Book Reviews

What this handout is concerning

This handout can assist you write a critique, a report or essay that provides a vital perspective on a text. It offers a method and suggests some methods for writing book reviews.

What is a review?

A review could be a vital analysis of a text, event, object, or development. Reviews will think about books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, design, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and lots of different forms. This handout can specialize in book reviews. For the same assignment, see our handout on literature reviews.

Above all, a review makes associate degree argument. the foremost vital component of a review is that it’s an article, not just a outline. It permits you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with different audiences. you’ll provide agreement or disagreement and determine wherever you discover the work exemplary or deficient in its data, judgments, or organization. you must clearly state your opinion of the add question, which statement can most likely tally different sorts of educational writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion. See our handout on argument.

Typically, reviews ar transient. In newspapers and educational journals, they seldom exceed a thousand words, though you will encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews got to be compact. whereas they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:

First, a review offers the reader a succinct outline of the content. This includes a relevant description of the subject also as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose.
Second, and a lot of significantly, a review offers a vital assessment of the content. This involves your reactions to the work underneath review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not or not it absolutely was effective or persuasive, and the way it increased your understanding of the problems at hand.
Finally, additionally to analyzing the work, a review usually suggests whether or not or not the audience would appreciate it.
Becoming associate degree knowledgeable reviewer: 3 short examples
Reviewing will be a frightening task. somebody has asked for your opinion concerning one thing that you simply might feel unqualified to guage. UN agency ar you to criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve ne’er written a unique yourself, a lot of less won a altruist Prize? the purpose is that someone—a academic, a journal editor, peers in a very study group—wants to grasp what you think that a couple of specific work. you will not be (or feel like) associate degree knowledgeable, however you wish to fake to be one for your specific audience. no one expects you to be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, however your careful observations will give you with the stuff to create reasoned judgments. Tactfully readjustment agreement and disagreement, praise and criticism, could be a valuable, difficult ability, and like several styles of writing, reviews need you to produce concrete proof for your assertions.

Consider the subsequent transient critique written for a history course on medieval Europe by a student UN agency is fascinated with beer:

Judith Bennett’s beer, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s add a ever-changing World, 1300-1600, investigates however girls accustomed brew and sell the bulk of beer drunk in European nation. traditionally, beer and brewage (not milk, wine, or water) were vital components of nation diet. beer production was low-skill and status labor that was complimentary to women’s domestic responsibilities. within the early fifteenth century, brewers began to create beer with hops, and that they referred to as this new drink “beer.” this system allowed brewers to provide their beverages at a lower price and to sell it a lot of simply, though girls usually stopped production once the business became a lot of profitable.
The student describes the topic of the book associate degreed provides an correct outline of its contents. however the reader doesn’t learn some key data expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book and its argument, and whether or not or not the coed would advocate the book. As a vital assessment, a critique ought to specialize in opinions, not facts and details. outline ought to be unbroken to a minimum, and specific details ought to serve as an example arguments.

Now think about a review of a similar book written by a rather a lot of opinionative student:

Judith Bennett’s beer, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s add a ever-changing World, 1300-1600 was a vast disappointment. I wished to grasp concerning the rituals close drinking in medieval England: the songs, the games, the parties. Bennett provided none of that data. I likeable however the book showed beer associate degreed brewage production as an economic activity, however the reader gets lost within the details of costs and wages. i used to be a lot of curious about the non-public lives of the ladies brewsters. The book was divided into eight long chapters, and that i can’t imagine why anyone would ever need to browse it.
There’s no shortage of judgments during this review! however the coed doesn’t show a operating data of the book’s argument. The reader incorporates a sense of what the coed expected of the book, however no sense of what the author herself taken off to prove. though the coed offers many reasons for the negative review, those examples don’t clearly relate to every different as a part of associate degree overall evaluation—in different words, in support of a particular thesis. This review is so associate degree assessment, however not a vital one.

