WRITING A BOOK REVIEW
A book review is a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, not a retelling. It should focus on the book's purpose, content, and authority. A critical book review is not a book report or a summary. It is a reaction paper in which strengths and weaknesses of the material are analyzed. It should include a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well (in the opinion of the reviewer) the author has succeeded, and presents evidence to support this evaluation.
There is no right way to write a book review. Book reviews are highly personal and reflect the opinions of the reviewer. A review can be as short as 50-100 words, or as long as 1500 words, depending on the purpose of the review.
The following are standard procedures for writing book reviews; they are suggestions, not formulae that must be used.
Write a statement giving essential information about the book: title, author, first copyright date, type of book, general subject matter, special features (maps, color plates, etc.), price and ISBN.
State the author's purpose in writing the book. Sometimes authors state their purpose in the preface or the first chapter. When they do not, you may arrive at an understanding of the book's purpose by asking yourself these questions:
Why did the author write on this subject rather than on some other subject?
From what point of view is the work written?
Was the author trying to give information, to explain something technical, to convince the reader of a belief's validity by dramatizing it in action?
What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? (Use outside sources to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.) Knowledge of the genre means understanding the art form. and how it functions.
Who is the intended audience?
What is the author's style? Is it formal or informal?
Evaluate the quality of the writing style by using some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, correct use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, fluidity. Does it suit the intended audience?
g. Scan the Table of Contents, it can help understand how the book is organized and will aid in determining the author's main ideas and how they are developed - chronologically, topically, etc.
H. How did the book affect you? Were any previous ideas you had on the subject changed, abandoned, or reinforced due to this book? How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda? What personal experiences you've had relate to the subject?
State the theme and the thesis of the book.
Theme: The theme is the subject or topic. It is not necessarily the title, and it is usually not expressed in a complete sentence. It expresses a specific phase of the general subject matter.
Thesis: The thesis is an author's generalization about the theme, the author's beliefs about something important, the book's philosophical conclusion, or the proposition the author means to prove. Express it without metaphor or other figurative language, in one declarative sentence.
Title: We Had it Made
General Subject Matter: Religious Intolerance
Theme: The effects of religious intolerance on a small town
Thesis: Religious intolerance, a sickness of individuals, contaminates an entire social group
4. Explain the method of development-the way the author supports the thesis. Illustrate your remarks with specific references and quotations.
In general, authors tend to use the following methods, exclusively or in combination.
Description: The author presents word-pictures of scenes and events by giving specific details that appeal to the five senses, or to the reader's imagination. Description
presents background and setting. Its primary purpose is to help the reader realize, through as many sensuous details as possible, the way things (and people) are ,in the
episodes being described.
Narration: The author tells the story of a series ofevents, usually presented in chronological order. In a novelhowever, chronological order may be violated for the sakeof the plot. The emphasis in narration, in both fiction andnon-fiction, is on the events. Narration tells what hashappened. Its primary purpose is to tell a story.
Exposition: The author uses explanation and analysis topresent a subject or to clarify an idea. Exposition presentsthe facts about a subject or an issue as clearly and
impartially as possible. Its primary purpose is to explain.
Argument: The author uses the techniques ofpersuasion to establish the truth of a statement or toconvince the reader of its falsity. The purpose is topersuade the reader to believe something and perhaps toact on that belief. Argument takes sides on an issue. Itsprimary purpose is to convince.
Evaluate the book for interest, accuracy, objectivity, importance, thoroughness, and usefulness to its intended audience. Show whether the author's main arguments are true. Respond to the author's opinions. What do you agree or disagree with? And why? Illustrate whether or not any conclusions drawn are derived logically from the evidence. Explore issues the book raises. What possibilities does the book suggest? What has the author omitted or what problems were left unsolved? What specific points are not convincing? Compare it with other books on similar subjects or other books by the same as well as different authors. Is it only a reworking of earlier books; a refutation of previous positions? Have newly uncovered sources justified a new approach by the author? Comment on parts of particular interest, and point out anything that seems to give the book literary merit. Relate the book to larger issues.
Try to find further information about the author - reputation,
qualifications, influences, biographical, etc. - any information that is relevant to the book being reviewed and that would help to establish the author's authority. Can you discern any connections between the author's philosophy, life experience and the reviewed book?
7.If relevant, make note of the book's format - layout, binding, typography, etc. Are there maps, illustrations? Do they aid understanding?
8.Check the back matter. Is the index accurate? Check any end notes or footnotes as you read from chapter to chapter. Do they provide important additional information? Do they clarify or extend points made in the body of the text? Check any bibliography the author may provide. What kinds of sources, primary or secondary, appear in the bibliography? How does the author make use of them? Make note of important omissions.
9.Summarize (briefly), analyze, and comment on the book's content. State your general conclusions. Pay particular attention to the author's concluding chapter. Is the summary convincing? List the principal topics, and briefly summarize the author's ideas about these topics, main points, and conclusions. Use specific references and quotations to support your statements. If your thesis has been well argued, the conclusion should follow naturally. It can include a final assessment or simply restate your thesis. Do not introduce new material at this point.
Book Review: Wings of Fire, by APJ Abdul Kalam
About the author:
APJ Abdul Kalam is one of India's most distinguished scientists. He served as the 11th President of India, between 2002 and 2007. He was fondly referred to as "The People's President" during his term. He has honorary doctorates from over thirty universities and is the recipient of the country's three highest civilian awards - the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna.
Review of the book:
Inspiration comes in various ways. To read a book and be inspired by it is really a wonderful feeling. Over the last few days, I have had the pleasure of being inspired by few such books. Two of them were written by the man I have had the pleasure of seeing two times as well, the eleventh President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam.
The two books are two parts of his autobiography, and this book, Wings of Fire is the first part.
I'm at my wits end as to how to review an autobiography, but it doesn't feel right
not to say this book is inspirational and something that needs to be read. It is a journey through leadership, through hardships, through the life of a man who inspired the nation. It shows a different perspective to things, one that we don't usually see. The book has a lot of things that can be quoted, but I choose to share this one...
"He who knows others is learned, but the wise one is the one who knows himself. Learning without wisdom is of no use."
I chose this particular quote because it tells me to look into understanding the person I am too, and not just look to understand others.
Another excerpt that looks into life was.
"The trouble is that we often merely analyse life instead of dealing with it. People dissect their failures for causes and effects, but seldom deal with them and gain experience to master them and thereby avoid their recurrence. This is my belief: that through difficulties and problems God gives us the opportunity to grow. So when your hopes and dreams and goals are dashed, search among the wreckage, you may find a golden opportunity hidden in the ruins."
I have also got bogged down by failures rather than dealing with it. I guess that has stopped me from growing atleast a little bit. Maybe I failed for a reason, and that opportunity is still there. I think it's about time I started to search for that opportunity now.
The book is inspiring, but it probably might not sound as much if you aren't Indian. Still, there are things to take out of it.