What is a book review?
An appraisal of a recently published, scholarly book to give others a more detailed understanding of what the book is about and how successful it is in covering its subject matter. While both these are important aspects of a book review, the second is a bit more important because it is the unique contribution that the book reviewer makes. Every year, numerous books are published, so book reviews serve as an opportunity to draw attention to works that ought to be read. In the case of FURJ, we are particularly interested in drawing attention to the works of Fordham faculty in an effort to promote academic discourse. Book reviews are rarely longer than 1000 words when found in academic journal. Since we are also an academic journal, we’ll stick to this rule.
What type of book review is FURJ primarily looking for?
Opinion reviews: This type of review will contain a sufficient summary of the book so that the readership of the review will understand the book in question, but the review will also offer an opinion of the book being reviewed. Fair ground for opinion reviews is judging the writing style, who an appropriate audience is, and how effective the argument and evidence are. A note: the most important thing in an opinion review is that the author maintains an opinion on the book in question.
We are particularly interested in reviews that focus on books written by Fordham professors. For a sampling of books published by Fordham professors, please see this document: Fordham Faculty Publications
What are the components of book reviews?
There is no one acceptable formula for what makes for a book review. Depending on the field of the book being reviewed, the structure of the book in question, and a host of other considerations, the reviews will vary. Each book review will be judged on an individual basis. – Here are a few guiding principles to consider as you are writing the book review:
- Are you writing in an engaging manner?
- Is your writing clear, concise, and easily understandable?
- Have you carefully read and thought critically about the book in question?
- Have you clearly identified the thesis of the book? Books are long works and often have many arguments and sub-arguments, but what is the over-arching theme and thesis of the work?
- Do you have a thesis of your own that takes a stance about the book? Is your thesis supported?
- Does the book in question have any important structural components?
- Who wrote the book being reviewed? What are their qualifications? This is often a good thing to include in the introduction of a review.
- Did the book leave anything out? What are some further questions that can be raised at the book’s end?
- Do you have a strong conclusion that ties together both the main points of the book as well as your opinion about the book?
- Do you mention strengths and weaknesses of the book? Reviews should be balanced and point out both.
- The review should avoid quoting the direct book too much. Any quotations selected should be very important or nuanced formulations of the book’s author.
Like any piece of writing, the review should have a structure of its own: introduction (set the landscape for the rest of the piece), body (address assertions made in introduction with evidence and discussion) and conclusion (bring book and review together). – This list is only meant to be a guide – all reviews will differ!
The Reviewing Process
Each book review will be considered on an individual basis. However, these are the few main checkpoints that we will consider:
- Is the review engaging?
- Does the review take a stance about the book?
- Is the stance well supported?
- Is the writing clear and formulated well?
Reviews will be read multiple times by the FURJ Book Review team in order to ensure that we have a complete understanding of what you are trying to accomplish in your review. We are most interested in seeing that you have taken a stance and have written a compelling and interesting piece.
If you have any further questions about the book review process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kelly Sullivan, FURJ Book Review Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We have used the following sources to make this guide – please feel free to check them out for more information about book reviews: http://www.lib.vt.edu/find/byformat/bookreviews.html https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230211100_What_makes_a_good_book_review https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/704/1/ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/book-reviews/ http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/book_reviews.shtml http://libraries.dal.ca/content/dam/dalhousie/pdf/library/CoreSkills/Book_Reviews.pdf