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What Is A Critical Book Review?

What Is A Critical Book Review
A book review is more than a book report or summary of a book’s contents. A review is a critical essay evaluating the merits of an academic work. Its purpose is not to prove that you read the book—which is understood as a given—but to show that you can think critically about what you’ve read.

How do you write a critical book review?

Your review should have two goals: first, to inform the reader about the content of the book, and second, to provide an evaluation that gives your judgment of the book’s quality. Your introduction should include an overview of the book that both incorporates an encapsulated summary and a sense of your general judgment.

This is the equivalent to a thesis statement. Do NOT spend more than one-third or so of the paper summarizing the book. The summary should consist of a discussion and highlights of the major arguments, features, trends, concepts, themes, ideas, and characteristics of the book. While you may use direct quotes from the book (make sure you always give the page number), such quotes should never be the bulk of the summary.

Much of your grade will depend on how well you describe and explain the material IN YOUR OWN WORDS. You might want to take the major organizing themes of the book and use them to organize your own discussion. This does NOT mean, however, that I want a chapter-by-chapter summary.

Your goal is a unified essay. So what do I want, if not just a summary? Throughout your summary, I want you to provide a critique of the book. (Hence the title: “A Critical Book Review.”) A critique consists of thoughts, responses, and reactions. It is not necessarily negative. Nor do you need to know as much about the subject as the author (because you hardly ever will).

The skills you need are an ability to follow an argument and test a hypothesis. Regardless of how negative or positive your critique is, you need to be able to justify and support your position. Here are a number of questions that you can address as part of your critique.

What is your overall opinion of the book? On what basis has this opinion been formulated? That is, tell the reader what you think and how you arrived at this judgment. What did you expect to learn when you picked up the book? To what extent – and how effectively – were your expectations met? Did you nod in agreement (or off to sleep)? Did you wish you could talk back to the author? Amplify upon and explain your reactions.Identify the author’s thesis and explain it in your own words. How clearly and in what context is it stated and, subsequently, developed? To what extent and how effectively (i.e., with what kind of evidence) is this thesis proven? Use examples to amplify your responses. If arguments or perspectives were missing, why do you think this might be?What are the author’s aims? How well have they been achieved, especially with regard to the way the book is organized? Are these aims supported or justified? (You might look back at the introduction to the book for help). How closely does the organization follow the author’s aims?How are the author’s main points presented, explained, and supported? What assumptions lie behind these points? What would be the most effective way for you to compress and/or reorder the author’s scheme of presentation and argument?How effectively does the author draw claims from the material being presented? Are connections between the claims and evidence made clearly and logically? Here you should definitely use examples to support your evaluation.What conclusions does the author reach and how clearly are they stated? Do these conclusions follow from the thesis and aims and from the ways in which they were developed? In other words, how effectively does the book come together?Identify the assumptions made by the author in both the approach to and the writing of the book. For example, what prior knowledge does the author expect readers to possess? How effectively are those assumptions worked into the overall presentation? What assumptions do you think should not have been made? Why?Are you able to detect any underlying philosophy of history held by the author (e.g., progress, decline, cyclical, linear, and random)? If so, how does this philosophy affect the presentation of the argument?How does the author see history as being motivated: primarily by the forces of individuals, economics, politics, social factors, nationalism, class, race, gender, something else? What kind of impact does this view of historical motivation have upon the way in which the author develops the book?Does the author’s presentation seem fair and accurate? Is the interpretation biased? Can you detect any distortion, exaggeration, or diminishing of material? If so, for what purpose might this have been done, and what effect does hit have on the overall presentation?

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These questions are derived from Robert Blackey, “Words to the Whys: Crafting Critical Book Reviews,” The History Teacher, 27.2 (Feb.1994): 159-66. – Serena Zabin, Feb.2003

What are the parts of a critical book review?

Critical book reviews, whether short or long all take a similar format. It will be divided into 3 sections containing an introduction, body, and conclusion.

How long is a critical book review?

Your review is a short critical essay of approximately 1000-1250 words or 4-5 pages. As you write and edit your paper, you should ensure that you include the following: a. Introduction.

How many pages is a critical review?

A critical review is generally one to four pages in length and has a structure similar to the one given here. Starts with opening sentences that state the writer, the title and give a brief explanation of the topic of the text. The aim of the text and a summary of the main findings or key argument are presented.

Do critical reviews have titles?

The title should name the author and/or the title of the text under consideration in the essay, and provide a sense of the essay’s focus. It is a good idea to give your essay a ‘working title’ to remind you of your focus (thesis) while drafting the paper.

What are the aims of a critical review?

