CRITICAL BOOK REVIEW due on the Charlotte Higggins book Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain

First, a review gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant
description of the topic as well as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose.
• Second, and more importantly, a review offers a critical assessment of the content. This involves
your reactions to the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was
effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand.
• Finally, in addition to analyzing the work, a review often suggests whether or not the audience
would appreciate it.

Also consider,
What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one idea from
the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to the world you know? What has the
book accomplished?
• What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately?
Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? What is the approach to the
subject (topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive)?
• How does the author support her argument? What evidence does she use to prove her point? Do
you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author’s information (or
conclusions) conflict with other books you’ve read, courses you’ve taken or just previous
assumptions you had of the subject?
• How does the author structure her argument? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the
argument make sense? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?
• How has this book helped you understand the subject? Would you recommend the book to your
reader?

If useful-
Introduction
• The name of the author and the book title and the main theme.
• Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You
could also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.
• The context of the book and/or your review. Placing your review in a framework that makes sense to
your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. Perhaps you want to situate a book about
the Cuban revolution in the context of Cold War rivalries between the United States and the Soviet
Union. Another reviewer might want to consider the book in the framework of Latin American
social movements. Your choice of context informs your argument.
• The thesis of the book. If you are reviewing fiction, this may be difficult since novels, plays, and short
stories rarely have explicit arguments. But identifying the book’s particular novelty, angle, or
originality allows you to show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.
• Your thesis about the book

Summary of content
This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be
backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed
throughout other parts of the review.

Analysis and evaluation of the book
Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your
argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it
can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly. You do
not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want
to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book.
If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review
remains in the spotlight. Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you
do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.

Conclusion
Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new
evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book
if they extend the logic of your own thesis. This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and
weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and
one favorable one? What do they all add up to?

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