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Writing Book Reviews

This guide offers techniques for writing critical reviews of academic books.


A book review is a brief summary and critical evaluation of a book that allows readers to decide if the book is worth reading for them. Reviews are used by academics, librarians, and general readers to understand the contents, strengths, and weaknesses of a books so that they can make an informed decision about it.

In general, reviews can be divided into descriptive and critical reviews. Descriptive reviews focus on summarizing the book without taking a position on the quality of the book. Critical reviews, by contrast, make a judgement about the book. This guide will focus on writing critical reviews. If you are writing a descriptive review, focus on describing the author’s points in more detail, and refrain from including your own evaluations.

Book review assignments require close reading, analysis of arguments, fair and impartial critique, and clear writing. This guide covers reading techniques and structure for writing book reviews. See the "Background Research and Close Reading" tab on the left for information on how to research for your book review, note taking tips, and things to look for while reading. See the "Writing the Review" tab for suggestions on information to include in the written report and how to structure the review.

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