A book review tells not only what a book entails, but also how successfully the book explains itself.

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Description

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 what is on the page, analysing how 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 introduction.
  • 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 adequately?
  • 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?  Depending 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 Review

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 review—your evaluation of 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.

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