Setting out to write a critical book review is a daunting task. Something about the word ‘critical’ seems to conjure up scary visions of having to wade through huge tomes of literary theory that threaten to swallow your limited analyzing abilities as a student.
A review at the end of the day is supposed to be critical where you share your opinion on a specific topic and it tells the makers or readers your honest opinion on it. There are many reviewers out there, criticizing all kinds of books including fiction and essays, but not all these reviewers or their opinions are valued. At times, it is only because they’re lacking a proper outline and hence are not able to write their thoughts properly.
Why Have an Outline for a Critical Book Review?
Like any other assignment set by a systematically produced curriculum, a critical book review is also easy. You simply apply a systematic approach and break it into parts. You jot down the essential elements you need to include.
Working according to an outline is a great way to accomplish your goals. An outline serves as a systematic tool that will keep you on track. You can always refer to your outline to make sure you are not missing anything. Moreover, we mention some tips on actual critical book review writing, so it’s two birds with one shot.
This guide will tell you how to prepare an outline in four easy steps which correspond to the recommended sections.
- Introduction (1-2 Paragraphs, Half a Page)
Like any good piece of writing, start with an introduction. The specific form is up to you, choose a quotation that you liked, a particularly powerful scene in the book, even a personal anecdote which ties into the broader opinion you hold of the book. The goal is to capture the reader’s attention and keep them hooked. Include an overview of the book where you summarize the plot and also present an expression of your overall judgment.
- Summary (1 Page or about 23 Lines of Typed Text)
A summary is a brief discussion of the major themes, concepts, and ideas presented in the book. It is recommended that you write this entirely in your own words. Present a condensed picture of the book. If your summary contains spoilers, make sure you warn your readers about it.
- Critical Evaluation (3 Pages)
The third is an in-depth section which includes the reviewer’s reactions to the thoughts of the author. Most students often find it challenging to be critical, probably because they are under the impression that in order to critique something you have to possess expert-level knowledge. This is an unfortunate opinion that must be dispelled from your mind.
- Conclusion (1-2 Paragraphs, Half a Page)
A short section which shows the overall impression and evaluation arrived at by the reviewer. It can be written in first person if desired and should include: Things which you learned from the book; Whether you would recommend the book to other people.
A critique is simply a collection of responses, reactions and thoughts to what you are reading. No one expects you to produce an expert-level critique if you are only a learner. The best way to make this easy is to write down your thoughts and impressions while you are reading the book. Jot down any questions or aspects you like and at the end of your read you will have a significant set of notes that will make the critique a breeze.
Here are the aspects that you need to include:
- Your overall opinion and the reasons behind it.
- How did the book make you feel? Was the writing able to hold your interest?
- What was the author trying to communicate?
- How well—or not—did the author present his or her points, ideas and assumptions?
- Did you detect any underlying philosophy in the book?
- Is the author’s view objective?
- How does the book fit into the context of the course?
- How useful are the footnotes, index, bibliography etc.?
- Is the book a useful contribution to the field in general?
- What are the strengths/weaknesses of the book?
- Do you have unanswered questions from what book?
- What would you like to add or remove from the book to make it better?
You need to mention these questions in your outline to know what to focus on in your writing. Then, while creating the actual book review, formulate these sections as a properly structured essay that includes topic sentences and logical transitions.
These outline guidelines are extremely important because the moment you detail them, you’ll have a clear structure in your head. We hope that they will make your book review as critical as possible (in a good way).