I. Bibliographic Information
Provide the essential information about the book using the writing style asked for by your professor [e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.]. Depending on how your professor wants you to organize your review, the bibliographic information represents the heading of your review. In general, it would look like this:
The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History. By Jill Lepore. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. xii, 207pp.).
Reviewed by [your name].
Begin your review by telling the reader not only the overarching concern of the book in its entirety [the subject area] but also what the author's particular point of view is on that subject [the thesis statement]. If you cannot find an adequate statement in the author's own words or if you find that the thesis statement is not well-developed, then you will have to compose your own introductory thesis statement that does cover all the material. This statement should be no more than one paragraph and must be succinctly stated, accurate, and unbiased.
If you find it difficult to discern the overall aims and objectives of the book [and, be sure to point this out in your review if you determine that this is a deficiency], you may arrive at an understanding of the book's overall purpose by assessing the following:
- Scan the table of contents because it can help you understand how the book was organized and will aid in determining the author's main ideas and how they were developed [e.g., chronologically, topically, etc.].
- Why did the author write on this subject rather than on some other subject?
- From what point of view is the work written?
- Was the author trying to give information, to explain something technical, or to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?
- What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? If necessary, review related literature from other books and journal articles to familiarize yourself with the field.
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is the author's style? Is it formal or informal? You can evaluate the quality of the writing style by noting some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, accurate use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, and fluidity.
- How did the book affect you? Were any prior assumptions you had on the subject that were changed, abandoned, or reinforced after reading the book? How is the book related to your own personal beliefs or assumptions? What personal experiences have you had that relate to the subject?
- How well has the book achieved the goal(s) set forth in the preface, introduction, and/or foreword?
- Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?
III. Note the Method
Illustrate your remarks with specific references and quotations that help to illustrate the literary method used to state the research problem, describe the research design, and analyze the findings. In general, authors tend to use the following literary methods, exclusively or in combination.
- Description: The author depicts scenes and events by giving specific details that appeal to the five senses, or to the reader’s imagination. The description presents background and setting. Its primary purpose is to help the reader realize, through as many sensuous details as possible, the way persons, places, and things are within the phenomenon being described.
- Narration: The author tells the story of a series of events, usually thematically or in chronological order. In general, the emphasis in scholarly books is on narration of the events. Narration tells what has happened and, in some cases, using this method to forecast what could happen in the future. Its primary purpose is to draw the reader into a story and create a contextual framework for understanding the research problem.
- Exposition: The author uses explanation and analysis to present a subject or to clarify an idea. Exposition presents the facts about a subject or an issue clearly and as impartially as possible. Its primary purpose is to describe and explain, to document for the historical record an event or phenomenon.
- Argument: The author uses techniques of persuasion to establish understanding of a particular truth, often in the form of a research question, or to convince the reader of its falsity. The overall aim is to persuade the reader to believe something and perhaps to act on that belief. Argument takes sides on an issue and aims to convince the reader that the author's position is valid, logical, and/or reasonable.
IV. Critically Evaluate the Contents
Critical comments should form the bulk of your book review. State whether or not you feel the author's treatment of the subject matter is appropriate for the intended audience. Ask yourself:
- Has the purpose of the book been achieved?
- What contributions does the book make to the field?
- Is the treatment of the subject matter objective or at least balanced in describing all sides of a debate?
- Are there facts and evidence that have been omitted?
- What kinds of data, if any, are used to support the author's thesis statement?
- Can the same data be interpreted to explain alternate outcomes?
- Is the writing style clear and effective?
- Does the book raise important or provocative issues or topics for discussion
- Does the book bring attention to the need for further research?
- What has been left out?
Support your evaluation with evidence from the text and, when possible, state the book's quality in relation to other scholarly sources. If relevant, note of the book's format, such as, layout, binding, typography, etc. Are there tables, charts, maps, illustrations, text boxes, photographs, or other non-textual elements? Do they aid in understanding the text? Describing this is particularly important in books that contain a lot of non-textual elements.
NOTE: It is important to carefully distinguish your views from those of the author so as not to confuse your reader. Be clear when you are describing an author's point of view versus your own.
V. Examine the Front Matter and Back Matter
Front matter refers to anything before the first chapter of the book. Back matter refers to any information included after the final chapter of the book. Front matter is most often numbered separately from the rest of the text in lower case Roman numerals [i.e. i - xi]. Critical commentary about front or back matter is generally only necessary if you believe there is something that diminishes the overall quality of the work [e.g., the indexing is poor] or there is something that is particularly helpful in understanding the book's contents [e.g., foreword places the book in an important context].
