Guidelines for book reviews
A review (or "critique") of a book or article is not primarily a summary. Rather, it analyses, comments on, and evaluates the work. Keep the following questions in mind as you read, make notes, and then write the review or critique:
- What is the specific topic of the book or article? What overall purpose does it seem to have? For what readership is it written? (Look in the preface, acknowledgements, reference list, and index for clues about where and how the piece was originally published, and about the author's background and position.)
- Does the author state an explicit thesis? Does he or she noticeably have an axe to grind? What are the theoretical assumptions? Are they discussed explicitly? (Again, look for statements in the preface, among other places, and follow them up in the rest of the work.)
- What exactly does the work contribute to the overall topic? What general problems and concepts in your discipline does it engage with?
- What kinds of material does the work present (e.g. primary documents or secondary material, personal observations, literary analysis, quantitative data, biographical or historical accounts)?
- How is this material used to demonstrate and argue the thesis? (As well as indicating the overall argumentative structure of the work, your review could quote or summarize specific passages to describe the author's presentation, including writing style and tone.)
- Are there alternative ways of arguing from the same material? Does the author show awareness of them? In what respects does the author agree or disagree with them?
- What theoretical issues and topics for further discussion does the work raise?
- What are your own reactions and considered opinions regarding the work?
Some book reviews summarize the book's content briefly and then evaluate it; others integrate these functions, commenting on the book and using the summary only to give examples. Choose the method that seems most suitable.
To keep your focus, remind yourself that your assignment is primarily to discuss the book's treatment of its topic, not the topic itself. Your key sentences should therefore say "This book shows...the author argues" rather than "This happened...this is the case."
The book review should not be longer than 1000 words. Please send your book review (the PDF together with the source file) to the responsible topical editors (see above).