Book Reviews and You!
Book Reviews and You!A Guide to Writing Pretty Decent Book ReviewsAlessandro Regio IHEID October 2015
Why do we even bother?Book reviews are importantapparentlyCommercial book reviews are important for people who want information about a book before they buyEditors of newspapers or journals need a way to get a lot of information to their readers in a condensed formatPolicy/Critical book reviews are important for policy makers who want to have a whole books argument reduced into a couple of pages
What makes a good book review?Depends who you ask
What makes a good book review?While there are some stylistic differences between different sorts of book reviews, some parts are present across all different schools of thought:
IntroductionEstablish Authors ArgumentEvaluate Authors ArgumentReview Books Premises and Promises
What makes a good book review?The 5 10 85 Rule5% Introduction10% Book Summary85% Book Review
Introducing your Book Review
IntroductionA strong introduction gives the reader the following:A basic understanding of the books background, topic, scope.A basic understanding of the author himself/herselfType of book you are reviewingGeneral themes of the book
What would you include in the introduction?
IntroductionIn a policy oriented book review the following is critical to the introductionState the policy fieldIdentify your audience (policy makers at what level?)It should includeThe authors main argumentYour approach to reviewing/critiquing the authors main argumentA roadmap to the rest of your review
IntroductionThe background and policy applications of this bookSmall information on the authorAuthors argumentationYour roadmap to how you are going to review the bookOPTIONAL : A small sentence foreshadowing how good or bad the book actually is at making its argument
Summarizing the Book
Book SummaryThe trickiest section of the book review. Why?Not a lot of space to tell the reader the major points of the bookKind of like explaining to someone the entire Harry Potter story in a short elevator rideIdeally, you tell us enough about the book without spoiling the book for usYou need to use your own words to tell us about the bookQuotes are fine, so is paraphrasing, but youre still responsible for choosing what to include and what not to include in the book summaryThis is the spot that many book review writers get stuck doing for the whole review
Book SummaryA Book Review is not the same as a Book ReportAs a reader of a book review, I am less interested in the content of the book as I am about the argument of the bookDo not get tricked into just rewriting the book for 2K-2.5K words
Book SummaryA quick, brief rundown of the plot/parts of the bookChoose major points of the book carefullyExplain why/how those major points are important to:The books argumentYour own assessment of the bookDO NOT make the entire book review into a summary of what happens in the book
Reviewing that damn Book
Book ReviewThe meat of the review, 85% of the text should be about reviewingCritical Points to rememberA review is a review because you reviewThis is the part where you tell us how good or how bad a book actually is!Your voice has to shine hereA book review cannot be boring, it has to keep the reader attachedAttack the argument of the book!Even if you agree with the author, stress-testing the argument is important. If the argument makes it past the stress-test, then you can say that the author did a good jobIf you disagree with the author, this is where you tell us why he/she is wrong
Book ReviewThe author tried to write an argument throughout the entire book, now we need to know if its any goodHow do we attack an argument?Attack premisesChallenge data collectionChallenge case study selectionQuestion author bias
Book ReviewChoose how youre going to test the bookAttack the argumentKeep the analysis and your findings at the intended audiences reading levelTell us if the books argument lived up to the authors promisesIs this book worth reading? Did the author do a good job?