Student will write a book review, not a book report, on a historical book that is about an era of history between 1000 BCE to about 1300 CE. This is a rough period of time. It must be a non-fiction work in either electronic or hard copy form. Students may use Google Books or investigate the UMUC library for electronic check out. Amazon also has many free books. Students can get a free Amazon account and the free Amazon app and read some of these free books. However, be aware that many of these books are out of copyright. That means that they are quite old and may be written in a form of English used over 50 years ago.
- During Week 2: (30 points) Students will write a Topic Sheet that will have their name, course, and full citation of their book. Then a paragraph of about 100-150 words of what the book is about. What is the topic? and What are the credentials of the author? Is the author a historian? or is the author a jouranlist? Students may be able to get that information from the course text. This assignment is due at the End of Week 2, Sunday at 11:59 pm.
- During Week 6: (220 points) Students will finish writing thier 3.5 – 4 page book review. I will provide a template for your review. This will help students put the review in the correct format. Remember this is not a book report. Below are suggestions about a few areas that students may use to write their book review. Students do not have to use all these areas. Pick two or three areas and conver them extensively. It is expected that students will use the book to cite passages. Keep these at a minimum in size. The proper APA or MLA format should be used.
A Concise Guide to Writing a Critical Book Review
A critical book review requires that you identify, summarize and, most importantly, evaluate the ideas and information the author has presented. A critical book review is not a book report. Reports discuss content, while reviews evaluate the book’s strengths, weaknesses and validity through explanation, interpretation, and analysis. Critical reviews can be positive or negative, based on your assessment of the book.
The following information provides some guidelines only. Books reviews can vary in a number of ways, including length, scope, intended audience, and complexity.
What to include in a critical book review
Reviews generally provide:
- Full bibliographic information (author, title, edition, publisher, place of publication, year of publication), often presented as a heading or introductory sentence.
- A brief description of the contents of the book.
- An assessment of the author’s authority / biases
- An evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the book based on the purposes of the author, and using evidence to support the reviewer’s argument.
- An overall assessment of the book.
Below are suggestions for what to include in the book review. It is sugested that students pick 2-4 areas. All areas do not need to be covered. Students should also check to see if their chosen historical work has been reviewed. This will give an idea of what to cover. Rememner: while this is an opoinion piece, students should write in third person using Academic/Formal/Standard English.
Suggested steps in writing a critical book review
Get to know the work by reading the book carefully and by reading other opinions of the book (use the resources of the library to find other critical reviews).
- In getting to know the book, use all the information within the book itself. Look at the title page, is there a sub-title? Note when the book was first published. Is there a table of contents, or chapter headings? If so, use these as an orientation to the organization and contents of the book.
- If a bibliography is present, give it careful scrutiny to determine what may have contributed to the author’s conclusions. Also, consider the quality and veracity of these sources.
- Always read the preface or introduction for statements about the book’s intentions and/or limitations. As you read, take notes and flag passages that you feel are illustrative of the purpose, theme and style of the work. Note strengths as well as weaknesses, and use the questions below to guide your assessment. Establish the thesis of your review.
- Think about what the main point of your criticism will be. Consider the author’s intention in writing the book and whether this was achieved.
- Organize your notes into an outline which incorporates your thesis. Write the review, including the elements discussed above.
- Edit and revise the review before submitting it. Questions to consider when reading the book and writing the review:
Authority / Objectivity Who is the author?
- What are her or his particular credentials and expertise in this area? What makes her or him an expert on this topic?
- Who is the intended audience of this book (academics, students, the general public)?
- Is the book appropriate for its audience?
Scope / Purpose / Content
- What is the subject of the work and the broad field and/or genre into which it fits?
- What is the scope of the work?
- Is this a comprehensive overview or a detailed analysis?
- What is the author’s purpose in writing this book?
- What has he or she set out to prove?
- What is the overarching thesis of the book? How well has the author met these goals?
- Does the author do what she or he has set out to do?
- What are the main points set out by the author? How does the author prove the thesis and main points?
- What is the author’s methodology? What evidence does the author provide to support his or her argument (sources, data, personal anecdotes, etc)? Is this evidence convincing?
- How is the book structured? Is its development orderly and logical? What is the author’s writing style? Is it narrative or analytical?
- Is the prose readable and appropriate to its intended audience?
- Other points to consider How does this book compare to other books on the same subject?
- Does it present a unique perspective or new research?
- Does the book have illustrations? A list of references or a bibliography? An index? Are there any other features?
- Are they effective and useful? Does the author suggest areas for further research or discussion?
- What, if anything, has been left out?
Finally – Make a Recommendation
- What is your final assessment? Would you buy this book or recommend it to others?
- You must make a recommendation that complies with your assessment. Don’t recommend the book if you earlier stated you disliked the book.