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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


topic?


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


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


useful?


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.


Writing
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


book.


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


subject.


It is important to use labels to carefully distinguish your


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


reader.


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.


Example


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
Seriously
.


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.


Polishing
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.


Reading
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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