Many students start learning how to write an academic book review when they are in a comprehensive school. It is only in college and University where they become commonplace. Here are some of the primary features of an academic book review, along with a few tips to help you on your way.
How to write an academic book review
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Your academic book review should give a general description of the topic and the problem or meaning of your review, and it should offer any sort of hypothesis or thesis (if you have one). It should give the reader a fair idea of what your essay is about, and should dip into what the book is about, but it shouldn’t go into too much detail or try to explain anything other than the thesis/hypothesis/meaning given in your essay. You may wish to clarify or justify your primary point in your introduction because you believe it will help hook the reader but doing this will not help you score higher marks for your paper.
Summary of Your Argument
You need to summarize the book or summarize its meaning. How you write your summary depends upon the type of book you are reviewing. For example, if you are reviewing Hamlet by Shakespeare, then it may be a good idea to summarize the story and/or the primary talking points of the book. On the other hand, if you were reviewing Dennis Prager’s book, “Happiness is a serious problem,” then you may explain the primary theory laid out in the book, and then maybe explain why it is so good, or explain how the primary theory affects the other topical offshoots in the book. Remember that this is a summary, so you do not need to expose every point made by the writer or describe every plot point in a fictional book.
Research Methods/ Summary of Contents
The different institution will give you different instructions on how to write an academic book review. Some will want you to lay out all the contents of the book as if you were writing an in-depth and annotated contents page. Others will want you to fill this section with all the methods you used to do your research. Some colleges/universities will ask you to lay out and justify your research methods prior to accepting your choice of topic.
If you are asked for a summary of contents, then do what you were going to do in the “Summary of your Argument” section mentioned above but be more in-depth.
If they want your research methods, then get help by looking at what others have written. For example, our assignment company UK-writes book reviews all the time, and they have picked between seven and ten different research methods that are backed by strong academic sources. Until you have a ready list of research methods and associated sources to dip into, you will have to look at what others are doing such as by hiring a writer from the AssignmentHolic Service.
Try to pull out all the things you think are strong and good about the book, and give your logic, or the reason for your opinion, or your evidence. However, remember that some books do not have many strengths, and yet they are still good books. An easy example of this is the dictionary. The dictionary doesn’t have the poetry of Shakespeare, the logic of Prager, the creativity of Tolkien, or even the impact of the Bible, but the dictionary is still a very good and very useful book. Also, remember that strengths don’t always mean praise. For example, “The Anarchist Cookbook” and “The Communist Manifesto” are both well written, powerful and exciting, but that doesn’t mean they are good (or any less dangerous).
Your professor may come down hard on you for being overly negative about a book without giving just cause. Being negative is easy, which is why people on social media are so good at it, and you may not score very highly on your academic review if your negative points (weaknesses) are not backed with strong evidence or logic.
Just like with strengths, there are times when some books have very few weaknesses and yet are still bad. For example, “To Kill a Mockingbird” doesn’t have many weaknesses because it has good narration, plots, characters, and yet it is probably one of the worst books in American history, especially when you consider the hype it received from nefarious underground groups.
Re-read your introduction and answer the question, point, thesis or hypothesis that you gave. Conclude upon why you were right, wrong, on the fence, or conclude showing how your essay has made the point it originally set out to make. Keep it concise, and do not try to rehash the topics you have already mentioned in your essay.