Guide to Writing Academic Book Reviews

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A review is a short text that usually appears in periodicals providing a critique about a book, a movie or any other topic. They are basically descriptive and informative texts that present a novelty or an element of interest to a specific audience. Many times, writing a review is not easy because, although we can have a lot to say, the extension cannot exceed two or three pages.

Rules for writing your academic book review

  1. Title of the academic book review (witty or word game and which, if possible, contains the positive or negative bias).

If the title is very tight it can be followed by a hat.

  1. Development (30 lines):
  • First paragraph (5 lines): The narrative part presents the story in a catchy way (summary of the story). This helps the recipient to get a first idea of the work. The end is not disclosed.
  • Second paragraph (5 lines): The informative part adds information about the work and allows the recipient to represent more fully the “object” of the academic book review. It is this part that provides the recipient with complete references to the work (concrete evidences of success and / or novels are mentioned). Academic book review will contain the title of the work, the name of the author.
  • Third paragraph (20 lines): The argumentative part is the essential element, the one that justifies the name of this kind of text.

In some very short, very simple texts, the opinion presented may take the form of a judgment limited to a few adjectives, without nuance.

  • In all cases, a series of evaluative terms (appreciative or depreciative) expresses the point of view of the author.
  • Your opinion is explicit or implicit (when the author leaves it to the addressee to conclude).
  • Subjective point of view, that is to say a bias for or against, the clearest possible but never bring it back to oneself so do not say: “I did not like it”, in other words: to speak of the work, not of oneself. (Avoid “I”).
  • Being subjective but having objective arguments (which are based on elements, passages that can be verified).
  • Adopt a voluntarily explicit register in relation with your remarks.
  • Use appreciative / depreciative terms that support your opinion of the work.

Distinguish arguments:

  • On the bottom: ideas, themes, circumstances, issues, symbols, etc.
  • On the style used: lexicon, language levels, genre, registers, structure, etc.

Give specific examples

  1. Evaluation of the academic book review

Each student will evaluate a copy of one of his classmates according to the grid below. He will make his remarks and the grid so that a second roll can be made before corrections by the teacher (session 2).

criteria indicators Note
The bottom Quality of the informative part – Does the reader haveinformation on the work, even on the life of the author, his work or the

context, literary …?

– Are they fair and


– Are they relevant

and put into perspective?

/3 points
Quality of the narrative part – Can the reader get an idea of the story without having readit?

– Does the reader have spatio-temporal elements, the main

characters and the plot?

– Is the suspense

maintained or the end of the story revealed to us?

/3 points
Quality of theargumentative part – Is your opinion onthe work read identifiable?

– Are the arguments, positive or negative, constructed and developed?

– Are your words founded and illustrated?

/3 points
Originality of the title – is the title wellchosen and does it allude to your opinion? / 1 point
Originality of hangingand falling – Does the hook-up make you want to continuereading?

– Does the fall close the text well?

/2 points
The form The paragraphs – Is the text dividedinto correctly delimited paragraphs?

– Is the transition between paragraphs fluid?

– Are logical connectors used

/2 points
Spelling – Is the text spelledcorrectly?

– Are agreements made with rigor?

/2 points
VocabularyEnunciation – Is the language register suitable?– Is the vocabulary rich, nuanced and used wisely?

– Are there

appreciative and depreciative terms that support your opinion?

/3 points
Syntax – Is sentenceconstruction correct?

– Is grammar respected?

– Is the style mastered (rhetoric, voluntary deviations)?

/2 points

Note that the elements mentioned here are not all universal and necessary and that the individuality of the style is encouraged. On the other hand, it goes without saying that common sense, impartiality and courtesy must always take precedence over all other considerations.

  1. Read the book. Resist the temptation to base your analysis on diagonal reading or reviews in other journals. Before reading the book, find out about the author’s intention and methodology by flipping through the foreword, the introduction and the final chapter. This will help you better understand the author’s plans and better guide your exploration of the book.
  2. Identify the author. As briefly as possible, introduce the author by describing his background, previous works, and what prompted him to write the book. Avoid clich├ęs: the hackneyed adjectives and universal descriptions will not captivate the reader’s attention!
  3. Present your analysis. This is the center of gravity of criticism. Do not succumb to the temptation to summarize the book: assess whether the author has articulated and presented his thesis, main themes and arguments. Obtain objectively the supporting evidence and the sources used. Analyze the author’s style and how that style reinforces or weakens his or her thesis and convincing arguments.
  4. Keep the sense of the measure. Do not look for the little beast. Even the best book has shortcomings, so just estimate the overall value of the book rather than sifting through every detail. Identify inaccuracies, misinterpretations and typographical errors only if they compromise the integrity of the work. The critic’s mandate is not to make negative comments. His professional duty simply dictates him to exercise critical judgment.
  5. Compliment your analysis. Quote short, punchy passages or sprinkle your story with anecdotes to spice it up. Tell the reader where the book is in the literature surrounding the subject and how it fits in. Specify to what type and level of audience it is intended, which audience it would particularly interest and who would benefit the most.
  6. Stay courteous and fair. Book reviews are an intellectual process that reflects the common sense and judgment of the author. A critic who indulges in personal accusations against the author of a book or who resorts to petty remarks about the content or style of the book undermines his own credibility. Courtesy, maturity and respect for others remain the foundation of any criticism, however severe it may be.
  7. Bet on the economy of effort. Consider the readers of the Canadian Military Journal as an informed public. A single book review can be anywhere from 500 to 1000 words, but it should not exceed 1000 words. Criticism of several books dealing with the same subject may be longer. Do not feel obliged to say all there is to say about the work; let the reader make his own discoveries, and do not spoil the pleasure of reading.
  8. Customize your criticism. To add depth to your critique, you may want to talk about your own thoughts, memories or experiences, as long as they support the context and purpose of the book. Do not lend yourself an expertise that you do not have. Just analyze the book as the author wrote it, and avoid getting lost in conjecture about the kind of work that the author should have composed in your opinion.


You can not talk about every part of the book completely. Therefore, do not predispose yourself to failure trying to do it. Instead, make sure your review includes the most important ideas and gives the reader a real sense of the book. You can read the book a second time to make your opinion and criticism more compelling. In a first reading, we get so much into the story that it is harder to be critical. When we read it again, as we already know what the book is about, we can focus on a more exhaustive analysis.

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