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Guide to Writing Book Reviews and Book Reports

Book reports are accounts of a particular book where the writer both describes and critically evaluates a book's content. This account should also assess the book's value and the writer should recommend to readers whether they think the book is worth reading or not.

By contrast, book reports are objective summaries of the main points, ideas and/or arguments in a book as presented by the author of that book. The primary purpose of a book report is to provide readers with sufficient information to help them decide if a particular book will be of any interest or use to them.

The common features shared by both reviews and reports are described below. The critical comment section (last section) is aimed only at book review writers.

Information of a Bibliographical Nature

Here you should provide the name of the author, the book's full title to include any subtitle, the book's editor(s) where applicable, place of publication, name of publisher, publication date, the edition number where applicable, and the length i.e. how many pages there are in the book. All of this information should be presented in the appropriate referencing style e.g. APA, Chicago, MLA, etc. and beneath the review or report's title.

Background or Historical Information

Provide any relevant author-related information where this demonstrates their credentials to write on a particular subject or in a particular field and/or where this discloses any important influences that may have had an impact on the viewpoint of the author. You should highlight any notable events or circumstances that may have prompted the writer to write the book.

Targeted Audience

The intention of the author might be evident in the way they treat the book's subject. Do you think the material is meant for students, subject matter experts, or the public in general? Does the author focus on a particular subject or does he or she generally cover a wider-ranging subject? There may be clues in a number of sections. For examples, appendices, bibliography pages and indexes tend to be present in an academic paper and authors often use prefaces and/or introductions to explicitly state their intention. The book's content and the style an author uses to express themselves are usually a clear signal of the audience they are targeting.

Subject Matter and the Thesis Statement

What subject does the book deal with i.e. what is it about? Not only should you tell readers what the subject of the book is i.e. what it is concerned with in an overall sense, but you should additionally tell them what the particular viewpoint of the author is on the subject i.e. the thesis statement. In the event you are unable to find a suitable quote e.g. a statement in the exact words of the author or if you think the book does not develop what you believe is a thesis statement, then you may need to write a thesis statement that encompasses or covers the book's entire content. This thesis statement should be brief - just one sentence or one paragraph, and it should be comprehensive and accurate.

Summarization of Book's Content

You should base your summary on the notes you made while reading the book, following the order of the author, and comprised only of the main points or ideas that the author uses to advance their argument. You may present this within the context of analysis or discuss it separately.

Critical Comment Section (for book review writing only)

The bulk of a book review should be made up of the critical comments section. The writer should say whether they think the way the author has treated the subject matter is effective or suitable for the targeted audience. Ask these questions of yourself:

  • Has the author achieved their intended purpose in this book?
  • Does this book contribute to its field, and how?
  • Does the author treat the subject matter objectively?
  • Has the author omitted any facts and/or evidence?
  • If applicable, what types of data has the author used to support his or her thesis statement?
  • Is the style of writing clear, concise, and effective?
  • Does the content of the book give rise to any topics or points of discussion?
  • Could the data within the book be transferred or interpreted to meet some other purpose or end?

You should take evidence from the book's text to support your evaluation. To conclude, you may wish to say if you liked the book or did not like it.

Book Review Sample (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is a real masterpiece in the scope of the world literature. Unlike many other novels, this literary work is not considered to be old-fashioned or irrelevant to the current epoch. The book continues to capture the readers of many generations with its peculiar language, daily topics and the original viewpoint on ordinary things.

Though the choice of this work to evaluate may seem rather trivial, it is by no means wrong. Jane Eyre is adored by millions of people. Despite the fact that it was written a long time ago, it is topical today. For this reason, it is an interesting task to find out what makes the book so special. There is a need to remark that the plot does not differ much from the one of the other novels of that time: it has extraterrestrial elements, focuses on daily topics and problems, and is very close to life. Nevertheless, the perspective on these things is different. This aspect draws attention the most and makes the reader evaluate the book not only as a piece of literature, but also as something that has some other value except the literary one.

In general, the plot of the novel is centered on such topics as woman's desire to gain recognition that is equal to the one a man has, misunderstanding by the society, its prejudice and inability to accept a female as she is, person's loneliness, difficult childhood, and many other problems. Though they seem to be fully discussed by other literary works and are not very difficult to understand and analyze, Brontë's vision of these themes is rather special. It gives food for thought and makes one reconsider his or her attitude towards the issues. All topics remain important in the current epoch as well as they were in Brontë's.

If to consider the theme of love, it is represented in the way that stimulates the reader to think of him or herself and compare the situation they are in to that of Jane Eyre, the protagonist of the book. For instance, one may understand that true love does not fade away because of some circumstances such as a marriage of the beloved person or his/her unfair attitude. Moreover, Brontë gives an idea that love does not appear because of perfect appearance, noble status or virtuous features of character. The author states that it occurs when the spirit of one person addresses the spirit of another. These discoveries help one understand his or her hidden feelings and attitudes along with the way in which many relevant things in the world happen.

Important information provided in the book is the description of a culture where the whole story takes place, its people, traditions and problems. Though there is no such thing as nobility of the 19th century, Jane Eyre serves as an insight into the history of England and the peculiarities of people that live there. Notwithstanding the fact that they have changed since the times of Charlotte Brontë, there is something that is true about the English today. The book breaks the stereotypes about pedantry, reticence, and lack of emotion of Englishmen. On the contrary, it describes them as passionate people that are full of life. Therefore, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë provides a new vision on people of all cultures stating that they have much in common: they want to be happy and strive for it as hard as they can. One more discovery is the way women were regarded and treated at that time. The issue is true not only for England that makes it possible to compare it with the state of things in other countries.

The book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë does not belong to the trivial novels that gain temporary admiration among the readers. It has deeper sense and meaning for anyone who reads it, even for a person of another culture, since it gives understanding of many important things in daily life. Though some moments may seem unpleasant (like the description of relationship in the family of Jane Eyre), the book shows the true situation of the time it was written in that makes it even more valuable.

References

  • Brontë, C. (2012). Jane Eyre. Scrivere.