Writing Book Reviews

A book review is not a “book report” or a chapter-by-chapter summary of the author’s work. A book review explains, interprets and judges a work; in addition, it may relate the book to others or to a specific class or topic. It is an evaluative paper. It is personal. And it contributes to the body of knowledge about a discipline.

However, a good review is not simply an opinion (this is good, that is bad). Instead, a good reviewer explains her judgment by providing evidence for all claims.

Many book reviews begin with a concise summary of the work before launching into the evaluation. Part of the evaluation is a recommendation for others.

Generally speaking, at least half of your review should be evaluation, not summary.

Questions to consider while reading the book (from Webster University, Indiana University):

  • What is the author’s viewpoint and purpose?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Does the author have the necessary expertise (credibility) to write the book?
  • How does the book compare with others in its genre/topic?
  • What are the main points in the book, and how are they organized?
  • What kind of evidence and how credible/convincing is the evidence used to argue the points of the book?
  • What are the main assumptions? Are they valid or well-supported?
  • Is the book one-sided?
  • What did the author leave out?
  • How successful do you think the author was in carrying out the overall purposes of the book?

Writing A Critical Review – Resources

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