Book reviews – the writing center


What this handout is about

This handout will help you write a book đánh giá, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective sầu on a text. It offers a process & suggests some strategies for writing book Đánh Giá.

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What is a review?

A nhận xét is a critical evaluation of a text, sự kiện, object, or phenomenon. Đánh Giá can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, & many other forms. This handout will focus on book Review. For a similar assignment, see our handout on literature Review.

Above sầu all, a Đánh Giá makes an argument. The most important element of a đánh giá is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator và with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, & that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Typically, Reviews are brief. In newspapers & academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments & extended commentaries. In either case, Reviews need khổng lồ be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, & style, they giới thiệu some common features:

First, a Reviews gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant description of the topic as well as its overall perspective sầu, argument, or purpose.Second, and more importantly, a Reviews offers a critical assessment of the nội dung. This involves your reactions to lớn the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand.Finally, in addition lớn analyzing the work, a nhận xét often suggests whether or not the audience would appreciate it.

Becoming an expert reviewer: three short examples

Reviewing can be a daunting task. Someone has asked for your opinion about something that you may feel unqualified lớn evaluate. Who are you lớn criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve sầu never written a novel yourself, much less won a Nobel Prize? The point is that someone—a professor, a journal editor, peers in a study group—wants lớn know what you think about a particular work. You may not be (or feel like) an expert, but you need to pretkết thúc to be one for your particular audience. Nobody expects you to lớn be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, but your careful observations can provide you with the raw material lớn make reasoned judgments. Tactfully voicing agreement và disagreement, praise & criticism, is a valuable, challenging skill, & like many forms of writing, Review require you khổng lồ provide concrete evidence for your assertions.

Consider the following brief book nhận xét written for a history course on medieval Europe by a student who is fascinated with beer:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, & Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600, investigates how women used lớn brew và sell the majority of ale drunk in England. Historically, ale and beer (not milk, wine, or water) were important elements of the English diet. Ale brewing was low-skill & low status labor that was complimentary khổng lồ women’s domestic responsibilities. In the early fifteenth century, brewers began lớn make ale with hops, và they called this new drink “beer.” This technique allowed brewers lớn produce their beverages at a lower cost and lớn sell it more easily, although women generally stopped brewing once the business became more profitable.

The student describes the subject of the book và provides an accurate summary of its contents. But the reader does not learn some key information expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book và its argument, & whether or not the student would recommkết thúc the book. As a critical assessment, a book đánh giá should focus on opinions, not facts and details. Summary should be kept to lớn a minimum, and specific details should serve to illustrate arguments.

Now consider a reviews of the same book written by a slightly more opinionated student:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 was a colossal disappointment. I wanted to know about the rituals surrounding drinking in medieval England: the songs, the games, the parties. Bennett provided none of that information. I liked how the book showed ale & beer brewing as an economic activity, but the reader gets lost in the details of prices & wages. I was more interested in the private lives of the women brewsters. The book was divided into lớn eight long chapters, and I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to read it.

There’s no shortage of judgments in this review! But the student does not display a working knowledge of the book’s argument. The reader has a sense of what the student expected of the book, but no sense of what the author herself mix out to prove sầu. Although the student gives several reasons for the negative sầu Review, those examples vày not clearly relate lớn each other as part of an overall evaluation—in other words, in tư vấn of a specific thesis. This Review is indeed an assessment, but not a critical one.

Here is one final review of the same book:

One of feminism’s paradoxes—one that challenges many of its optimistic histories—is how patriarchy remains persistent over time. While Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, & Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 recognizes medieval women as historical actors through their ale brewing, it also shows that female agency had its limits with the advent of beer. I had assumed that those limits were religious và political, but Bennett shows how a “patriarchal equilibrium” shut women out of economic life as well. Her analysis of women’s wages in ale và beer production proves that a change in women’s work does not equate lớn a change in working women’s status. Contemporary feminists và historians alượt thích should read Bennett’s book và think twice when they crachồng open their next brewsky.

This student’s Đánh Giá avoids the problems of the previous two examples. It combines balanced opinion & concrete example, a critical assessment based on an explicitly stated rationale, và a recommendation to lớn a potential audience. The reader gets a sense of what the book’s author intended to demonstrate. Moreover, the student refers to an argument about feminist history in general that places the book in a specific genre & that reaches out lớn a general audience. The example of analyzing wages illustrates an argument, the analysis engages significant intellectual debates, và the reasons for the overall positive sầu Review are plainly visible. The review offers criteria, opinions, và tư vấn with which the reader can agree or disagree.

Developing an assessment: before you write

There is no definitive sầu method khổng lồ writing a Reviews, although some critical thinking about the work at hvà is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a Reviews is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, và making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft. See our handout on argument.

