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Writing the Book Review

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Writing the Book Review

Post by dah_men on Tue Dec 21, 2010 4:47 am

What are the author’s main points?

Again, these will often be stated in the introduction.

What kind of evidence does the author use to prove his

or her points?

Is the evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does the

author support his or her points adequately?

How does this book relate to other books on the same


Is the book unique? Does it add new information? What

group of readers, if any, would find this book most


Does the author have the necessary expertise to write

the book?

What credentials or background does the author have

that qualify him or her to write the book? Has the

author written other books or papers on this topic? Do

others in this field consider this author to be an expert?

What are the most appropriate criteria by which to

judge the book ? H o w successful do you think the author

was in carrying out the overall purposes of the book?

Depending on your book’s purpose, you should select

appropriate criteria by which to judge its success. Use

any criteria your instructor has given you in lecture or on

your assignment sheet. Otherwise, here are some

criteria to consider.

For example, if an author says his or her purpose is to

argue for a particular solution to a public problem, then

the review should judge whether the author has

defined the problem, identified causes, planned points

of attack, provided necessary background information,

and offered specific solutions. A review should also

indicate the author’s professional expertise.

In other books, however, the authors may argue for their

theory about a particular phenomenon. Reviews of

these books should evaluate what kind of theory the

book is arguing for, how much and what kind of evidence

the author uses to support his or her scholarly claims,

how valid the evidence seems, how expert the author is,

and how much the book contributes to the knowledge of

the field.

the Book Review

Book reviews generally include the following kinds of

information; keep in mind, though, that you may need to

include other information to explain your assessment of a


Most reviews start off with a heading that includes all

the bibliographic information about the book. If your

assignment sheet does not indicate which form you

should use, you can use the following:

Title. Author. Place of publication:

publisher, date of publication. Number

of pages.

Like most pieces of writing, the review itself usually

begins with an introduction that lets your readers know

what the review will say. The first paragraph usually

includes the author and title again, so your readers don’t

have to look up to find this information. You should

also include a very brief overview of the contents of the

book, the purpose or audience for the book, and your

reaction and evaluation.

You should then move into a section of background

information that helps
place the book in context and

discusses criteria for judging the book.

Next, you should give a summary
of the main points of

the book, quoting and paraphrasing key phrases from

the author.

Finally, you get to the heart of your review—your

evaluation of the book. In
this section, you might

discuss some of the following issues:

• how well the book has achieved its goal

• what possibilities are suggested by the book

• what the book has left out

• how the book compares to others on the subject

• what specific points are not convincing

• what personal experiences you’ve had related to the


It is important to use labels to carefully distinguish your

views from the author’s, so that you don’t confuse your


Then, like other essays, you can end with a direct

comment on the book, and tie together
issues raised in

the review in a conclusion.

There is, of course, no set formula, but a general rule of

thumb is that the first one-half to two-thirds of the

review should summarize the author’s main ideas and

at least one-third should evaluate the book. Check

with your instructor.


Below is a review of Taking
Soaps Seriously
by Michael

Intintoli, written by Ruth Rosen in the Journal of

Communication. Note that
Rosen begins with a context

for Intintoli’s book, showing how it is different from

other books about soap operas. She finds a strength in

the kind of details that his methodology enables him to

see. However, she disagrees with his choice of case

study. All in all, Rosen finds Intintoli’s book most useful

for novices, but not one that advances our ability to

critique soap operas very much.

Taking Soaps Seriously: The World of Guiding

Light. Michael Intintoli. New York:
Praeger, 1984.

248 pp.

Ever since the U.S. public began listening to radio

soaps in the 1930s, cultural critics have explored the

content, form, and popularity of daytime serials.

Today, media critics take a variety of approaches.

Some explore audience response and find that,

depending on sex, race, or even nationality, people

“decode” the same story in different ways. Others

regard soaps as a kind of subversive form of popular

culture that supports women's deepest grievances.

Still others view the soap as a “text” and attempt to

“deconstruct” it, much as a literary critic dissects a

work of literature. Michael Intintoli’s project is

somewhat different. For him, the soap is a cultural

product mediated and created by corporate interests.

It is the production of soaps, then, that is at the

center of his Taking Soaps

To understand the creation of soap operas, Intintoli

adopted an ethnographic methodology that

required a rather long siege on the set of “Guiding

Light.” Like a good anthropologist, he picked up a

great deal about the concerns and problems that

drive the production of a daily soap opera. For the

novice there is much to be learned here . . . .

But the book stops short of where it should ideally

begin. In many ways, “Guiding Light” was simply

the wrong soap to study. First broadcast in 1937,

“Guiding Light” is the oldest soap opera in the

United States, owned and produced by Procter and

Gamble, which sells it to CBS. It is therefore the

perfect soap to study for a history of the changing

daytime serial. But that is not Intintoli’s

project . . . .

Taking Soaps Seriously is
a good introduction to the

production of the daily soap opera. It analyzes soap

conventions, reveals the hierarchy of soap

production, and describes a slice of the corporate

production of mass culture.

Regrettably, it reads like an unrevised dissertation

and misses an important opportunity to probe the

changing nature of soap production and the

unarticulated ideological framework in which soaps

are created.

the Book Review

After you’ve completed your review, be sure to proofread

it carefully for errors and typos. Double-check your

bibliographic heading—author, title, publisher—for

accuracy and correct spelling as well.

For help at any stage of the writing process:

Writing Book Reviews

A book review tells not only what a book is about, but

also how successfully the book explains itself.

Professors often assign book reviews as practice in

careful, analytical reading.

As a reviewer, you bring together the two strands of

accurate, analytical reading and strong, personal

response when you indicate what the book is about and

what it might mean to a reader (by explaining what it

meant to you). In other words, reviewers answer not only

the what but the so what question about a book. Thus, in

writing a review, you combine the skills of describing

what is on the page, analyzing
how the book tried to

achieve its purpose, and expressing
your own reactions.

the Book

As you are reading or preparing to write the review, ask

yourself these questions:

What are the author’s viewpoint and purpose?

Are they appropriate? The viewpoint or purpose may

be implied rather than stated, but often a good place to

look for what the author says
about his or her purpose

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