Here is one final review of a similar book:

One of feminism’s paradoxes—one that challenges several of its optimistic histories—is however social structure remains persistent over time. whereas Judith Bennett’s beer, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s add a ever-changing World, 1300-1600 acknowledges medieval girls as historical actors through their beer production, it conjointly shows that feminine agency had its limits with the appearance of brewage. I had assumed that those limits were spiritual and political, however Bennett shows however a “patriarchal equilibrium” shut girls out of economic life also. Her analysis of women’s wages in beer and brewage production proves that a amendment in women’s work doesn’t equate to a amendment in operating women’s standing. modern feminists and historians alike ought to browse Bennett’s book and debate once they crack open their next brewsky.
This student’s review avoids the issues of the previous 2 examples. It combines balanced opinion and concrete example, a vital assessment supported associate degree expressly declared principle, and a recommendation to a possible audience. The reader gets a way of what the book’s author supposed to demonstrate. Moreover, the coed refers to associate degree argument concerning feminist history normally that places the book in a very specific genre which reaches intent on a general audience. the instance of associate degreealyzing wages illustrates an argument, the analysis engages vital intellectual debates, and also the reasons for the positive review ar plainly visible. The review offers criteria, opinions, and support with that the reader will agree or disagree.

Developing associate degree assessment: before you write
There is no definitive technique to writing a review, though some vital pondering the work on hand is important before you really begin writing. Thus, writing a review could be a ballroom dance process: developing associate degree argument concerning the work into consideration, associate degreed creating that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft. See our handout on argument.

What follows could be a series of inquiries to focus your thinking as you probe the work on hand. whereas the queries specifically think about book reviews, you’ll simply transpose them to associate degree analysis of performances, exhibitions, and different review subjects. Don’t feel duty-bound to handle every of the questions; some are going to be a lot of relevant than others to the book in question.

What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wished you to induce one plan from the book, what would it not be? however will it compare or distinction to the planet you know? What has the book accomplished?
What specifically is that the subject or topic of the book? will the author cowl the topic adequately? will the author cowl all aspects of the topic in a very balanced fashion? what’s the approach to the topic (topical, analytical, written record, descriptive)?
How will the author support her argument? What proof will she use to prove her point? does one notice that proof convincing? Why or why not? will any of the author’s data (or conclusions) conflict with different books you’ve browse, courses you’ve taken or simply previous assumptions you had of the subject?
How will the author structure her argument? What ar the elements that conjure the whole? will the argument build sense? will it persuade you? Why or why not?
How has this book helped you perceive the subject? Would you advocate the book to your reader?
Beyond the inner workings of the book, you will conjointly {consider|think concerning|contemplate|take into account} some data about the author and also the circumstances of the text’s production:

Who is that the author? position, political persuasion, training, intellectual interests, personal history, and historical context might give crucial details concerning however a piece takes form. will it matter, as an example, that the writer was the subject’s best friend? What distinction would it not build if the author participated within the events she writes about?
What is the book’s genre? Out of what field will it emerge? will it adapt to or depart from the conventions of its genre? These queries will give a historical or literary customary on that to base your evaluations. If you’re reviewing the primary book ever written on the topic, it’ll be vital for your readers to grasp. detain mind, though, that naming “firsts”—alongside naming “bests” and “onlys”—can be a risky business unless you’re completely sure.

Writing the review

Once you have got created your observations and assessments of the work underneath review, fastidiously survey your notes and conceive to unify your impressions into an announcement that may describe the aim or thesis of your review. investigate our handout on thesis statements. Then, define the arguments that support your thesis.

Your arguments ought to develop the thesis in a very logical manner. That logic, in contrast to a lot of customary educational writing, might at first emphasize the author’s argument whereas you develop your own within the course of the review. The relative stress depends on the character of the review: if readers could also be a lot of curious about the work itself, you will need to create the work and also the author a lot of prominent; if you wish the review to be concerning your perspective and opinions, then you will structure the review to privilege your observations over (but ne’er separate from) those of the work underneath review. What follows is simply one in all many ways to arrange a review.