The following front matter may be included in a book and may be considered for evaluation when reviewing its overall quality:
- Table of contents -- is it clear? Is it detailed or general? Does it reflect the true contents of the book?
- Author biography -- also found as back matter, the biography of author(s) can be useful in determining the authority of the writer and whether the book builds on prior research or represents new research. In scholarly reviews, noting the author's affiliation can be a factor in helping the reader determine the overall validity of the work [i.e., are they associated with a research center devoted to studying the research problem under investigation].
- Foreword -- the purpose of a foreword is to introduce the reader to the author as well as the book itself, and to help establish credibility for both. A foreword may not contribute any additional information about the book's subject matter, but it serves as a means of validating the book's existence. Later editions of a book sometimes have a new foreword prepended [appearing before an older foreword, if there was one], which may be included to explain how the latest edition differs from previous editions.
- Acknowledgements -- scholarly studies in the social sciences often take many years to write, so authors frequently acknowledge the help and support of others in getting their research published. This can be as innocuous as acknowledging the author's family or the publisher. However, an author may acknowledge prominent scholars or subject experts, staff at key research centers, or people who curate important archival collections. In these particular cases, it may be worth noting these sources of support in your review.
- Preface -- generally describes the genesis, purpose, limitations, and scope of the book and may include acknowledgments of indebtedness to people who have helped the author complete the study. Is the preface helpful in understanding the study? Does it provide an effective framework for understanding what's to follow?
- Chronology -- also may be found as back matter, a chronology is generally included to highlight key events related to the subject of the book. Do the entries contribute to the overall work? Is it detailed or very general?
- List of non-textual elements -- a book that contains a lot of charts, photographs, maps, etc. will often list these items after the table of contents in the order that they appear in the text. Is it useful?
The following back matter may be included in a book and may be considered for evaluation when reviewing the overall quality of the book:
- Afterword -- this is a short, reflective piece written by the author that takes the form of a concluding section, final commentary, or closing statement. It is worth mentioning in a review if it contributes information about the purpose of the book, gives a call to action, summarizes key recommendations or next steps, or asks the reader to consider key points made in the book.
- Appendix -- is the supplementary material in the appendix or appendices well organized? Do they relate to the contents or appear superfluous? Does it contain any essential information that would have been more appropriately integrated into the text?
- Index -- there may be separate indexes for names and subjects or one integrated index. Is the indexing thorough and accurate? Are elements used, such as, bold or italic fonts to help identify specific places in the book? Does the index include "see also" references to direct you to related topics?
- Glossary of Terms -- are the definitions clearly written? Is the glossary comprehensive or are there key terms missing? Are any terms or concepts mentioned in the text not included that should have been?
- Footnotes/Endnotes -- examine any footnotes or endnotes as you read from chapter to chapter. Do they provide important additional information? Do they clarify or extend points made in the body of the text? Should any notes have been better integrated into the text rather than separated?
- Bibliography/References/Further Readings -- review any bibliography, list of references to sources, and/or further readings the author may have included. What kinds of sources appear [e.g., primary or secondary, recent or old, scholarly or popular, etc.]? How does the author make use of them? Be sure to note important omissions of sources that you believe should have been utilized, including important digital resources or archival collections.
VI. Summarize and Comment
State your general conclusions briefly and succinctly. Pay particular attention to the author's concluding chapter and/or afterword. Is the summary convincing? List the principal topics, and briefly summarize the author’s ideas about these topics, main points, and conclusions. If appropriate and to help clarify your overall evaluation, use specific references and quotations to support your statements. If your thesis has been well argued, the conclusion should follow naturally. It can include a final assessment or simply restate your thesis. Do not introduce new information in the conclusion. If you've compared the book to any other works or used other sources in writing the review, be sure to cite them at the end of your book review.
