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Creating Interesting Book Reviews Is Very Easy

What is a book review?

Academically speaking, a book review is a short entry in an academic journal that describes and critiques the contents of a new book available through a small academic or university press. A book review should be even handed, but critical, and should be completed by an expert in the field. Book reviews are often written by recent PhDs or advanced graduate students, who have been previously published in the journal or who have a relationship with the material being described.

What makes a good book review?

In a journal, a good book review should be fair but with very high standards, especially as it pertains to accuracy. The reviewer should provide some background on the subject under discussion and should demonstrate that he or she has a great deal of familiarity with prior thought on the area. The book review should not just make a recommendation as to whether the book should be read or not; instead, a good book review will inform the reader and pique his or her interest in the subject, and then make it clear whether or not the book is a good place to start learning about this subject. If the book does not come highly recommended, the reviewer should point the reader in other directions.

How does one prepare to write a review?

If you have been tasked with reviewing an academic text or trade book, you should prepare at least six months before the entry is supposed to run in the journal. Read the book very slowly, starting as soon as your receive the review copy. If you are waiting for the book to come in, brush up on the topic by reading a few seminal texts or journal articles. Once the book is in your hands, scan through it slowly with a pen and a highlighter, and record all your responses in the margins or in a note taking application. Review these comments after the book has been finished. Then take a short break, review additional writing, and return to the book.

How long should a book review be?

A book review for an academic press should be fairly long, far longer than any book review you might encounter in a magazine or newspaper. The desired length may depend somewhat on the depth and length of the book itself. If the text is a relatively short paperback, you can get away with writing a few thousand to five thousand words in your review. If the text is a massive review tome, you should devote at least ten thousand words to exploring it.

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