Book Reviews have Feelings too
Academic writing is basically writing you will start in college. Once entering an academic community with similar ways of thinking, speaking, and writing, it is important to also develop the skills to do these things in order to have a higher level of educational learning and to join others in conversational studies. Like any other types of writing, academic writing has many types of genre that follow under it. These genres can include research essays, journals, anything to annotated bibliographies and proposals. The genre that will be discussed in this essay is the book review. Although book reviews may not seem as important as other genres of academic writing, it is actually often in college assignments and appears a lot in professional writing as well (Magazines, Newspapers). Book reviews are a very evaluative genre and requires one to effectively ask oneself questions about the subject of matter. Compared to other genres, a book review asks for one’s viewpoint and opinion, requires an evaluative summary of the book and its characters and uses a thorough yet easy to follow analysis for the audience.
For this subject, I have interviewed Tina Nazerian, a student at Rice University, about book reviews. When asked about why book reviews are considered as a genre of academic writing, Nazerian expressed how important it was, saying, “The writer of the book review is synthesizing vast amounts of information to make a point, or points” (Nazerian). The writer gains knowledge through writing book reviews by learning how to ideally and effectively express and persuade their viewpoint. Although book reviews may be mistaken as similar to book reports, it is actually not identical. Book reports focus mainly on discussing the plot, characters and main ideas of the work, while book reviews give a sneak peek about the book and criticism on whether they enjoyed it or not (Welcome).
Book reviews contain brief descriptions of key points and explanations about
the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Nazerian warns writers about writing book reviews. “Trust your judgment, use evidence, and write elegantly, but not snobbishly,” she said (Nazerian). As a writer, it is important to write fair and include reasoning. Writing arrogantly as to critique another’s work demeans your character and intellect. Although it is important to state your own opinion and viewpoint in book reviews, you must also include facts and credible resources. Nazerian stressed that the most important thing to include in your book review is “quotes, because they serve as evidence. Without them, you don’t sound that credible” (Nazerian). The last thing you want as a writer is for your audience to lose their trust in you. You write not only for the benefit of expressing yourself but also for the benefit of the audience. The audience wants the most cohesive yet trustworthy and evaluative book review to read.
The processes of writing a book review is also vital, and even before that, you must prep information in order to write it. Before you began reading for your book review, you must ask yourself questions about the author, title, genre, cover, introduction, and table of contents. Not only put into mind the key points of the book, but also to the little details about your book. “Who is this author, has he/she won any awards,” are good questions to ask in providing background information about the author (Welcome). Note that book reviews are usually 500-700 words, and you should thoroughly investigate your book in order for your audience to understand and familiarize with it better (Welcome). The cover is also as important; be sure to utilize whether the cover of the book has caught your attention or provide you with any little details before reading the book. Although people shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in reality, most do. A cover is a mini-review of the book, so it is important to list it and make good observations. As for the table of contents, how is the book arranged? By sections or chapters? You never know if your audience may have questions like these, and thus further proves that the ability to ask yourself questions is essential.
Now time to discuss what you need to do as you read the book. While reading the book, make sure to mentally discuss the characters, themes, argument,
key ideas, and quotes. Do you empathize with the characters? Did the author cover the subject/purpose/argument adequately? Don’t feel obligated to answer each question as some questions may be more important than the other. This process will help provide you critical thinking before you actually begin writing. It’s important in developing an argument about the work and also to help you write an organized and well-supported draft. Take notes; it’s similar to brainstorming. This will help you just in case you get writer’s block when writing your review.
Once you are ready to write, the first thing to do when beginning a book review is to establish the background and remember your audience (Welcome). You must always keep in mind that your audience haven’t read the book yet, and thus doesn’t have as much knowledge as you do about the book. Also don’t include too much about the book. A good rule to follow is to limit your self only to a few chapters, and if it’s nonfiction, provide a basis of the author’s argument. In a book review by Nanette Scarpellini, a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she explains why the purpose of her book was well-written and also a few minor mistakes that she has caught up. Here is an excerpt below: Aviation History delivers an entertaining account and perspective on international aviation history. This book is an excellent resource to students, educators, and aviation enthusiasts. In reviewing this book, the principal criteria included content, organization, and reference sources. While editing errors and organizational incongruities plague some of the latter chapters, many of the shortcomings of this first edition will likely be alleviated by later editions (Scarpellini).
Looking at her excerpt, you can see that at the beginning of her book review, she has provided a thorough, yet short explanation of her book. Upon her thesis, she has stated her position that although the book has errors and mistakes, it is a remarkable book that can be used by teachers, students and other organizations. Scarpellini’s book review is a good sample to look at because she states her opinion with facts smoothly, making her review credible. She also makes sure to keep her audience at hand, by stating to whom the book will most likely be read by.
After establishing the background, organize your review by leaving plenty of space to analyze, not just to inform. The purpose of your review is to make an argument, a point about whether or not you liked the book. Remember commentary over summary (College). Choose a few points about the book to talk about and organize it by that. You can organize your paragraphs by themes, motives, other ides of the book. At the end of your book review, it’s useful to include the publisher and price for the audience (Welcome).
In conclusion, book reviews are an essential and important part of academic writing. It is not only useful to the audience but also to your self. As quoted by Nazerian, “They help make meaning of what people read or will read. They add to discussion within literature, which is vital. Merely reading books isn’t enough. Thinking and writing about them is important” (Nazerian). Book reviews challenges your skill to ask important and useful questions. The experience of writing book reviews will expand and enhance your insight on books and also take note of your audience. It gives you so many factors into consideration when writing a book review, therefore is a challenging experience in your education. It has made an important impact in exchanging information in college. It has taught people how to evaluate and incorporate their own opinion, thus is just as important as proposals, research essays, and other types of academic writing. Works Cited
“College of Arts and Sciences.” The Writing Center Book Reviews Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013. . Nazerian, Tina. Email. 2 July 2013.
Scarpellini, Nanette. “Sample Book Reviews.” Rev. of Aviation History. University of Nebraska 1999: n. pag. Print. “Welcome to the Purdue OWL.” Purdue OWL: Book Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 July 2013. .