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Preparing Book Reviews

All students know that writing book reviews is not as easy as ABC. It is understandable that you need to read a certain book first in order to produce a good work. However, it is also necessary to be creative and have plenty of fresh ideas. If you encounter any difficulties with completing this assignment, you may find the instructions provided below quite helpful.

If you want to write a paper up to a high academic standard, you need to adhere to a single set of rules. First of all, it is necessary to choose the book you are going to review. Speaking about the title of your work, you can select it on your own or consult your professor about it. The chosen publication does not have to be very long as you should have enough time for writing your essay after reading it.

A lot of students choose to write a review of their favorite book. Sometimes, they choose a book with a catchy title of a popular author. There is nothing wrong with it. However, students should understand that whatever the composition they pick, it has to be read from beginning to end. By the way, it is rather useful to make some notes while reading in order not to miss important details. Thus, you should jot down the following: the main idea of the story, key phrases, etc. Then, you will use the collected material in your paper. If you follow these book recommendations, you will not have any problems with developing your essay.

While doing research, you may also pay attention to the reviews made by other authors. However, do not even think about copying them. You should illustrate the key point of your review and present strong arguments to support it. We want to emphasize that you need to express your own opinion about the chosen book and not that of somebody else. Any book review should contain the description of such things as author’s writing style, the use of stylistic devices, etc. Furthermore, you have to examine whether the author’s narrative technique is effective in conveying the message clearly.

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Target Audience

When writing book reviews, you should know whom you are going to present them to, i.e. freshmen, sophomores, etc. The educational level really matters here as the writing style of your paper heavily depends on it. For instance, if you prepare an essay for undergraduates, you should analyze the selected book in detail and provide readers with vivid examples. Students of the History Dept. may want your review to contain certain dates. May be you will even have to demonstrate how the explored issues have changed in the course of history. In case you present a review of the newspaper article or column, it has to be concise and clear. If it goes about graduates, then you need to conduct an in-depth research and show how the book contributes to a particular area of study.

It is very important to consider the target audience while carrying out a writing project. If you know who will read your review, it will be easier to write it properly. You will understand whether to omit some facts or provide more impressive examples. In other words it will provide you with an understanding what your essay should be like in the end

Essential Details

If you want to know how to write a book review and how to do it well you should pay attention to its principal elements and structure. First of all, it is necessary to mention the author, title, and the publication date of the discussed book. Then you should write a summary presenting the key idea of the chosen literary work. Moreover, you need to define its genre. For example, your review may start like this: "The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck, was published in 1939. It is an American realist novel that shows the life of people during the Great Depression." Thus, you see that all the important items are mentioned, i.e. the title of the book, its author, publication date, and the subject.

The topic sentence has to be followed by the additional information about the work. You may provide some facts about the author or illustrate some important aspects of the story. You can describe the main characters and provide the details of the plot. In other words you should make a literary analysis of the narration. You may discuss the literary style of the story and show how it influences its general understanding.

Introduction

The introductory section should provide basic information about the book. Readers need to know what it is about, its main characters and central topic. Besides, you have to write a strong thesis statement. It should give detailed critique of the interpretation of the events described in the story. For example, in the Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses a specific form of a blank verse. It helps display a psychological portrait of all the heroes. Thus, readers can understand the intentions of each character. It should be noted that each literary composition differs in content, genre, writing style, etc.

One more important thing that you should know is that you need to make sure you have a proper book review format. Remember that a thesis has to argue about the way the author conveys the message to the readers. You should also know that all the elements of the literary analysis are closely connected. Thus, describing the author’s writing style, you cannot but mention the use of stylistic devices, for example. All the texts are interpreted in different ways. While preparing a review, huge attention is paid to various theoretical concepts such as capitalism, structuralism, etc. For instance, in the thesis, you may discuss why the author underlines the importance of being faithful or honest. In order to make the thesis clearer, you may even use some short pieces of the story.