Research Guides What is a Critical Review of a Journal Article? A critical review of a journal article evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of an article’s ideas and content. It provides description, analysis and interpretation that allow readers to assess the article’s value. Before You Read the Article

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What does the title lead you to expect about the article? Study any sub-headings to understand how the author organized the content. Read the abstract for a summary of the author’s arguments. Study the list of references to determine what research contributed to the author’s arguments. Are the references recent? Do they represent important work in the field? If possible, read about the author to learn what authority he or she has to write about the subject. Consult Web of Science to see if other writers have cited the author’s work. (Please see ‘How to use E-Indexes’.) Has the author made an important contribution to the field of study?

Reading the Article: Points to Consider Read the article carefully. Record your impressions and note sections suitable for quoting.

Who is the intended audience? What is the author’s purpose? To survey and summarize research on a topic? To present an argument that builds on past research? To refute another writer’s argument? Does the author define important terms? Is the information in the article fact or opinion? (Facts can be verified, while opinions arise from interpretations of facts.) Does the information seem well-researched or is it unsupported? What are the author’s central arguments or conclusions? Are they clearly stated? Are they supported by evidence and analysis? If the article reports on an experiment or study, does the author clearly outline methodology and the expected result? Is the article lacking information or argumentation that you expected to find? Is the article organized logically and easy to follow? Does the writer’s style suit the intended audience? Is the style stilted or unnecessarily complicated? Is the author’s language objective or charged with emotion and bias? If illustrations or charts are used, are they effective in presenting information?

Prepare an Outline Read over your notes. Choose a statement that expresses the central purpose or thesis of your review. When thinking of a thesis, consider the author’s intentions and whether or not you think those intentions were successfully realized.

  1. Eliminate all notes that do not relate to your thesis.
  2. Organize your remaining points into separate groups such as points about structure, style, or argument.
  3. Devise a logical sequence for presenting these ideas.
  4. Remember that all of your ideas must support your central thesis.
  5. Write the First Draft The review should begin with a complete citation of the article.

For example: Platt, Kevin M.F. “History and Despotism, or: Hayden White vs. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.” Rethinking History 3:3 (1999) : 247-269. NOTE: Use the same bibliographic citation format as you would for any bibliography, works cited or reference list.

a statement of your thesis the author’s purpose in writing the article comments on how the article relates to other work on the same subject information about the author’s reputation or authority in the field

The body of the review should:

state your arguments in support of your thesis follow the logical development of ideas that you mapped out in your outline include quotations from the article which illustrate your main ideas

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The concluding paragraph may:

summarize your review restate your thesis

Revise the First Draft Ideally, you should leave your first draft for a day or two before revising. This allows you to gain a more objective perspective on your ideas. Check for the following when revising:

grammar and punctuation errors organization, logical development and solid support of your thesis errors in quotations or in references

You may make major revisions in the organization or content of your review during the revision process. Revising can even lead to a radical change in your central thesis. NOTE: Prepared by University of Toronto Mississauga Library, Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre. : Research Guides

How should a book review be structured?

Book Review Template – The book review format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.


  • Describe the book cover and title.
  • Include any subtitles at this stage.
  • Include the Author’s Name.


  • Write a brief description of the novel.
  • Briefly introduce the main points of the body in your book review.
  • Avoid mentioning any opinions at this time.


  • Use about 3 quotations from the author’s novel.
  • Summarize the quotations in your own words.
  • Mention your own point-of-view of the quotation.
  • Remember to keep every point included in its own paragraph.


  • In brief, summarize the quotations.
  • In brief, summarize the explanations.
  • Finish with a concluding sentence.
  • This can include your final opinion of the book.
  • Star-Rating (Optional).

What is the most important information in a book review?

Your Praise and Critique – This section is the most important part of your review and should be the longest. Anyone can summarize a plot, but what is your unique take on this book? Simply saying a book was “good” or “bad”, or that you liked it or didn’t, isn’t helpful.

What are three 3 considerations when writing a literature review?

However, a literature review must do these things: Be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing. Synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known. Identify problematic areas or areas of controversy in the literature.

How long does it take to write a 1000 word book review?

Book reviews are an excellent way to communicate a book’s themes and overall quality to potential readers. It is also an opportunity to discuss the book’s value as a literary piece. But should it take a set amount of time to write? How long it takes to write a book review depends on the review’s length and the reviewer’s writing style. What Is A Critical Book Review

How long should a book review be a 50 words?

How Long Should It Be? – The first question we usually ask when writing something is “How long should it be?” The best answer is “As long as it takes,” but that’s a frustrating answer. A general guideline is that the longer the book, the longer the review, and a review shouldn’t be fewer than 100 words or so.

How long does it take to read 30 pages of coursebook?

The average reader will read 30 pages in 50 minutes when reading at a speed of 300 words per minute (wpm).