Book, Article, Chapter, or Movie Review

Posted Friday, April 20, 2018.

Here is how to write a book review.  

[WRITE REVIEWS FOR FUN & PROFIT.  HERE IS A REVIEW FORMAT for Books, Articles, Chapters, and Movies]

Paragraph 1:  Accurately summarize the important points in the article.
Paragraph 2:  Explain why these points are important.
Paragraph 3:  Compare the article to another article that is better.
Paragraph 4:  Evaluate the article.  Explain how it helped to advance your understanding of the topic.  If it did not, explain why it did not.

**This format is quite good to build the habit of writing reviews.  As you develop that you can begin building a literary flare but until then this is an excellent practice guide for any age.  This format works well with chapter reviews in books.  And to give him full credit, this format belongs to Gary North.  Find him and the Ron Paul Curriculum at Specific Answers.  Here is a more elaborate version of North’s review format:

First, describe what the author’s main purpose was, or main theme is, when writing his book. If you do not understand this, you are not in a position to write the book review. The author probably says somewhere early in the Preface why he wrote the book. The reader has to know what the motivation of the author was. This will help him to understand what the particular slant of the author is.

Second, review the main themes of the book. Do not go through this on a chapter by chapter basis, but there should be main themes in the book. If there aren’t, then either the author did a bad job, or you are not a perceptive reader.

Third, point out those features of the book that are common. Describe the book in the context of other books in the field. The reader should see that there is continuity in the field, and that this particular book holds to specific aspects that are common in the field. If the book you are reviewing were completely new, nobody would buy it or read it. There has to be continuity in order to target a particular market. The reader should know how this author is conventional.

Fourth, describe what theses in the book are unique. What makes this book different? This is central to understanding what makes the book either a very good contribution or a very poor contribution. This is where the book author seeks to make his reputation. This is where he wants to stand out from other authors in the field. This is central to the review. I don’t think it should go at the beginning of the review, but it has got to be the central focus of your review.

Fifth, it would be nice if you could assess whether or not he was successful in proving his case. The problem here is that you may not have enough knowledge to make this assessment. If you’re not confident in this area, don’t make final judgments about the performance of the author or the persuasive power of the book. You may have to read another dozen volumes to be confident about your ability to assess the author’s competence in making his case. Don’t be premature. At some point in your career, you will be in a position to make such an assessment, but don’t jump the gun. Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread.

Sixth, it is a good idea to compare this book with whatever is the major book in the field. Maybe there will be two or three books that are considered the pillars of the field, and if this is the case, then you should assess the overall performance of the author in terms of these premier books. You should compare the author’s performance with performances that are widely regarded as top-flight performances. Read the premier books first. Find out which ones are dominant.

Seventh, it is unwise to write hatchet jobs early in your career. That may be suitable after you have written your blog for five years or more. When you have read 100 books on a narrow topic, you are in a position to make negative assessments. In general, however, I think it is wise to avoid books that are so bad that you have to write a hatchet job. If the book is a bestseller, and if it is egregiously incompetent, then it’s okay to write a hatchet job. You will be perceived as someone who is issuing a warning to others in the field, in order to help them for making a serious mistake. But if the book has not sold well, and if the author is unknown, then it is unlikely that many of your readers will have made the mistake of buying the book, reading the book, and accepting its conclusions.

Eighth, make an assessment of the importance of the book in the overall universe of books on this topic. Either recommend that the reader read the book, or else recommend that he skip it. You want to save the reader time. You can point out the advantages of reading the book, but focus this on a particular goal in reading the book. In other words, if you say the book is worth reading, be sure that the reader knows exactly why the book is worth reading. What will the benefits be to the reader if he reads the book? The goal here is to save the reader time and money. Don’t recommend the book to readers if you don’t provide reasons for recommending the book.

Decent format for critical reviews of books.

Here are some further guidelines for writing reviews

This was pretty good.

When writing a book review, how much of it do you commit to the author and his history?

POV or point of view.  Multiple viewpoints.  Dracula.  She cites Rick Riordan.  Who is he?

The setting.  Sometimes it’s major, other times not so much. 

The genre or audience?  children’s book or sci-fi, mystery thriller, etc.  got to let them know.  this tells people what to expect from the book and the review. 

Theme.  What is the message? 

Style.  She combines tone with style.  Okay.  Formal, informal?  Epic and grand?  Or diaries are informal.  But these help people to get what to expect. 

Pacing?  The balance between the action scense and the scenes of rest.  Tension and then rest and regroup.  Next scene, more tension, moving between tension and release.  Fluidity to the story that moves it forward. 

Plot.  Needs to be one.  Plot is the bones of the story.  Just so that people know where they are.  Give a clue as to where the story is going.  Help them look for an answer to an earlier question.  How do you get around the obstacle.

Character development.  Do they grow, is there change?

Writing quality? What goes into an excellent writing style?  Did it have coherence?  Did it make sense?  Clarity?  Easy to understand?  Concise?  Originality, did it have its own voice, style.  Forcefulness.

Jacob Neusner (1932-2016) wrote 950 books, 20 books a year, but he’s contineud to write.  He wrote 1 book every 2.5 weeks for 50 years.

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