Critically Reviewing a Book
The book review is quite a common type of assignment. Book review is focussed piece of writing and generally concentrate on a particular book. It is completely different from literature review or annotated bibliography which include many research papers or citations. Broadly, following two approaches can be adopted to write a book review.
This type of review generally provides the essential information about a book. This is written by exposition and description, and by stating the underlying aims of the author. Generally prominent passages from the book are mentioned in this type of review. Especially due to this descriptive approach, this type of reviews is not really common in academia.
As against just describing it, this type of reviews, evaluate the book critically, in terms of the accepted historical and literary standards. Generally in academia, book reviews are synonymous with critical reviews. The following points you should be kept in mind while writing a critical book review.
Basic Requirement to write a critical review:
- You should always have a clear idea about the work you are trying to review. This means that you should be completely clear about the author’s purpose of writing the book, and how the chapterization is enabling him to achieve this purpose. Along with it, you should be aware about the background of the author: his/her nationality, time period of the book, and other major works of the author, etc.
- You should also be clear about in which genre the book is written. This will provide the necessary context on which you can ideally base the critical evaluative exercise on the book.
A series of questions to consider before starting the writing process:
The following points will highlight how you can plan the book review comprehensively.
- What is the thesis statement or central argument of the book?
- How does the author support her argument? How far she is successful at it? Does the conclusion has a conflict with other scholarly contribution?
- How does the author structure her argument? Whether the parts of the arguments are making up the whole?
- How has the book helped you to understand the subject? Would you refer it to your peers?
Process and component of a book review:
First of all, you should always keep detailed notes while reading the book. Although one might think note-taking is easy, I would recommend you to follow the essential steps of comprehensive note-taking. Once the notes are ready to go through them and try to unify different threads to form the central theme or thesis statement of the review. Then, outline the necessary as well as sufficient arguments to support your thesis statement.
Like the components of an essay, book reviews have introduction, body and a conclusion.
Generally, the introduction of a book review is written in a sentence or two to deliver the thesis statement. But you can divert from that pattern, depending on your targeted audience. I urge you to read a little more about the purpose of a good introduction. In the introduction, you should always include:
- The name of the book, name of the author, and the main theme.
- Relevant details about the background of the author and the genre the book belongs to.
- The context of the book. You should always highlight at what historical time period the book is written.
- The thesis of the book. In case you have reviewed a fiction, then it becomes difficult as these types of books generally don’t make any clear arguments. But try still to identify the book’s particularly novelty, angle, or originality.
- Your thesis about the book.
The body of the book review should first have the summary of the content and then evaluation of the content.
Summary of the content should be brief and to the point. The necessary amount of summary is also dependent on the target audience. If you are a graduate student and writing book reviews for your peer who is appearing for the qualifying or comprehensive exam, then the summary should be really detailed.
Evaluation of the book is the central objective of writing a book review. This section should be organized in paragraphs considering single aspects of your argument. No need for writing this section chronologically, depending on your argument you can have the liberty to organize this section. Just remember not to clutter the book review with excessive citations or comparison with other books.
Sum up or reiterate your thesis and provide your final judgement about the book. This section needs to balance the strength or weakness about the book to unify your evaluation.
We expect that this document will guide you to write a captivating book review. You should try to read the book wholeheartedly and put yourself in the shoe of the author before as well as throughout writing the book review.