Critical Book Review
Writing a Critical Book Review
Purpose. Your purpose in writing the review is to acquaint your reader with the book, its content
and its value. To accomplish this purpose, you must (1) report what the book does, (2) judge
how well the book presents the material, (3) cite the evidence from the work that supports or
illustrates your judgment, and (4) be fair. If your review fails to report what the book does
or says, it will be difficult to follow. If it does not tell how well the book presents the material,
then it is a mere summary and not a critical paper. Most important, if it contains no
supporting evidence, the reader is unable to share in judgment. Never assume that your
unsupported opinion will be accepted.
Introduction. The introductory paragraph (or paragraphs) of your review should familiarize your reader with the author of the book, his purpose in writing it, and the book’s contents. It
should also indicate your over-all judgment of the book. The first time you refer to the book,
type the title in italics and follow it with the city of publication, the name of the publisher, and
the year of publication in parentheses. Example: “John Dewey’s Experience and Education
(New York: Macmillan, 1938) is still a useful and relevant book, despite its being published more than 82 years ago.”
To determine the author’s purpose, read carefully the author’s preface or introduction, the first chapter, and the conclusion; the purpose may be to tell you how to do something, to explain objectively something that happened in the actual world, or to try to convince you to accept a judgment of something or someone.
Body. The body of your review should support your judgment of how well the book does what the author set out to do. To make this judgment, you should ask yourself if the author’s explanations are clear, if the examples make the meaning easier to understand or the
situation more vivid, if the examples are fair, if important terms are clearly defined, if the
book is accurate and objective. All of these questions should be asked in terms of the
author’s purpose; it is not fair to judge the book on the basis of something outside its
purpose. The important thing is that you quote or cite passages or segments from the book to support your position. Citations in your paper should follow the new APA 7th edition.
Note: Relate the cited passages to your present profession or field of interest and what you are learning in the course or other course in the program.
Conclusion. Conclude the review by summarizing your reactions to the book. Consider the
following questions: (1) Have your ideas been changed by the book? What ideas? Changed
in what ways? (2) How has your knowledge or understanding of the course’s content been
changed or expanded by the book? Include the emerging themes. (3) Would you recommend the book to colleagues and/or peers? Why?
Format: 12 in. font, Times Roman, double spaced
Length: 6-8 pages
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