Despite common students’ fears, writing a book review does not mean providing expertise that should not be questioned by others. Your task is not to rate a book, but to offer a valid opinion on it. So, you should not be scared of the prospect to review a well-recognized work by a famous author, as the fate of the book does not depend on your assessment. The purpose of this assignment is to provide your own view on the piece of writing. Thus, a book review is a piece of critical evaluation, analysis of the written text.
Have you ever thought that, when writing a book review, the most important thing is to have the potential readers in mind? Imagine that you are helping others to decide whether they should read the book and how they can benefit from it. Alternatively, with the help of your assessment, they might view the particular text from a perspective that is different from their own.
In general, the structure of a book review is the same as in any academic essay; it contains introduction, body, and conclusion. At the beginning, there should be a brief summary of the book. However, you should keep it to the minimum, focus only on the main points, and emphasize what you find the most important in the book. You might want to generalize where necessary, but be specific when you need to illustrate some of your points. You should not just summarize, but should rather give your commentary on the book. Your task here is to provide an argument in the form of a thesis statement in your review’s introduction. Body paragraphs should serve to maintain the focal point with the help of arguments and pieces of evidence to support these arguments.
It is often important to place the book into a broader context. This can be achieved by drawing in the current discussions around the subject of the book or by comparing the two contexts, the one within which the book was created and the one we live in. A student might want to answer such questions as whether the piece of writing he/she analyzes is still relevant to the present-day reader, or whether we can learn some additional information about the specific sociocultural context from the book.
Every proper book review should contain recommendations to the potential readers. This would sum up the paper and provide the reason for writing one in the first place. Of course, as it has been highlighted at the beginning, it is important to picture the potential readers of both the book and the review. The main purpose of your critical commentary is to challenge them intellectually, as you offer them a different perspective from which they can look at the author’s work. When writing a review, you are not criticizing the author, but engaging the reader. Finally, remember that your reviewer’s credibility is of much lesser importance than your ability to analyze the material, as well as your personal interpretation of the book and its message.