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Book Review

Page history last edited by Cher McDonald 3 years, 3 months ago


Your book review is a critical look at the content of the book and not just a summary.  


Book reviews typically evaluate a text and offer a brief description of the text’s key points and provide a short appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Readers sometimes confuse book reviews with book reports, but the two are not identical. Book reviews are most often a college assignment, but they also appear in many professional works: magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. A book review gives readers a sneak peek at what a book is like, whether or not the reviewer enjoyed it, and details on how it fit into a historical period.

1. Intro and First Body Paragraph:

There are a number of things you should look at, such as:

  • Argument/Thesis/or "Point of View": How is the work’s argument set up, what are the principal points made by the author? What support does the author give for her/his findings? Does the work fulfill its purpose/support its argument? What is the basic point of the book?
  • Key Ideas: What is the main idea of the work? What makes it good, different, or groundbreaking?
  • Quotes: What quotes stand out? How can you demonstrate the author’s talent or the feel of the book through a quote? (You should provide at least 2 quotes and provide proper in-line citation in your review.)

2. Keep this in mind:

  • The Author's Credentials and potential Bias on the Subject: If possible, try to determine who the author is. Is he/she a professional historian (possessing a Ph.D. in History), a journalist? a participant in the events about which he/she writes? Could you innocently pick up a book entitled Sirhan Sirhan: A Patriotic Life by Leisa Sirhan (his mother) and use it as your basic reference source for an understanding of Robert Kennedy’s assassin (Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy)? What reservations might you mentally make concerning a book about Nazi art written by an eminent art historian, but one whose parents were executed at the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau? These are only some of the more obvious demonstrations of the principles that the perceptive reader/historian attempts to find out something about the author of any book he/she reads because of the light such information may shed on the particular prejudices or interests of the author. 

3. The Final Paragraph: 

  • Your Overall Evaluation of the Book: Although you may not be able to comment with confidence about all the categories listed above, you should feel no hesitation about evaluating the book from your perspective. That is, what use, interest, or value (or lack of the same) did the book have for you? Did reading it serve any useful purpose for you? I would like you to commit yourself as to whether you would recommend its reading/purchase to anyone else?
  • Citation: Ensure that if you borrow an idea or use an exact quote from the book or another critical book review that you provide an in-line citation of your sources (i.e. use the page number as the citation in parenthesis) so as to avoid the implication of plagiarism which can lead to serious consequences; like you leaving my room crying.
  • If you need help, go here: http://libguides.asu.edu/c.php?g=263988&p=1765718


This is not a fill in the blank form that you need to follow: It should be quite clear that there is no exact formula. It should also be clear that the reviewer thinks and writes in accordance with what he/she regards as logical. Admittedly, he/she is usually an authority in his/her field, and that you are somewhat of a novice. Nevertheless, do not let yourself be intimidated by this by this. For this requirement no outside reference sources are required but they may be used if you wish (like your textbook)

Finally, certain rules of history endure: The secret to writing remains rewriting and editing. It requires what Sinclair Lewis, in answer to a young person’s question, aptly defined as the secret of success for an aspiring historian, namely to “make the seat of your pants adhere to the seat of your chair for long enough.” 

It is an exacting exercise requiring you to think very carefully about the work you have read. Writing a good critical book review requires considerable effort and intelligence on your part. It is an important test of your critical thinking skills and thus, warrants your best efforts.

Book Review Style courtesy of

Mr. David Lakin  (AP) U.S. History At Milton HS, Milton GA and the The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University.


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