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How to write reviews?

by Roland Buresund posted at 2005-01-22 03:00 last modified 2007-05-21 12:32

I'm trying to logically define what is necessary to write a good book review. This is my candidate opinion at present.

Consider some or all of the following points when writing a book review:

  • What was the purpose in writing this book
  • For whom was it written
  • Is it appropriate to its audience?
  • What qualifications does the author have for writing on this subject?
  • Is the book well structured and attractively laid out?
  • Is it orderly and logical?
  • Is the book well written, easy to read and easy to follow?
  • Are there bibliographies and references?
  • Are there indications of extensive research?
  • Is there an index?
  • What other features does it have? Are they effective and useful?
  • Is the book objective or does it show bias?
  • Are assumptions made and what conclusions does the author reach?
  • Does the book have illustrations, tables etc. and do they complement the text?
  • Are there mistakes or omissions in the book?
  • How does the book compare with others known to you on the same subject or by the same author?
  • Is the publisher and authors of the book known and reputable?
  • How appropriate is the book's title?
  • Does it promise essentially what the book delivers?
  • Why was the book written?
  • Has the author met his/hers objectives?
  • What is your personal response?
  • Is it satisfying to read?
  • Is it convincing? Why? If not, why not?

Don't forget to tell the audience what the book is all about and to describe and/or refute its main hypothesis.

Evaluate the worth of the work being reviewed, and don't pull any punches. If the book is not worth reading, tell the audience this and explain why you think it is so.

In short, the following things should be present in a book review (not that it is present in mine):

  • Full bibliographical details (supported by the book module)
  • Author's qualifications (supported by the author module's bio data)
  • The overall content of the book, its scope and intended audience (part of the synopsis in the book module)
  • Its standing among other similar books on the same topic
  • The author's premises on which the work is based and the conclusions reached
  • The major issues stated and points raised in the book together with the extent to which these have been adequately covered
  • Any particularly strong viewpoint or bias present in the book
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the book
  • An evaluation of the style of writing
  • The personal judgement of the reviewer as to the book's worth

And in the end, do I follow my own advice? Not really, I just tell the audience what is on my mind.... :-)
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