- Require a critical review on Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War.
Author Information. The reviewer should investigate the author’s life in such sources as Who’s Who in America, the Dictionary of American Scholars, and Contemporary Authors (if the person is still living or recently died); or Who Was Who in America and the Dictionary of American Biography (if the person died some time ago). The reviewer should consider, for example, the Author’s academic and professional experience, the titles/subjects of other books the author has published, his/her specialty or historical interest, the period in which the book was written, or any other information which might effect the author’s point of view. Knowing something about an author can often provide insight into the author’s perspective and reason for writing the book. However, no attempt should be made to reproduce a standard, pro forma biographical sketch in the review. One should include only such biographical data as is pertinent to the author’s qualifications to write the book under review.
Thesis of the Book. The underlying theme of the work, this is the contention with which the author attempts to get the reader to accept. It can be thought of as the “commercial message” of the work. Oftentimes, thesis pronouncements may be found in the introduction, preface, foreword, and/or conclusion of a book. However, the thesis may not be declared per se in some books. Nevertheless, the student can determine the thesis by noting the particular interpretation of the book’s subject that the author presented. For example, if information is included in the book revealing how the author’s point of view differs from other accounts, this data provides an indication for the reviewer to ascertain the thesis of the book.
The thesis must be specifically identified in the review. The following example is too general and therefore is an unacceptable thesis statement: “Kenneth Stampp’s book, The Peculiar Institution tells the story of how black slaves lived in the South before the Civil War.” The following example is an acceptable thesis statement: “In Kenneth Stampp’s book, The Peculiar Institution, the author maintains that slavery in the antebellum South was not a benign, paternalistic institution as early writers have characterized it, but a harsh and brutalizing one which had a profit motive as well as desire for racial control at its foundation.” Note the difference.
After identifying the thesis, the reviewer should comment on how the author attempted to support his/her thesis and evaluate the effectiveness of the author’s evidence. One should refer only to the sections of the book which are pertinent to this discussion. Students should not try to summarize the entire book, render a chapter-by-chapter description, provide a thumbnail sketch of the plot, or retell the story.
Composition of the Book. In this section, the reviewer should comment on such points as the following: organization (chronological or topical); style (narrative/analytical); readability (“scholarly” or “popular” reader appeal); balance (author’s possible bias); internal consistency (contradictions detected in the book); and the research methods that the author utilized to write the book (primary/secondary sources indicated in footnotes and/or bibliography).
The book review must be composed in essay form. It should be arranged with a distinct introduction, body, and conclusion, but should not utilize technical writing style such as section or paragraph headings/titles or numbers. Book reviews must be typewritten or word-processed, not less than four and one-half pages or more than five pages in overall length (not counting the cover sheet). Reviews should also be double-spaced throughout, with one and one-half inch margins. Words should not be broken at the ends of lines with hyphens. Titles of books should be italicized or underlined. This should be a finished paper that exhibits proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. All typographical errors should be eliminated by retyping or reprocessing the page. Reviews with pen-and-ink or editing (draft-style) corrections are not acceptable.
To give an authoritative tone to the review, one should confine it to third person and not write in first or second person (words such as I, me, my, you, etc. should be omitted). For example, instead of writing “In my opinion, this is an unbiased, balanced book,” the reviewer should merely state “This is an unbiased, balanced book.”
Students should use the passive voice sparingly in the review (in the passive voice, the subject is acted upon rather than acting). For example, instead of writing “The times were reflected by the author’s subject,” one should write “The author’s subject reflected the times.”
Liberal use of direct quotations from the book under review to support and illustrate points made in the review (using the author’s own words to prove arguments asserted in the review) is encouraged. However, these quotations should be carefully selected to ensure that they are succinct and relative to the specific point being made. Also, one should not quote excessively so that quoted material dominates the review. Long or block quotes are not permitted. Reviewers should restrict each quotation to one or two lines. Direct quotations should be tailored by the use of ellipses to omit unnecessary words or phrases within a quoted passage. Example: “It is an undertaking above the common race of men…. They have traveled through woods and bogs, and over precipices … attended with every inconvenience and difficulty ….”
Reviewers should not plagiarize. Plagiarism constitutes literary theft, and is a serious infraction of moral and university rules. Proper attribution of other writer’s material is essential in the review, although footnotes or endnotes are not necessary. The following style will be used to accomplish acceptable accreditation for quotations in the book review: Directly-quoted matter will be enclosed within quotation marks. Quotes from the book under review will be indicated by placing the page number(s) from which the quote was taken, enclosed in parenthesis, immediately at the end of the sentence containing the quotation. Example: “Arnold buoyed his fatigued column by maintaining a bold command presence.” (124) Quotations from other sources should be cited with the following information enclosed in parenthesis immediately following the end of the sentence that contained the quote. For a book: authors name (not inverted); title of book (italicized or underlined); place of publication; name of publisher; date of publication; volume number (if applicable); page number(s). Example: (Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1984, 90) For an article: author’s name (not inverted); title of article (in quotation marks); title of periodical (italicized or underlined); volume number, issue number and/or date; page number. Example: (David Thelen, “Memory and American History,” The Journal of American History, v. 75, March 1989, 1117).
The perfect book (perfectly bad — no redeemable qualities; or perfectly good — no improvement possible) has not been written. Therefore, reviewers should insure that balance is established in the review. Both the weak and strong points of the book should be addressed in order to establish its overall merits.
A cover sheet containing the name of the university, course number, professor’s name, student’s name, date submitted, and a complete bibliographical citation of the book being reviewed will be attached to the front of the book review. Example: A Book Review of The Crucial Decade – And After: America, 1945-1960. By Eric Goldman. (New York: Vintage Books, 1960. Pp.349.) Each page should be numbered except the cover sheet. The book review should not be placed in a folder of any type. The pages should be stapled together in the upper left-hand corner.