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Book Review

The Book Review:


o Although a book review, like a book report, spends some time discussing the content of the book, its main purpose is not informational, but analytical and persuasive. The writer, in analysing the content, format, argument, and context within which the book was written, argues that the book is worth reading or not.

Preparing to Write the Book Review: Before you write the book review, but
after you have read the book, you should make notes on the following areas: The Author: o Background and qualifications o Writing style o Use of sources (see Bibliography & Table of Charts & Figures) o His/her purpose in writing the book The Book Format: o Table of Contents o Section & Chapter Titles o Index o Introduction (often tells the format, purpose, and intended audience) The Content: o Introduction/Conclusion o Preface o Chapter summaries o Tables, Graphs, Figures, etc.

Structure of the Book Review: The following format can be used for the Book Review.
(Note: you do not have to answer every question; these are only suggestions to guide your writing). Introduction: o A general description of the book: title, author, subject, and format. Here you can include details about who the author is and where he/she stands in this field of inquiry. You can also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter. o A brief summary of the purpose of the book and its general argument or theme. Include a statement about for whom the book is intended. o Your thesis about the book: What is your opinion on the ideas of the book? Is it a suitable/appropriate piece of writing about the problem for the audience it has identified?

Main Body Summary of the Content: o Write at least 3 4 sentences about the plot: (What was the story about? Who were the main characters? What did the main characters do in the story? Did the main characters run into problems or have any adventures? Who was your favourite character? Why?) o What is the writers style: simple/technical; persuasive/logical? Evaluation of the Text: This is the heart of your book review. You should discuss a variety of issues here: o How clearly is the book written? o Did the author achieve his/her goal? How did he/she do this or fall short? o What are the author's most important points? List at least two examples of how the author proved or did not prove points he was trying to make. o What possibilities does the book suggest for the reader? o What did the book leave out? o How the book compares to others on the subject? o What personal experiences do you have relating to the subject? o Could you relate to any of the characters in the story? o Have you ever done some of the things or felt some of the same things that the character did? o What did you like best about the book? What did you like least about the book? o If you could change something in the book, what would it be? Conclusion (Your recommendation) o Tie together any issues raised in the review o Would you recommend this book to another person? o What type of person would like this book? There is, of course, no set formula, but a general rule of thumb is that the first one-half to twothirds of the review should summarize the author's main ideas while the remainder of the report should evaluate the book.

EDITING: Questions to ask yourself


Does my introduction clearly set out who the author is, what the book is about, and what I think about the value of the book? Have I clearly presented all the facts about the book: title, author, publication details, and content summary? Is my review well organized with an easily identifiable structure? Yes or No Yes or No Yes or No

Have I represented the books organizational structure and argument fairly and accurately? Have I presented evidence from the book to back up statements I have made about the author, his/her purpose, and the structure, research and argument of the book? Have I presented a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience? (Harsh judgements are difficult to prove and show academic intolerance)

Yes or No Yes or No Yes or No

Writing a Successful College Level Book Report


written by: Haley Druckeredited by: Wendy Finnupdated: 6/1/2011 Writing a college level book report can be a very different task from what you did on similar assignments in high school. Here is what a critical book review should look like, along with some tips for writing a highquality paper.

College Book Reports


Chances are, youve written more than one book report during your school career. And if youre taking any English classes in college, youll likely be required to do a few more. In college, though, book reports are a little different than the kind most high school teachers expect. This type of assignment also goes by a couple different names, including book review and critical review. High school book reports are mostly about summarizing the book, proving youve actually read it. A college level book report is a little more complex. Instead of just explaining what happened in the book, youll be required to provide a critical analysis of its contents. This isnt as hard as it sounds, and it isnt much different from the other essays youre used to writing in English class. Follow the advice below, and youll be well prepared to turn out a thoughtful and college-worthy report.

