Book Reviews

How to Write Book Review

What is a Book Review?

There are two approaches to book reviewing:

Descriptive reviews give the essential information about a book. This is done with description and exposition, by stating the perceived aims and purposes of the author, and by quoting striking passages from the text. Critical reviews describe and evaluate the book, in terms of accepted literary and historical standards, and supports this evaluation with evidence from the text. The following pointers are meant to be suggestions for writing a critical review. Basic requirements To write a critical review, the reviewer must know two things: Knowing the work under review: This demands not only attempting to understand the author’s purpose and how the component parts of the work contribute to that purpose, but also knowledge of the author: his/her nationality, time period, other works etc. Requirements of the genre: This means understanding the art form and how it functions. Without such context, the reviewer has no historical or literary standard upon which to base an evaluation. Reviewing essentials Description of the book. Sufficient description should be given so that the reader will have some understanding of the author’s thoughts. This account is not a summary. It can be woven into the critical remarks. Discuss the author. Biographical information should be relevant to the subject of the review and enhance the reader’s understanding of the work under discussion. Appraise the book. A review must be a considered judgment that includes:  a statement of the reviewer’s understanding of the author’s purpose  how well the reviewer feels the author’s purpose has been achieved  evidence to support the reviewer’s judgement of the author’ achievement. While you read:  Read the book with care.  Highlight quotable passages.  Note your impressions as you read.  Allow time to assimilate what you read so that the book can be seen in perspective.  Keep in mind the need for a single impression which must be clear to the reader. The review outline A review outline gives you an over-all grasp of the organization of the review, to determine the central point your review will make, to eliminate inessentials or irrelevancies, and to fill in gaps or omissions.  Examine the notes you have made and eliminate those with no relationship to your central thesis.  By organizing your discussion topics into groups, aspects of the book will emerge: e.g., theme, character, structure, etc.  Write down all the major headings of the outline and fill in the subdivisions.  All parts should support your thesis or central point. First draft Opening paragraphs set the tone of the paper. Possible introductions usually make a statement about the:  Thesis  Authorial purpose  Topicality of the work or its significance  Comparison of the work to others by the same author or within the same genre  Author. The body of the review logically develops your thesis. Follow your outline or adjust it to further your argument. The aim should be to push your central point. Put quoted material in quotation marks, or indented, and properly footnoted. Concluding paragraphs sums up or restates your thesis or it may make a final judgement regarding the book. Do not introduce new information or ideas in the conclusion.

Your conclusion should summarize, perhaps include a final assessment.