Here they are, the book review guidelines. First of all, all book
reviews must be either on Kris Lane's Quito 1599 or on John Demos's
Unredeemed Captive. Second, all book reviews must be 500-600
words in length (do not exceed this length as you will be penalized
for so doing). Your book review should begin with an introductory section
in which you introduce the book you're reviewing providing full bibliographic
information; the bibliographic information can be most easily conveyed
in a heading preceding the first paragraph of the review. The introductory
paragraph should also convey the main point or contribution of the book
that you are reviewing. An analytical summary of the book at the level
of secondary (i.e. addressing the issues Lane or Demos deal with and how
their contributions relate to ongoing discussions in history) and where
possible primary sources (i.e. showing how they use primary sources to
prove their points, focusing on the most important points of course) should
follow the introduction. These two sections should comprise no more than
65% of the total length of the book review. Finally, the book review
should end with a critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses
of the book and a brief conclusion that sums up the key elements of your
evaluation of the book you are reviewing. Any direct quotes taken
from the book should be properly footnoted as should major passages that
you are analyzing and the book review ought to be typed, double-spaced,
and in 12-pt., Courier or Times Roman font. Good luck!
Book Review Primer
The critical review, i.e. a review of a book or article that evaluates its strengths, weaknesses, and potential uses, is a staple of historical work. It is not hard to review a piece of academic work effectively, but it requires some understanding of what must be done. Here are the sections that are in a proper review with hints as to how to execute them.
Heading: This should include your name, the course number,
the instructor’s name, and the date due, single-spaced at the top of the
first page. The body of the review should be double-spaced. Then
give the publication information on the book you are reviewing, arranged
and punctuated like this example [note the inclusion of the number of pages]:
Robert S. Gottfried. The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe. New York: Free Press, 1983. xvii, 203 pp.
Introduction/Thesis Description: This is the main piece of information that the introduction of any good review needs to convey, viz. the main point that the work under examination is trying to make. You need not explain how the point is being made as that's a matter for the analytical summary. Rather you're trying to give your reader the punchline of the work that you're trying to explain to him/her. So, you want to write a brief synopsis of the thesis that should be no more than a short paragraph. The best introductory paragraphs will also identify the work being reviewed and indicate in some way the possible broader significance of the thesis (an author will almost always give you clues as to what this is so you needn't make it up).
Analytical Summary: This is probably one of the most difficult skills to master in reviewing another person's work. The idea is to show the reader how the argument in a piece of historical writing works. This means you have to do more than just summarize. You have identify the major points the piece you are evaluating is making and then show how the author tries to make those points. Also you must do this without expressing your judgment (that comes during the critique portion of the review). An analytical summary should be on the order of a few paragraphs (certainly no more than 3).
Critique: This section, as with the thesis description, is shorter than the analytical summary. In the critque you are basically deciding whether or not the author achieved the goals that you examined in the analytical summary. You SHOULD NOT comment on style, readability, whether you "liked" the book or article, or whether it suited your moral or other personal inclinations. Those are not standards applied to the evaluation of scholarship. Rather you should decided 1) if the author's argument flowed logically from step to step 2) whether the author supported the argument with enough evidence and 3) whether the author drew conclusions that were related to the argument and supported by his/her sources. Your critical analysis should be no more than two paragraphs in length and should contain specific examples from the text you are evaluating to illustrate the critical points you are making.
Conclusion: Here you just want to sum up your findings with regard to book you reviewed. The paragraph should be brief.