Book Reviews. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Book Reviews. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Gastel, Barbara. "Special Books Section: A Strategy for Reviewing Books for Journals." BioScience 41 (October 1991): 635-637; Hartley, James. "Reading and Writing Book Reviews Across the Disciplines." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57 (July 2006): 1194–1207; Procter, Margaret. The Book Review or Article Critique. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Reading a Book to Review It. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Scarnecchia, David L. "Writing Book Reviews for the Journal Of Range Management and Rangelands." Rangeland Ecology and Management 57 (2004): 418-421; Simon, Linda. "The Pleasures of Book Reviewing." Journal of Scholarly Publishing 27 (1996): 240-241; Writing a Book Review. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Book Reviews. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University.
How To Write A Good Book Review
A book review is a summary of a book that you have read. You should review all aspects of the story. A book review is therefore written after reading (you may always order review at writing service without reading a book) because without reading the book it is difficult to figure out what it is all about and the review will, therefore not make sense. A wide reader will have an easy time in book review writing. This article highlights the guidelines for review writing.
Content of this article
- Structure elements
- Tips for writing
- How to conclude
1. Preparation for writing a book review
- Most people do not know how to write a book review. The following are the guidelines to writing. First, know some information about the author, like some of his other books and some basic knowledge as it opens up your mind on what to expect as you begin reading.
- Read the chosen book when very alert. As you read, make sure that you take down notes. The notes written should be relevant and important. Ensure that you document the very important parts of the book such as the theme, characters and what the plot is.
- Make sure that the notes written are detailed to avoid referring to the book too much when making the draft copy.
- Establish what the major themes of the book are. A book has about two or three major themes. Relate the themes to the contemporary society and understand why the author decided to pick on those themes. Be keen to see how the themes blend with one another.
- As you read, notice the weak points of the book. This could be character building or plot. Any weak point in the book should be highlighted to ensure that it is not left out.
- Highlight the uniqueness of the text. Why do you find the book unique in its way? What separates it from all others of the same genre? It takes a keen eye and a vivid reader to know why a book is unique.
- Based on your assumption, why do you think that the book is a success? It is derived from your opinion. It might be a success or a failure.
2. Structure of a review
There are different book review structures. The key review tips to consider are as follows. Whichever the format used, these should be inclusive.
1. Making a draft
The first step to writing a successful book review is always to make a review draft. It is a rough outline for a book review. It includes gathering up the notes taken and making a body out of them. Place the notes in chronological order and write in prose form what you think should be included in the book review. Being the book review introduction, it is written without making any corrections. The draft is the skeleton of the review and gives an overview of how the final copy should be. Know the book review structure to use.
2. The heading
The heading is written in bold and capital letters. Write the name of the book and the author.
In the introduction for a book review, explain who you are. In a paragraph, states that the review is about a book you have read. Start with a couple of sentences that describe what the book talks about. However, do not reveal any plot twists or character plays. In the introduction write about the author and his other works. Reveal whether or one needs to read a particular book to follow or not. The introduction should not contain any spoilers. The introduction lays the foundation for the review.
The summary includes details about the book. While writing the summary, book review outlining should be observed. It shows how you feel about the book, how it is written and how the story is told.
3. Tips for good writing
The key book review tips to consider in book review writing are:
• Character development
Tell who your favorite character was and why. Why did the character stand out for in the book?
Did the characters feel real to you and why? How well did the characters grow in the book? Explain to your readers what you think about how well the author developed the characters in the book. Show a pattern of development from the start.
Did the author keep you guessing? A good book is one that has suspense till the end or was the story predictable. Explain how well the author brought out emotions like happiness or sadness. Explain what your favorite part in the book was. You can quote phrases in the book that you found to bring out the best. The phrases should be written in italics and quoted. Was the story captivating to keep you turning the pages? If you got bored or lost at a point, explain why and what you think should be done about it.
The theme is what the book is all about. Some of the most popular themes are:
The prologue of the book gives an overview of what to expect in the book. As you read, identify whether or not the author stuck to the intended theme. Did you feel the relevance of the theme or did it come off as just another book? This is what sells the book.
4. How to conclude a book review
In a book review conclusion, the writer can state whether or not they have any books they have written. Give a possible link to other book reviews done.
This is the conclusion of a book review, and it explains what you did not like about the book. It could be ending or the story. Was the conclusion to your liking? Or would you have preferred if it ended in a particular way? For example, would you have preferred a happy ending and not a cliffhanger? Compare the book to others of its kind and state the differences. It allows the reader to see that the review was based on a large pool of books.
Ensure that the review outline is the recommended one. Recommend the audience you think would find the book interesting and why for example the youth, couples or entrepreneurs. You can also rate the book.