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How to Write an Academic Book Review

How to write an academic book review instead of a book report

One of the major errors committed by people who are not properly informed is the error of not being able to differentiate between a book review and a book report. Now, to learn how to write an academic book review, you have to first of all understand what a book review is. It is a formal paper that does the work of describing, evaluating and analyzing of a particular source while providing concrete evidence to support the result of the evaluation and analysis. Book reviews may also talk about the differences or similarities between the book and other works on the same subject, and what the book has succeeded in contributing to people’s comprehension of a particular topic in history. A book report is a simple story of a book you have read, explaining what it says, but the book review comes with an analysis of the book. You are tasked to pick out the major arguments in the book and how these arguments were supported by the rightful evidence in the book. You should also go ahead and mention the weaknesses and strengths of the book as observed by you. Book report demands your personal opinion based on your emotions. But book review asks for informed, logical arguments based on sound reasoning about the merits and demerits of the book. Here, you work with the evidence, perspective and scope of the book.

How to choose the book to be reviewed

This is one of the most important parts of book review writing. If you get this part right, you have gotten more than 30% of the writing right. Start looking at books that will be beneficial to you. You cannot waste this whole time just for publication. People who know how to write an academic book review will always choose books that will serve both as a publication and as a research that will be beneficial in the future. The simple advice is to choose books in your field and on topics you have enough background information about. You should also go for recently published books on your chosen topic. Consider the publisher of the book and how reputable they are. Use publications from a press that has links to a university. People are always running to pick books on hot topics. This is good, but you should try and pick a book that is obscure but very useful. It will help you to draw attention to it. Run away from books written by your close acquaintances.

Start by looking up the call number of the book you are considering. You can search in online bookstores with appropriate keywords. You should also check on those magazines that review books before they are published. Get to those academic journals that list books that were reviewed recently. Get recommendations from your college department. From these sources, you will be able to gather books. When you have them, skim them and go for the strongest book. From here, you have to move into a thorough reading of the chosen book.

How to prepare a book review

Critical reading of the book is one of the most crucial stages in academic book review writing. If you are able to do this part well, it will reflect on your main paper. So, to learn how to write an academic book review, you must pay attention to this part. There are some elements you must consider before you start reading. Who authored the book and what other books have he/she written? What is his overriding writing style and what awards has the author won? Consider the genre of the book, the audience that the book was written for, and the main goal of the work. After these general areas, you can now move to issues about the title, how and where it fits in and how it is used in the work. Also, crosscheck if the title is enough explanation of the message of the book and whether it is interesting or not. Look at the preface and introduction and see whether they reveal enough about the book. Were they written by the author or by guest authors and what are the particular preconceptions and judgments revealed in them? Get to the table of contents and see how the work is arranged in sections and chapters. Also, look at the book cover and see how appealing they are and how interesting they make the book. These are all paramount in learning how to write an academic book review. You should also look at the pictures, graphs and maps and what they say about the book. Examine the binding, the typescript and the cut.

Having considered all these, you can now start the critical reading. You need to read carefully and critically. Remember that you are no longer reading to assimilate only; you are also reading to evaluate and offer critique. One of the most salient points here is that you must take notes while you read. Let the notes be in your words. This fills the chasm between you and the book and helps you to come out with a review that doesn’t just regurgitate what is in the book. While reading, consider the central argument of the book and whether the book is living up to what it said it will do according to the title and abstract. Examine if the book contributes anything to its field and whether it links to any current debate or studies in the field, and how it does this. What school of thought is the book coming from? Is it properly written, and did it define the used terms properly. Another major area to focus on is the accuracy of the information in the book as it concerns dates, bibliography and footnotes. How important and helpful are the illustrations used, and what are the omissions. What group of people will benefit more from the book and where does the book stand when compared to other books written on the same topic or subject.

Making an evaluation

After reading, you should make an evaluation. This is what makes it a book review. This is not criticizing. It involves analysis and critical thinking. It does not also mean disagreeing with the work. Just consider the work with the unaided power of human reason, bereft of emotions. In the review, marshal out the core arguments and say how effectively or otherwise they were presented. Did they help the reader in understanding the topic or not? State this if you claim to know how to write an academic book review.


Structure of a standard book review

Your book review should be written with the standard structure. No one should claim to know how to write an academic book review if he doesn’t know about this. This work is academic in nature and must come with an academic structure. Start with an introduction and make it very short and direct to the point. The two major contents of the introduction are background and thesis. The background is supposed to give the identity of the book and its author, coupled with the background to the book, like the events, region and milieu that was discussed in the book. This is capped with the historical question talked about. The thesis part should contain the evaluation of the reviewed book as given by you. Write this with three major components. State the main argument of the book, state your own rating and evaluation in terms of strengths/benefits and weaknesses/failures of the book. State how you think these failures and strengths were exhibited in clear terms.

The introduction is followed by the evaluation and analysis section. This is where you do the bulk of the review. This is where you give your personal evaluation with quotations and examples from the book, so as to prove the assessment you are making about the work. If you are commending the work for being detailed in the assessment of topics, point to the pages, paragraphs and sentences that did this in the book. If you are condemning, a similar thing should be done. For those who know how to write an academic book review, the major reference will come from the book itself. After this, you should move to the conclusion. This is where you give a very clear summation of all you have done. Sate what the work contributes to the field it treats. What does it say about further research on the topic? Also, state what readers will benefit from your review in the bid to understand the milieu or time period being discussed in the book.


Book review format in paragraphs

Another good format according to paragraphs will look like this. After the title of the book, use one paragraph to state the thesis, indicating whether the author achieved the purpose of the book as he stated. Use one or two paragraphs to summarize the book. Use one paragraph for the strengths of the book. Use one paragraph to state the weaknesses of the book. Access the strengths and weaknesses with one paragraph. Conclude and recommend with one paragraph.


Academic book review errors to avoid

You must avoid these errors if you want to show that you know how to write an academic book review.

  • Do not summarize in place of analyzing and ensure that you are not writing a research paper in the name of an academic book review.
  • Though we should also acknowledge that you shouldn’t try to cover everything in the book, don’t write after glancing through the book. It must be after thorough reading.
  • Ensure that your work is organized in a clear manner. On the final note, let the book be judged on its bad intentions and not your own bad intentions.
  • Minimize the number of quotes you lift from the book and don’t search for gaps alone.

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