The Summary
The first and most important thing to do when writing a college level book report is to actually read the book. It might be tempting to use something like Spark Notes, but that wont give you the knowledge you need to write an effective critique. So read the book carefully, and if possible give yourself some time to reflect on it before starting your paper. When youre ready to write the book review, the first youll need (after the introduction and thesis) is a short summary. Notice the word short. The summarization should take up no more than a third of your paper, and a forth would probably be better. You dont have to explain every plot twist and every chapter just give the reader an overview of what happens in the book and what its about. Before you start writing this part of the book report, you might want to figure out what youll be covering in the analysis section (see below). That way, you can summarize with an eye towards what youll be discussing later on. If you spend most of the paper talking about how the theme of greed plays out in the book, your summary should focus on those parts of the book that illustrate greed and its consequences.

Its possible you might not need to include a summary in your critical review. Some professors want you to assume your reader has already read the book. In that case, you could omit this first part altogether. So read the assignment carefully, and check with your teacher to make sure you know what he or she is expecting.

The Analysis
The bulk of your paper should be an analysis of the book. Instead of just repeating what you read, youll be asked to go beyond the obvious and show your understanding of what the text by providing a critique. You wont be able to critique everything about the book, of course. So again, be sure to read the assignment carefully because your teacher might tell you what to focus on. If not, choose a specific aspect of the book to build your paper around. Narrowing your focus to a particular character, theme, relationship, or plot point keeps your book report from rambling and your thoughts from becoming disorganized. When in doubt, go with a theme since that approach proves youve thought carefully about the novel. Explain the themes role in the book, and how it relates to the various characters and events. Use plenty of concrete examples and a few quotes (not too manyno more than one or two per paragraph).

In any critique, youll want to draw from your personal opinions and reactions to the book. But if your teacher is calling the assignment a book review you might be expected to actually evaluate the book. In this case, expand on your analysis by including your own (reasoned and supported) opinion on how well the novel is written and whether it does a good job with its stories and themes. Read a few book reviews online or in the newspaper if youre not sure how to do that.

Going Outside the Book


This part is optionalsome teachers expect it and some dont. But it can really improve your analysis to go beyond the text and analyze the novel as it relates to the outside world. Learn something about the author, and the time and culture in which the book was written. Consider the authors intentions and influences. In what ways does this outside knowledge inform your reading of the book, help you understand why it was written the way it was? Professors love it when you treat a book as part of the real world, rather than just an isolated text. Dont be afraid to use a little research herejust be sure to cite your sources.

In Conclusion
A few final things to consider:
It cant be stressed too muchmake sure you know what your professor is looking for. A college book report can be written in a variety of ways, and you dont want to find out too late that youve chosen the wrong approach. It can be a good idea to read the book more than once. This takes extra time, of course, but youll pick up on things during the second read that you didnt notice the first time around. A second read also lets you reflect on the deeper aspects and themes of the book, since you already know the plot. And you can keep an eye out for good examples and quotes to include in your critical review.

Write about something thats interesting to you. Book reports and especially book reviews are all about engaging with the text on a personal level. Even in the most boring novel theres likely one idea or character that grabs your interest. Focus on thatthe writing will go more smoothly and the papers quality will be higher.

These are the basics of how to write a college or university level book report. For more help and information, you can check out the following resources. Also, heres a short, sample book report that is not about a college-level novel, but does a good job of illustrating the mix of summary and critical analysis that should go into a college level book report or review. And dont be afraid to ask for help during the writing process. Professors love to chat with you about papers in progress, and librarians and writing centers are also valuable resources. 2. 3.

