Book Reviews :A Quick Review of What You Should DoBy Dr. Jennifer L. Bowie forWriting for Academic Publication
What is a Book Review?[S]ignificant indicators of scholarly communication [can be use to] trace the flow of information within and across disciplines (Lindholm-Roomantschuk, quoted in North 1194)[S]mall change of academic writing (North 349)[S]econd class citizens of academic publishing (Riley and Spreitzer, quoted in Hartley 1194)At its best, a book review is both informative and evaluative (MLA Style, quoted by North 350)A mediation between author and reader with the review writer playing both roles (Gardiner 620)Should include responsibility, construction, and self-consciousness (Gardiner 622)[T]houghtful, regardless of tone (Cortada 35)
What Should it Include?According to North (pg 1205):An early paragraph discussing what book is about and putting the book in contextAudience information:Who you think the best audience isHow well it meet the needs of the intended audience and (if different) the audience you think it best forMay also include audience uses (good for introductory graduate class along with) Critique of content and argumentSupported academic references as needed (and if common for your journal)Discussion of strengths and limitationsIf appropriate, note how well text is supported by visualsInformation on format, length, price, and value
How can I Make it Strong?Include both positive and negative information and be specificConsider the readers and the writer(s)Be straightforward and livelyTake the review beyond +/- and draw conclusions of broad significance (Hartley 1200)Provide fresh angles on the text (Hartley 1200)If your views changed because of the book indicate this (Hartley 1200)Apply Haraways engaged criticism and not just automatic praise (Haraway, quoted in Davis 602)Recognize the diversity of views within the disciple (Davis 604)Tell it as you see it, yes, but frame it especially carefully (Davis 605)
What Should I Avoid?From Cortada:Describing what the book should be, not what it isReviewing a book on a subject you know little aboutReviewing a book without actually reading or understanding it Using the book review as a platform for your own issues, not the issue of the author/bookNot telling the reader what the book is about and how it fits into the larger contextFrom North:Only including content and not including critiqueNot discussing the argument of the bookUsing the review to show your superiorityFrom BelcherCovering everythingUsing too many quotes (favor shorter quotes and paraphrasing, but try to put most of it in your own words)Reviewing the book when you have some level of attachment or dislike for the author or are strongly against the arguments of the book
What General Format I Should Use?This may change on your journal, so do check out the reviews in the journal first and chose an exemplar or two. You may also find an organization that would better for you. Introduction/OverviewGeneral topicPoint of viewOverview of audienceInformation about the author (if appropriate)Context of bookSummary of the bookBasis of bookGeneral organization of bookTopic of each chapter/sectionCritiqueStrengths and weaknesses (Belcher suggests one paragraph each)Errors & accuracyConclusionOverall assessment/critique of strengths, weaknesses, errors, and accuracyEvaluation of how it responds to audience needsStatement & discussion of recommendation (or non recommendation) of book
SourcesBelcher, Wendy. Writing the Academic Book Review. http://www.chicano.ucla.edu/press/siteart/jli_bookreviewguidelines.pdf accessed 3/14/07Cortada, J. W. (1998). Five ways to be a terrible book reviewer. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 30.1: 3437. Davis, Natalie Zemon. "On Reviewing. Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. (Autumn, 1988), pp. 602-606.Gardiner, Linda. "Remember the Reader." Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. (Autumn, 1988), pp. 617-622.Hartley, James. "Reading and Writing Book Reviews Across the Disciplines." JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, 57(9):11941207, 2006North, Stephen M. "On Book Reviews in Rhetoric and Composition." Rhetoric Review, Vol. 10, No. 2. (Spring, 1992), pp. 348-363.