Book Reviews

View examples of student-written book reviews »

I. Pre-Reading Tips:
  • Familiarize yourself with the author's other work. This will help you position her within the broader field/subject area.
  • Remember to take notes as you read.
  • Read with a critical, yet open mind.
II. Questions to Keep in Mind as You Read:
  • What approach does the author take to the subject?
  • For whom is the book written? Lawyers? Academics? Students? Non-academics?
  • How is the book structured? Is its development orderly, logical, and clear?
  • Is the author's prose readable? Does the author have a distinctive style?
  • How appropriate is the book's title? Does it promise what the book delivers?
  • Are you aware of factual errors in the book? Oversights? Faulty assumptions?
  • Why was the book written? Has the author met these objectives?
  • What is your personal response to the book? Is it satisfying to read? Is it enjoyable? Convincing? Why?
III. Writing the Review

A book review typically has three major elements: description, critical analysis, and evaluation. Keep in mind that a book review is not a report or a summary, but a critical review. That is, you are giving your opinion regarding the merit and significance of the work, and so your review itself will have an argument.

1. Description: This section should be concise, giving a brief overview of the purpose and structure of the book.

Some of the information this section should contain:

  • title, author, copyright date
  • general subject area
  • the purpose and scope of the book
  • structure of the book; chapter break-down
  • the author's thesis/argument

2. Critical Analysis: In this section you will analyze the content of the book. It's important to be selective in this section, choosing only the points of the work that you feel are the most significant. One way of selecting points to develop is to choose what you see as the major strengths and weaknesses of the work.

Some of the questions that could be addressed in this section are:

  • What sources does the author draw from? And where does she position herself in relation to those sources? Is the research relatively comprehensive?
  • What were the strongest, most persuasive points in the book?
  • What were its weakest, most unconvincing points?

3. Evaluation: This section acts as the climax of your review. Again, your review will have an argument/thesis, and this is the section in which you will articulate it clearly and succinctly. Do you think this book is a valuable contribution to debates and discussions surrounding immigration and citizenship? Did the author achieve what she set out to achieve? Are there any significant omissions?

Your evaluation section will contain:

  • Your thesis: this book is/is not a valuable contribution to its field. Explain.
  • Concluding remarks