Book Review Guidelines
Objective: Write a short essay that evaluates one of the books listed on the syllabus. A good essay will accurately and concisely summarize the books main argument, critically analyze the content (NOT the style or format), and communicate effectively in writing.
A. Summarizing the Book
(a) The topic and relevance of the topic in the book
(b) The core argument made in the book
(c) The major supporting points or arguments
(d) A description of the evidence used to support the argument.
(e) Note: Books can be long and contain lots of different, specific subtopics. The idea is not to be comprehensive of these, but to get the big picture idea. As such, it may not be necessary to summarize every subpoint. Focus instead on the main ideas. Identify which are the main ideas is part of how you show understanding of the book
B. Critically analyzing the book
To conduct a critical analysis, the essay should advance an argument or a collection of arguments that evaluate the book. These critical points could center on questions such as:
Is the argument convincing. Why or why not?
What assumptions does the argument make?
Does the evidence advanced in the book support the conclusion of the reading? Does the reading ignore important points or evidence?
What are the main implications?
Does the book have application to a real world event or case?
However, book reviews do not have to be critical. Perhaps you have a positive reaction to the book. An analysis could focus on
Using the books argument to evaluate other approaches to the topic
C. Writing/structuring the paper
Every paper should have a clear thesis statement.
The paper should begin with an introduction that outlines the core argument and objectives of the paper. The middle section of the paper will summarize the reading and make analytical points in support of the thesis statement. The paper will briefly conclude with a summary of the paper and final thoughts.
The Intro Paragraph
The essay should have a strong introductory paragraph. As a general guideline, an intro paragraph should state:
The subject of the paper (i.e. this is a review of Making Democracy Work).
The main subject of the book youre reviewing
The core thesis of your paper
A roadmap that explains how your paper is going to proceed. For example: this essay proceeds as follows. First, it summarizes Putnums Making Democracy Work; second, it discusses the concept of civic community; third, it explains the application of contemporary U.S. politics; finally, it outlines some limitations of the book.
Grading the Essay
Quality of argument: the paper MUST have a thesis which summarizes the argument youre making, based on your response to the book. Further, the paper should support this thesis with arguments and analysis. A strong paper will have compelling points that are well explained and that demonstrate critical thinking.: 40%
Understanding of the reading: this is best demonstrated by succinctly summarizing the core argument of the book in your own words and by thoughtful engagement with the book throughout the essay. Of course, the argument of the reading should be accurately described, as well: 40%
Style and writing: write clearly. Avoid awkward sentences. Avoid grammar errors and typos. The paper should look polished and professional. In terms of format, the paper should be double spaced. Subheadings are good but not required. I dont really care if you use a specific font as long as it doesnt look too weird. 20%
Outside sources are acceptable but not required. It may be helpful to consult outside sources or other analyses of the book that you are reviewing. These outside sources may provide ideas, in which case they should be appropriately cited. Drawing on the ideas of others is totally fine. But its not fine to pass those ideas off as yours.
You may feel the urge to insert a long quote in your essay. Resist this urge. If you want to reference something the author says, just paraphrase it in your own words (and cite if necessary). A couple of short quotes dont hurt. Sometimes the exact wording an author uses is important. But most of the time it is not.