Esquire called it "the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language." The Review publishes long-form reviews and essays, often by well-known writers, original poetry, and has letters and personals advertising sections that had attracted critical comment.
On Middle East coverage, Silvers said, "any serious criticism of Israeli policy will be seen by some as heresy, a form of betrayal. [M]uch of what we've published has come from some of the most respected and brilliant Israeli writers ...
The first issue projected "a confidence in the unquestioned rightness of the liberal consensus, in the centrality of literature and its power to convey meaning, in the solubility of our problems through the application of intelligence and good will, and in the coherence and clear hierarchy of the intellectual world".
During the year-long lock-out at The Times in London in 1979, the Review founded a daughter publication, the London Review of Books.
Since 2010, the journal has hosted an online blog written by its contributors.
The Review celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, and a Martin Scorsese film called The 50 Year Argument documents the history and influence of the paper. They were backed and encouraged by Epstein's husband, Jason Epstein, a vice president at Random House and editor of Vintage Books, and Hardwick's husband, poet Robert Lowell.
with articles on literature, culture, economics, science and current affairs.
Published in New York City, it is inspired by the idea that the discussion of important books is an indispensable literary activity.
In 1959 Hardwick had published an essay, "The Decline of Book Reviewing", in Harper's, Her essay was an indictment of American book reviews of the time, "light, little article[s]" that she decried as "lobotomized", passionless praise and denounced as "blandly, respectfully denying whatever vivacious interest there might be in books or in literary matters generally." During the New York printers' strike of 1963, when The New York Times and six other newspapers suspended publication, Hardwick, Lowell and the Epsteins seized the chance to establish the sort of vigorous book review that Hardwick had imagined.
Silvers and Epstein sent books to "the writers we knew and admired most. We asked for three thousand words in three weeks in order to show what a book review should be, and practically everyone came through.
In 1990 it founded an Italian edition, la Rivista dei Libri, published until 2010. Silvers and Barbara Epstein edited the paper together from its founding in 1963, until her death in 2006.
From then until his death in 2017, Silvers was the sole editor. The Review has a book publishing division, established in 1999, called New York Review Books, which publishes classics, collections and children's books.