In different fields, renowned academics are sometimes honoured with a Festschrift on the occasion of their birthday or in memory of their life. (The Festschrift contains articles by scholars close to them who typically engage with a topic the honoured academic is interested in.)

I could imagine that if someone were to write a review of such a book as a whole, she wouldn't want to be overly critical because it's not nice for the editors and the honoured academic (if still alive). Of course a bad review is never "nice", but since a Festschrift is a present one may want to be more careful.

Then, can we trust book reviews of Festschriften? Is the difference with a normal book review negligible?

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    Do you have some examples of book reviews of Festschriften? It might be easier to answer if you would link some examples of what you are asking about.
    – Tripartio
    Aug 21 '18 at 4:16
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    @Tripartio for instance, this 2003 review of Fact and Value: Essays on Ethics and Metaphysics for Judith Jarvis Thomson by Alan Soble is rather critical with regards to the appropriateness as a Festschrift of content and style, although positive about the quality of the articles an sich. I have never written a book review but can imagine that I would be hesitant to write a list of essentials some of which the Festschrift does not satisfy.
    – user25112
    Aug 21 '18 at 4:44
  • The answer would depend a lot on the subject area. In mathematics, collections are hardly reviewed as a whole, but each contribution is read and reviewed separately by different people. Of course, a Festschrift usually contains some very weak articles, which were written by colleagues who more or less stopped doing serious research. When writing a review on whether an article should be accepted, the relation of the author to the honoured person is taken into account, while when writing a review for the article after appearance, this connection does not count anymore. Aug 28 '18 at 21:35
  • @Jan-ChristophSchlage-Puchta thanks, that gives some valuable insights. Could you add that as an answer?
    – user25112
    Aug 29 '18 at 4:50

A festschrift is there to celebrate the person in an academic way, so they are typically treated as such.

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