Often students are asked to write book reports or book reviews. A book report is a simple summary of a book. These reports are, in effect, short abstracts. It is useful to write a report because the writer engages the book seriously, and the report itself provides an enduring record that may serve as a later note for research. A book review, however, is more complicated and demanding. Reviewers report on the content and evaluate the book, discussing matters such as the author's logic, style, evidence, conclusions, and organization. The reviewer may also compare the book with others whose authors have treated the same material.

When you are assigned a book review, following the steps listed below may help you organize your review.  Typically, you will be able to cover this information in 3-5 pages.

1. Scan the book to get a broad idea of its subject and theme. Then go back and read the book thoroughly.

2. When you begin writing the review, identify the work and the author. Give the name of the book and its subject; also identify the author of the book, not only giving his or her name but also providing some important information about him/her: is he or she affiliated with a university? what is his/her area of expertise? has he/she written any other books? This defining information can be provided in one or two sentences.

3. State the theme or thesis of the book. Remember that the thesis is not necessarily the same as the subject of the book; rather it is the author's main purpose in writing the book. That theme organizes the information the author presents and gives it meaning. You may discover the theme or thesis by reading the introduction or preface, if the book has one. Very often an author will state the thesis in his introduction. He or she may also summarize that thesis in the last chapter or conclusion of the book, so you may want to read the last chapter before you read the entire book thoroughly. Having the thesis in your mind will help guide your reading and the organization of the review you are writing so that you can draw out the most important points of the author's discussion.

4. Having introduced the thesis of the book, you can develop the author's ideas. Begin by summarizing the evidence that the author gives to support this major theme. There is no need to discuss everything the author mentions in the book; highlighting the major points is sufficient in the book review. Also provide your reader with some development of those ideas. You may choose to quote some of the author's words, but avoid long quoted passages. You should show your reader that you have read and understood the book you are reviewing, so most of the review should be in your own words.

5. In a book review, you are also expected to make some judgment concerning the book. You may bring your own experience or expertise to the review whenever possible. There is no need to make such vague remarks as "This book is very interesting." Instead, use something from your own experience--your reading, your thoughts, your recollections--to explain the book and your attitudes toward it. Remember that no book is all good or all bad; every good book has flaws, so it is not necessary to point out every inconsistency or weakness if it does not detract from the major thesis. Try to judge the book as a whole.

Writing a Book Review