WRITING A BOOK REVIEW
DR. P. DREYFUS
READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY. YOUR GRADE DEPENDS UPON CAREFUL ADHERENCE TO PROPER FORMAT.
For this class, a book review must be 400-700 words long, which is two (2) but no more than three (3) word-processed, double-spaced pages. You must absolutely and without fail confine yourself to the word and page limits. There must be no separate cover page and no folder or binder covering your review. The print must be in 12-point font, with minimum margins of 1" on all sides. ANY SUBMISSIONS THAT DO NOT MEET THE EXACT SPECIFICATIONS DESCRIBED HERE WILL NOT BE READ AND WILL NOT RECEIVE A GRADE.
The first thing that must appear at the top of the first page of your review is the full bibliographic citation for the book you are reviewing. This means TITLE (in italics or underlined). Authorís first name and last name. City of publication:
Publisherís name, year.
Next, you should have a line that says: Reviewed by your name.
After this comes the review itself which contains three elements:
1. a concise summary of the bookís subject matter
2. a concise summary of the thesis
3. a critique of the book
The subject matter will be obvious but the author may be setting out to answer some specific question or questions about the subject. You may be able to determine this by careful reading of the introductory material. You cannot relay everything about the content of the book, so you have to be concise and precise. THIS IS NOT A BOOK REPORT. The most important aspect of a review is analytic and not just descriptive.
The thesis is the bookís most important element and may be the hardest thing for you to determine. This takes practice. The thesis is not the subject but the authorís interpretation of the subject. It is the authorís conclusion about why things happened as they did or what motivated the historical actors covered in the book. It is a product of the historianís intellectual framework. The thesis may or may not be explicitly stated in the book. You must nonetheless state it explicitly in your review.
Finally, your critique is your evaluation of the book. This should include an appraisal of the authorís bias and the degree to which evidence is used effectively, as well as the literary quality of the work.
If you need to look at an example, try a journal like American Historical Review.