What follows is a series of questions khổng lồ focus your thinking as you dig into the work at h&. While the questions specifically consider book Đánh Giá, you can easily transpose them khổng lồ an analysis of performances, exhibitions, & other Review subjects. Don’t feel obligated khổng lồ address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to lớn the book in question.

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What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to lớn the world you know? What has the book accomplished?What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately? Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? What is the approach to the subject (topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive)?How does the author support her argument? What evidence does she use khổng lồ prove her point? Do you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author’s information (or conclusions) conflict with other books you’ve sầu read, courses you’ve sầu taken or just previous assumptions you had of the subject?How does the author structure her argument? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?How has this book helped you underst& the subject? Would you recommover the book to lớn your reader?

Beyond the internal workings of the book, you may also consider some information about the author và the circumstances of the text’s production:

Who is the author? Nationality, political persuasion, training, intellectual interests, personal history, and historical context may provide crucial details about how a work takes shape. Does it matter, for example, that the biographer was the subject’s best friend? What difference would it make if the author participated in the events she writes about?What is the book’s genre? Out of what field does it emerge? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of its genre? These questions can provide a historical or literary standard on which lớn base your evaluations. If you are reviewing the first book ever written on the subject, it will be important for your readers lớn know. Keep in mind, though, that naming “firsts”—alongside naming “bests” & “onlys”—can be a risky business unless you’re absolutely certain.

Writing the review

Once you have made your observations & assessments of the work under đánh giá, carefully survey your notes và attempt to lớn unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your reviews. Cheông xã out our handout on thesis statements. Then, outline the arguments that tư vấn your thesis.

Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That lô ghích, unlượt thích more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to lớn make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the reviews khổng lồ be about your perspective và opinions, then you may structure the reviews khổng lồ privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under Reviews. What follows is just one of many ways lớn organize a Đánh Giá.


Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your reviews differently depending on the argument and audience. The Writing Center’s handout on introductions can help you find an approach that works. In general, you should include:

The name of the author và the book title & the main theme.Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You could also links the title to the subject lớn show how the title explains the subject matter.The context of the book and/or your đánh giá. Placing your review in a framework that makes sense lớn your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. Perhaps you want lớn situate a book about the Cuban revolution in the context of Cold War rivalries between the United States & the Soviet Union. Another reviewer might want khổng lồ consider the book in the framework of Latin American social movements. Your choice of context informs your argument.The thesis of the book. If you are reviewing fiction, this may be difficult since novels, plays, và short stories rarely have explicit arguments. But identifying the book’s particular novelty, angle, or originality allows you to lớn show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.Your thesis about the book.

Summary of content

This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the Review.

The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book Đánh Giá for colleagues—khổng lồ prepare for comprehensive sầu exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to lớn summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as a class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty khổng lồ explore more subtle points & to emphaform size your own argument. See our handout on summary for more tips.

Analysis và evaluation of the book

Your analysis & evaluation should be organized inlớn paragraphs that giảm giá with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to lớn consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism và pair assertions with evidence more clearly. You vì chưng not necessarily need khổng lồ work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want khổng lồ make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book. If you find it useful khổng lồ include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under đánh giá remains in the spotlight. Avoid excessive sầu quotation & give a specific page reference in parentheses when you vày quote. Rethành viên that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.


Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the xúc tích of your own thesis. This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order khổng lồ unify your evaluation. Did the toàn thân of your Review have sầu three negative sầu paragraphs và one favorable one? What vì they all add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions can help you make a final assessment.

In review

Finally, a few general considerations:

nhận xét the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can & should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to lớn be.With any luông chồng, the author of the book worked hard lớn find the right words to lớn express her ideas. You should attempt to lớn bởi vì the same. Precise language allows you khổng lồ control the tone of your Review.Never hesitate khổng lồ challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, khổng lồ cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.Try lớn present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—& sometimes obligated—to voice svào agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, & every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult khổng lồ prove và can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive danh sách of resources on the handout’s topic, & we encourage you to vì your own retìm kiếm lớn find additional publications. Please vị not use this danh mục as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the Libraries citation tutorial. We revise these tips periodically và welcome feedback.

Drewry, John. 1974. Writing Book reviews. Boston: Greenwood Press.

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

Sova, Dawn, & Harry Teitelbaum. 2002. How lớn Write Book Reports, 4th ed. Lawrenceville, NY: Thomson/Arteo.

Walford, A.J. 1986. reviews & Reviewing: A Guide.

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Phoenix: Oryx Press.

This work is licensed under a Creative sầu Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License.You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout và attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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