The Reading Process

It is quite clear that a good review can be written only after reading the whole book thoroughly. Only in this case you will be able to highlight all the important points of the story. When you have written an introduction, you can start writing the body. This section has to provide detailed information about the book. It should give a complete description of the plot, characters, and the major points of the narration. If you are going to examine a scientific journal or encyclopedia, you should apply the same principles as to a fiction book. The difference is that you will analyze research methods or certain scientific techniques and not describe characters and their adventures.

The Topic of the Book

It is sometimes hard for students to determine the main topic of the book. Furthermore, they have a lot of difficulties with identifying its major points. The fact that they have carefully read a particular literary composition does not guarantee its proper understanding. If you are stuck with it and do not know what to do, you may read the critique provided by a famous scholar. How it will help you to move on? You should understand that a certain critical review can be rather useful for writing a book review on your own. It can give you a hint on what to begin with and how to determine the main points of the story. When reading someone’s critical evaluation of a particular book, you do not necessarily have to agree with it. You are free to make your own conclusions.

Feelings Aroused by Reading a Book

When you have read the book, try to stop for a moment and understand what you feel. In order to describe your feelings, give answers to the following questions: Did you like the book? Did you feel angry, disappointed, or surprised after reading it? What methods does the author apply to make readers experience certain emotions? When you understand what you feel, it may help you to understand how to determine the key items of the literary composition. Let us take the novel “For Whom the Bells Tolls” as an example. Ernest Hemingway uses a lot of stylistic devices to describe characters. One of them is a comparison. For instance, Pablo compares himself with a fox, emphasizing that he is very cautious. He even compares himself with a wolf saying that he is fearless. Thus, such a description helps define one of the themes of the story and understand the author’s attitude to the hero. When you have determined the main topic of the book and its subtopics, you may begin to cover each of them in detail. This procedure, as well as critiques written by famous book reviewers, will help you understand how to set off. It will give you confidence to achieve your goal and deliver a great piece of writing.

If you deal with academic books then you can explain the headings of the units and the structure of the whole work. One of such books is “The Fundamentals of Nursing” written by Patricia Potter and Anne Perry. Its authors provide readers with in-depth reviews of the chapters and give a set of exercises and tests. Their aim is to explain students the role of nurses in the hospital and help them learn more about nurses’ professional responsibilities. When you need to produce such kind of a review, you can discuss every section of the book in the body of your work. In this case, you can make critical evaluation of the nurses’ work and talk about the importance of knowing all the peculiarities of medicine. This approach can be used to reviewing any type of books in any field of knowledge.

Some students often wonder whether it is possible to produce reviews on books that do not present the major argument. We are mostly talking about reference books, encyclopedias, textbooks, etc. For example, what students should do if they need to write a book review of some Chemistry or Biology book? First and foremost it is necessary to demonstrate the contribution of a particular book to a certain area of study. For example, “The Feynman Lectures on Physics” is a textbook in physics. It is based on the lectures of Richard Feynman. One could dwell on how it helps scientists understand better some theoretical issues of quantum mechanics, astronomy and mathematics.

The Author's Message

When you have discussed the key points of the selected publication, you need to evaluate the author’s writing style. You have to show whether he/she managed to produce a comprehensive piece of writing. It is very important for readers to get the main idea of the book and understand the author’s message. You need to explain whether the book provides detailed descriptions of the events, situations, characters, etc. It is also good to show the influence of the book on readers. Everyone knows the book called “Dracula” by Bram Stocker. The author uses some newspaper articles to persuade readers that events depicted in “Dracula” are real. At the same time he shows all the horror of this story. You should assess the effect of the narration throughout your review. Do not forget that it is necessary to support the points expressed in the thesis statement and close with a reasonable conclusion.

Conclusion

All book reviews should provide the following information: the title of the book, its author, the date of publication, and the topic. Therefore, it will help readers understand what they are going to read about. The thesis presents the key points which are discussed in detail in the body of the paper. A concluding paragraph shows whether the used stylistic devices help vividly convey the author’s message and the main idea to readers.

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