Since most reviews ar transient, several writers begin with a catchy quip or report that compactly delivers their argument. however you’ll introduce your review otherwise reckoning on the argument and audience. The Writing Center’s handout on introductions will assist you notice associate degree approach that works. In general, you must include:

The name of the author and also the book title and also the main theme.
Relevant details concerning UN agency the author is and wherever he/she stands within the genre or field of inquiry. you’ll conjointly link the title to the topic to indicate however the title explains the topic matter.
The context of the book and/or your review. putting your review in a very framework that produces sense to your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. maybe you wish to situate a book concerning the Cuban Revolution within the context of conflict rivalries between the us and also the Russia. Another reviewer may need to think about the book within the framework of resident social movements. Your selection of context informs your argument.
The thesis of the book. If you’re reviewing fiction, this could be tough since novels, plays, and short stories seldom have specific arguments. however distinctive the book’s specific novelty, angle, or originality permits you to indicate what specific contribution the piece is attempting to create.
Your thesis concerning the book.

Summary of content

This should be transient, as analysis takes priority. within the course of creating your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete proof from the book, therefore some outline are going to be spread throughout different elements of the review.

The necessary quantity of outline conjointly depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you’re writing book reviews for colleagues—to brace oneself for comprehensive exams, for example—you might want to devote a lot of attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the opposite hand, your audience has already browse the book—such as a category assignment on a similar work—you might have a lot of liberty to explore a lot of refined points and to emphasise your own argument. See our handout on outline for a lot of tips.

Analysis and analysis of the book

Your analysis and analysis ought to be organized into paragraphs that trot out single aspects of your argument. This arrangement will be difficult once your purpose is to think about the book as an entire, however it will assist you differentiate components of your criticism and try assertions with proof a lot of clearly. you are doing not essentially got to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you wish to create, you’ll organize your paragraphs a lot of usefully by themes, methods, or different components of the book. If you discover it helpful to incorporate comparisons to different books, keep them transient so the book underneath review remains within the spotlight. Avoid excessive quotation and provides a particular page reference in parentheses once you do quote. keep in mind that you simply will state several of the author’s points in your own words.


Sum up or ingeminate your thesis or build the ultimate judgment relating to the book. you must not introduce new proof for your argument within the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new concepts that transcend the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis. This paragraph must balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses so as to unify your analysis. Did the body of your review have 3 negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do all of them add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions will assist you build a final assessment.

In review
Finally, some general considerations:

Review the book ahead of you, not the book you would like the author had written. you’ll and will show shortcomings or failures, however don’t criticize the book for not being one thing it absolutely was ne’er supposed to be.
With any luck, the author of the book worked exhausting to seek out the proper words to precise her concepts. you must conceive to do a similar. Precise language permits you to manage the tone of your review.
Never hesitate to challenge associate degree assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to copy your assertions fastidiously.
Try to gift a balanced argument concerning the worth of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—and typically obligated—to voice sturdy agreement or disagreement. however detain mind that a foul book takes as long to write down as a decent one, and each author deserves honest treatment. Harsh judgments ar tough to prove and might provide readers the sense that you simply were unfair in your assessment.
A great place to be told concerning book reviews is to seem at examples. The the big apple Times Sunday critique and also the the big apple Review of Books will show you the way skilled writers review books.
Works consulted
We consulted these works whereas scripting this handout. this can be not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and that we encourage you to try and do your own analysis to seek out the newest publications on this subject. Please don’t use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, because it might not match the citation vogue you’re mistreatment. For steering on format citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial.

Drewry, John. Writing Book Reviews. Boston: the author, 1974.

Hoge, James O. Literary Reviewing. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1987.

Sova, Dawn B. and Harry Teitelbaum. a way to Write Book Reports. 4th ed. Lawrenceville, NY: Thomson/ARCO. 2002.

Walford, A.J., ed. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. Phoenix, AZ: antelope Press, 1986.