Writing a Book Review: General Information
A book review tells not only what a book
entails, but also how successfully the book explains itself. As a book
reviewer, you bring together the two components of accurate, analytical reading
and strong, personal response when you indicate what the book is about and what
it might mean to a reader (by explaining what it meant to you). Overall, book
reviewers answer not only the what but the so what question about a book. Thus, in writing a review, you combine
the skills of describing
is on the page, analysing
the book tried to achieve its purpose, and expressing your own reactions.
Reading a Book
As you are reading or preparing to write
the review, ask yourself questions. The viewpoint or purpose may be implied
rather than stated, but often a good place to look for what the author says
about his or her purpose and viewpoint is the introduction or preface.
- What are the author’s main points? These will often be stated in the
- What kind of evidence does the author use to
prove his or her points? Is the evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does the author support his or her points
- How does this book relate to other books on the
same topic? Is the book unique? Does it add new information? What
group of readers, if any, would find this book most useful?
- Does the author have the necessary expertise to
write the book? What credentials or background does the author have that
qualify him or her to write the book? Has the author written other books
or papers on this topic? Do others in this field consider this author to
be an expert?
- What are the most appropriate criteria by which
to judge the book? How successful do you think the author was in carrying
out the overall purposes of the book?
on your book’s purpose, you should select appropriate criteria by which to
judge its success. For example,
if an author says his or her purpose is to argue for a particular solution
to a public problem, then the review should judge whether the author has
defined the problem, identified causes, planned points of attack, provided
necessary background information, and offered specific solutions. A review
should also indicate the author’s professional expertise.
Writing the Book
Book reviews usually include the following
kinds of information; keep in mind, though, that you may need to include other
information to explain your assessment of the book. Most reviews begin with a heading that includes all the bibliographic
information about the book.
Like most pieces of writing, the review
itself usually begins with an introduction that lets the readers know what the review will say. The first
paragraph usually includes the author and title again, so the readers do not
have to look up to find this information. You should also include a very brief
overview of the contents of the book, the purpose or audience for the book, and
your reaction and evaluation. You should then move into a section of background information that helps place the book in context and discusses criteria for judging the book. Next, you should give a summary of the main points of the book, quoting and paraphrasing key
phrases from the author.
Finally, you get to the heart of your
the book. In this section, you might discuss some of the following issues: It is important to use labels to carefully
differentiate your views from the author’s, so that you do not confuse the
reader. Then, like other essays, you can end with a direct comment on the book, and tie together issues
raised in the review in a conclusion.