The book review needs to do two things: first, you need to provide sufficient coverage of the content of the book (or books, for a
review essay) in question for potential readers to decide whether or not they should read the book. Second, you need to critically
assess the book’s thesis/es and the evidence used to support it/them. As you go through the steps outlined below, please consider
these two crucial goals of your review—content overview and critical assessment.
1. Your review or review essay must include a title that reflects the theme of your review of the book, or the main theme of the book
under review. You do not need to provide a separate title page; just place the title at the top of the first page. Following the title,
you must provide a full citation to the book, e.g.. “Where Seldom Was Heard a Discouraging Word: Television and National Self
Congratulation in America’s ‘Happy Days.” A review of: Karal Ann Marling, As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the
1950s (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994). 328 pages, including notes, index, and illustrations.
2. Your coverage of each book in a review essay should be approximately 2 double spaced pages (about 650 words,
“about” means give or take 30 words not 300!).
3. You will have only 5-8 paragraphs in which to describe and assess the content of the book. In your first paragraph you should
provide the reader with a clear sense of the broad scope of the book. For example, your essay might begin: “Karal Ann Marling
examines the role of television and other forms of visual representation in shaping American culture in the 1950s.” In this same
opening paragraph you should next provide a brief overview of the book’s structure or specific chapters. You do not need to
mention every single chapter, but you should give readers a good clear sense of how the book has been put together. For example,
you might write: “This highly readable and quite provocative book includes chapters on “Disneyland,” Autoeroticism: America’s Love
Affair with the Car in the Television Age,” “Betty Crocker,” and “Elvis.” Next, you might conclude this opening paragraph with a key
quotation from the book that sums up the author’s thesis. For example: Marling notes that: “Life in the 1950s imitated art—as seen
4. In the next paragraph or two you should provide fuller, more detailed coverage of the content of the book/s. You might decide to
focus on just two or three of each book’s chapters, or might provide coverage of most or all of the book’s major topics. However you
choose to construct these paragraphs summarizing the content of the book, be sure that a reader would be able to decide from your
summary whether or not to read this book. If you are reviewing a collection of essays by a single author, or an edited essay
collection with multiple contributors, you cannot provide extensive coverage of all of the essays, so make a mention of all, but focus
your attention on four to six of them.
5. In the next few paragraphs you should assess the argument/s of the book/s and comment on the evidence provided in support of
it/them. Are you convinced by what the author has to say? Has the author effectively supported his/her arguments with appropriate
evidence and/or logical reasoning? What topics, issues, or themes has the author left out that might lead us to different conclusions
6. In your final paragraphs you should provide a strong summary of the book’s/s’ merits and shortcomings. Who would want to read
this book? Is it an important book? Do you
recommend it highly, only lukewarmly, or not at all? Could the book have been any
stronger and more effective; and if so, how?
7. In the course of your review be sure to provide a few poignant quotations that help
illustrate the author’s/s’ perspective or key arguments. Do not quote excessively and avoid long block quotations.
Finding Scholarly Reviews
Lastly, you can find citations to the major reviews of scholarly books. These citations will include the title of the journal, the volume
number, and the page number/s of the review. Please note that non-scholarly reviews of books from sources such as Amazon.com
are not acceptable sources.
Finding Scholarly Reviews