How to Write an A+ College-Level Book Review.
(A Quick Introduction to
Analyze the text as an individual reader. This process is as much about YOU as it is about the book you are reviewing. As a scholar you stand in judgment over the text.
Critical reading: [from the ENGL 0310 Syllabus] "A reader response asks the reader [you] to examine, explain and defend her/his personal reaction to a reading. You will be asked to explore why you like or dislike the reading, explain whether you agree or disagree with the author, identify the reading's purpose, and critique the text. There is no right or wrong answer to a reader response. Nonetheless, it is important that you demonstrate an understanding of the reading and clearly explain and support your reactions. "
Begin by mentioning the title of the book you are reviewing, the author, and the main thesis of the text, using correct English for the first sentence of your paper!
Tips based on suggestions by UTEP History Prof. I.V. Montelongo:
The goal is to present a coherent essay with a clear argument. ...[Y]ou should state your general argument (your own thesis) in an introductory paragraph and then use the rest of the essay to support your position, making sure that you deal carefully with each of the issues raised somewhere in the paper.
1.You don’t need to use footnotes. When quoting or citing from the book simply put author and page numbers in parenthesis. Ex. (Gorn, 52) or (Jones, 167). There is absolutely no need to refer to other, outside sources for this assignment—this is a book review, not a research paper...
2. Be very careful to avoid plagiarism. Do not use words or ideas from the Internet, from any publication, or from the work of another student without citing the source. Also, if you use more than three words in a row from any source, including the book you’re writing about, those words must be enclosed in quotation marks.
3. Your essay should be based primarily on evidence drawn from a close, careful reading of the book. You can also use appropriate background information from the textbook and lectures, but you should use most of your space to discuss the book.
4. Writing style counts. You need to revise your paper multiple times to be a successful writer.
Adapted from <http://faculty.utep.edu/Portals/452/Paper%20Assignment%201.doc>
In body of your review consider addressing some of the questions below:
a. How much does the book agree or clash with your view of the world, and what you consider right and wrong? Use quotes as examples of how it agrees with and supports what you think about the world, about right and wrong, and about what you think it is to be human. Use quotes and examples to discuss how the text agrees or disagrees with what you think about the world, history, and about right and wrong.
b How were your views and opinions challenged or changed by this text, if at all? Did the text communicate with you? Why or why not? Give examples of how your views might have changed or been strengthened (or perhaps, of why the text failed to convince you, the way it is). Please do not write "I agree with everything the author wrote," since everybody disagrees about something, even if it is a tiny point. Use quotes to illustrate your points of challenge, or where you were persuaded, or where it left you cold.
c. How well does the book address things that you, personally, care about and consider important to the world? How does it relate to things that are important to your family, your community, your ethnic group, to people of your economic or social class or background, or your faith tradition? If not, who does or did the text serve? Did it pass the "Who cares?" test? Use quotes to illustrate.
e. To sum up, what is your overall reaction to the text? To whom would you recommend this text? Would you read something else like this, or by this same author, in the future or not? Why or why not?
An important tip
When writing a book review, write as an educated adult, addressing other adults or fellow scholars. As a beginning scholar, if you write that something has nothing to do with you or does not pass your "Who cares?" test, but many other people think that it is important and great, readers will probably not agree with you that the text is dull or boring, but they may conclude instead that you are dull and boring, that you are too immature or uneducated to understand what important things the author wrote.
If you did not like a text, that is fine, but criticize it either from principle (it is racist, or it unreasonably puts down religion or women or working people or young people or gays or Texans or plumbers, it includes factual errors or outright lies, it is too dark and despairing, or it is falsely positive) or from form (it is poorly written, it contains too much verbal "fat," it is too emotional or too childish, has too many facts and figures or has many typo's in the text, or wanders around without making a point). In each of these cases, do not simply criticize, but give examples. But, always beware, as a beginning scholar, of criticizing any text as "confusing" or "crazy," since readers might simply conclude that you are too ignorant or slow to understand and appreciate it!
How to write an A+ conclusion (suggestions):
1. Try to sum up the principles, relationships, and generalizations shown in the body of the paper. Remember, you DISCUSS, never REPEAT, what the paper says. (Hint: NEVER begin a conclusion with "In conclusion," or "To conclude"!)
2. Point out any remaining unanswered questions or unsettled points related to the subject of the book, or any problems that still need to be clarified or need more study.
3. Between items 2 and 4, joining-words like “However…” or “In spite of this, …” should be used. Then reaffirm your own thesis statement in different words.
4. Show how your interpretation in the paper agrees or disagrees with other experts' opinions, with what you always thought you knew about the subject before starting the paper, what you learned in class, or what “everyone” thinks about it. (Hint: Never "apologize" for what you have to say!)
5. Tell how what you write should change your own or other people's view on life.
6. State your final conclusions as clearly as possible and mention your evidence for each conclusion. This is your farewell statement, so leave readers with something to think about! A ringing sendoff that will stick in readers' minds is sometimes the best closing.
Note: if you see that you are repeating yourself, or if what you wrote just does not "sound right," do not be afraid to combine two or more of these items into one sentence, move items around, or even to drop one or more items if they do not apply to your specific writing task. These are suggestions, not holy writ!
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