Resources
1. How to Write a Critical Book Review by Carleton College
How to Write a Book Review by Los Angeles Valley College Library Writing Book Reviews by Writing Tutorial Services at Indiana University (PDF file)

This book (published in 2005) seeks to provide answers to what the authors consider to be the most frequently asked questions about college and the college admissions process. The answers they provide are written for the prospective student but also their parents or guardians. Some of the questions they look at include: How important are extracurricular activities? What should you look for when visiting prospective schools? How can you best use the Internet to your advantage? Which scholarships are available to you? How much debt is too much? The authors look at these questions and over 190 others. Their experience seems to be that each of them raised three kids who then went on to college so that between them they have gone through this laborious experience six times. Going through any experience that many times is bound to result in

experience that is worth listening to. Reading this book, then, is like having a really long conversation with a learned aunt or neighbor. Of course, any time you try to provide information on such a wide range of topics, you end up missing your mark some of the time. Some of the information given here comes across as facile or even pointless. To cite just one example, in the chapter dealing with how to prepare for the college interview, the authors list some questions you might be asked along with possible answers. Below is one such question and answer: "Who is your hero? Pick someone dead or alive, famous or obscure, rich or not so rich, male or female. Describe some action that the person has done or accomplished. Then tell why that action is important to you or others and what you might do as a result of the action." (p. 140) It seems unnecessary advice to give someone picking their hero to tell them they should pick someone either dead or alive, male or female. Really? Dead OR alive? Male OR female?! You mean, I don't have to name my favorite zombie hermaphrodite?? There are other examples of this type of useless banter being passed of as useful information. It needn't reflect the authors' insincerity or lack of insight but rather that they are trying to pass along too much information about too many topics in one book. Still, this is a good book to consider if you are looking to read only one book on everything from the admissions process to why you might not want to room with your best friend from high school. We are all busy these days, perhaps none of us more so that your average parent. That being said, take a look at Best Answers if one-stop shopping is your kind of thing.

RealCollegeEssaysthatWork
Edward B. Fiske and Bruce G. Hammond Sourcebooks Inc. (Publishers) 2006 ISBN # 1-4022-0164-8

Overall Grade: B-

In this book, published in 2006, the authors take a look at 109 real essays from students just like you - or just like you except they have already been accepted into the school of their choice. Edward B. Fiske, the main author, was formerly the Educational Editor of the New York Times and Bruce G. Hammond, the other author, is currently the director of college counseling at Sandia Preparatory School. Their approach is one that many authors have tried - they give you a series of competent essays, although not the best essays mind you. They say in their preface that this process can be demoralizing enough without having to read 109 essays "that could have been written by Virginia Woolf." (p. vi. Although it is difficult to see why they picked Virginia Woolf as an example as a more unlikely admissions essay writer would be hard to imagine. I suppose her attempt would need be titled "An Essay of One's Own".) Anyway, they give you this collection of competent essays and expect that you will use them to open up your own creative floodgates and write your own captivating essay. The information and advice that the authors give out is sound and practical; nuggets of wisdom like "stand out by being yourself" and "you can't write a good college essay without details". The authors give the reader about 30 pages of this type of guidance before they turn to their examples of winning submissions. And the essays they include are informative and even fun to read, at times. What remains a bit of a mystery is how these example essays, each so rich in detail and uniquely personal, are going to help you, the college applicant staring at a blank page or computer screen. For the task in front of you, so ably identified by the authors, is to craft your own personal narrative, rich in details and all about you. An essay that distills you and your achievements, ideas, or goals into a 500-word snapshot that will have admissions committees wanting to get to know you better. How exactly does reading 109 other essays, not by you and not about you, help you to write your essay? I'm not sure that it does help. More to the point, I don't think it would have helped me to write an essay. The very last thing in the world that I would want to do before trying to write a college application essay would be to read over 100 other submissions, successful or not. I could think of no surer way of stymieing my own creativity. That being said, perhaps you are different. Perhaps you will read these essays and it will get the creative juices flowing. That, I imagine, is the point. Are you trying to figure out a way to make your obsession with music making into a viable essay? Maybe if you read the examples given in this book, it will pave the way for your very own creation. There are several competent essays that deal with love of music. Other topics covered include athletics, race and cultural experiences, personal growth, family, travel, and even humor. So if you are writing an essay about one of these topics and you think reading some examples of other competent and successful essays would help, then this might be the book for you. And even if you don't feel sample essays from other students would help, there is always the 30 odd pages of solid essay writing advice contained in the beginning of the book.