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What is a book critique and how to write it?


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Taking notes in a notebook for book critique writing

Books are one of the major sources of valuable knowledge that entertains, informs, teaches literacy, provides a brief introduction to myriads of subjects and topics, and so on. One way or another, people cannot live without reading, and it seems like a book will always be a major source of inspiration, information, and skills that help people of diverse professions develop without being forced to search everywhere for a particular part of the information that they need so much.

However, not all books, or even certain chapters in them, can be considered well-written, objective, or credible. Therefore, college and university students are often asked to review certain pieces of literature in order to learn to analyze the information presented in them. Writing a book critique means being able to think critically about a particular piece of literature, voice your opinion about it, and provide objective argumentation. Once students understand that this task isn’t a piece-of-cake, as it seemed at first, they start thinking how to cope with it.

As a rule, people gifted with a writing talent do not think too much about such things at all. They just read a particular piece, think about it for a while, and start compiling a critical assessment, as they already have some thoughts at this stage. Those who aren’t as lucky though feel a great deal of stress due to the confusion the assignment brings. If you are one of them, do not worry. Once you learn how to critique a book properly, you will be able to create excellent critiques on your own. And our team, will gladly help you learn everything you need to do it!

What is a book critique?

A book critique is an evaluation of a certain work of literature or its part, and is a common task is at schools and colleges around the world. This assignment is not a big project itself and you will not have to write dozens of pages analyzing a certain piece. However, the whole process of researching and writing book critiques is complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, if you are given such a task, it is crucial to plan ahead as you will have to devote a lot of time to reading.

Book critique outline

The evaluation paper of any type usually consists of five parts:

  • Introduction - describes the purpose of the work and sets the stage for the critical evaluation;
  • Review - provides the reader with general information on the work’s plot and meaning;
  • Critique - evaluates the literary piece and the author’s writing abilities using certain criteria;
  • Opinion - conveys your own impression and points out the exact parts which you agree or disagree with;
  • Conclusion - restates the main idea, combines critical assessment with personal opinion, and gives the reader recommendations on the work you read.

Tips from experts

Meet our advisors

A critical review/appraisal is the review of someone’s work. It could be text, film, or art.

There are a few things you need to cover:

  • Thesis statement – upon reviewing the text, film, or art materials, decide on your position. State your position in 2-3 sentences.
  • Support – find sources to support your position and justify your statement. Don’t be “obvious” (i.e., I like this text) – state facts about your position.
  • Argument – Line up your sources in a logic persuasive manner. Take a stand. Prove your point. Use quotes. Stay on track – be focused.
  • Defense of your thesis statement. Be thorough with your sources. Don’t let anyone challenge your position. Be confident.

Bottom line: Don’t make an argument you can not defend.

Penny J. Larsen

College professor with 30 years of teaching experience

Book critique format

The format of a book critique is the same as for any other critique paper. The main thing is to stick to the outline mentioned above. Every part of such work needs to logically continue the previous one and still be a separate notional piece.

It is also advisable to write in Times New Roman and double-space your paper so that it is easier to read. It is also best to add the title page and list of references, even if you are not asked to use a specific format. Finally, your professor may have his or her own formatting requirement, so it is better to clarify this aspect before you start working on your paper.

How to analyze a chapter of a book?

When you have to give a critical assessment of a particular chapter of the literary work, it does not mean that your task becomes simpler. You still have to read the whole piece to understand the small part you were asked to review. It is important to understand what exactly is so special about this chapter and what role it plays in the book.

As you are only reviewing a chapter, the summary paragraph in your paper can be more detailed than if you were analyzing the whole piece. The paper still has to include the basic information about the whole story to help the reader understand how a chosen chapter fits in the context of a book. However, keep this information short and do not devote more than a paragraph to it, especially if your word limit is around 500-700 in order to leave more space for chapter review.

How to write a book critique for college?

A critique is definitely not an easy thing to write. Usually, the book is at least 250 pages long, which means that it takes some time to read, and you also have to take notes while doing it in order to be able to outline the story without looking through the details later. Thus, it is hard to enjoy the reading, as you have to do it carefully not to miss the important details. But do not worry! There are some hints that may be particularly useful when working on book critiques:

  • The book has to be analyzed entirely, starting with the background information about the author and up to the reading other people’s feedback as examples for future writing. Therefore, you need to get acquainted with the author’s biography and various book reviews.
  • When reading, write down the parts you think you’d like to critique. These should be both good and bad, credible and non-credible statements, chapters, or ideas. Also, write down the questions that arise when reading and see if they will be answered further in the book.
  • When you are done reading, think about your impression. Is it neutral, positive, or negative? Would you read this piece again or recommend it to anyone? Was it hard to understand author’s ideas or the main idea of the work overall?
  • Check the points you have written down and create an outline based on them. Use the example presented above to structure your outline. Remember – the more detailed it is, the easier it will be for you to write.

 Last but not least, once you’ve written the paper, do not forget to go over it again. To spot more mistakes, leave it to sit on your table or laptop for a few hours or days if possible before re-reading it. If there is anyone willing to read your paper, ask that person to point out the confusing spots or obvious mistakes for you to correct, and get ready for the submission!

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