The purpose of an academic book review is not to offer an opinion on whether or not you liked a given book but rather to critically evaluate an author's argument and use of evidence.
The audience of an academic book review is usually the popular press or, in most disciplines, an academic journal.
Book reviews are usually short, roughly 1500 words, and usually consist of the same elements found in the five paragraph essay: an introduction with thesis evaluating the merits of the author's argument; sub-claims, supported by evidence; and a conclusion.
When writing a book review, set the right tone (humorous, biting, matter of fact) from the beginning and stick to it. Write with vigor and economy: avoid passive voice and linking verbs and abstract noun constructions, and don’t dangle participles and modifiers. Use strong verbs, such as to argue, assert, believe, claim, report, suggest, reject, renounce. Use transitions, such as for example, however, rather, indeed.
- identify the main arguments and purpose of the piece; write a one paragraph summary
- make a list of what you believe and what you doubt; use as the basis for your thesis
- ask yourself why you believe/doubt certain pieces; use as the basis for your evaluation
- think about what the article failed to address or what questions it raised; use as the basis for your conclusion
- write, read draft, revise and bring to class