinion, they are, first and foremost, interested in learning about the book itself and whether or not they themselves might want to read it. In fact, like other genres of academic writing, such as journal articles and research proposals, academic book reviews tend to have a standard, even formulaic, structure.