Reference no: EM132281143
The purpose of a critical book review is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the book under consideration. You will, of course, add to your store of knowledge about some aspect of history; you will also observe and analyze the performance of a historian practicing her/his craft.
A critical review weighs the strong and weak points of a book and seeks to place that work within the spectrum of historical explanation of a period or problem.
Book: Walker. Prompt and Utter Destruction, Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan, Third edition.
Length: 500 words minimum and 600 words maximum, 12-point font, Times Roman.
Sources: Use no outside sources.
Introduction and Thesis: The introductory paragraph of your critique identifies the author, full title, publisher, and edition of the book. Identify the author in detail. Who is he/she? What are the author's credentials and qualifications to write this book? Your introduction also includes your thesis sentence and the topics you will cover in your review.
Identify and evaluate the writer's central idea/argument in a single-sentence thesis written in your own words. Consult a writing guide if necessary. Insert your thesis in your introductory paragraph.
Example: Robert F. Kennedy's Thirteen Days superbly conveys President Kennedy's decision-making process during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which challenged the Soviet Introduction of missiles in Cuba and ultimately resolved the crisis short of war. Note that be stating "superbly conveys," this thesis sentence evaluates the author's book and thesis. Other questions for the introduction could include:
What has the author attempted to accomplish, as set forth and as implicit in the approach chosen?
What are the main themes and important threads of analysis?
(For example, Frank Tannenbaum's Slave and Citizen is a comparative study of slavery in North and South America. His main contention is that slavery was a more humane institution in South America because in those countries the slave-owners regarded slaves as moral beings like themselves.)
Usually, you will identify a book's thesis when the author stops telling you what happened and begins to explain why such and such occurred.
Analysis and Critical Evaluation: This will include the historic significance, author's assumptions, types of evidence (e.g. primary or secondary sources, interview of eye-witnesses or leaders, documents, photographs, character analyses, etc.), and analysis of the author's main points.
What period of time and what main topics does the author tackle? It is important to describe what topics are covered (and what are not) and how the main topics relate to secondary themes. However, a critical review is not merely a summary. You usually can describe what is discussed in the book in two to four paragraphs. You may use quoted phrases, but the bulk of your paper must be your own words.
Note that this requirement calls for you to analyze, rather than narrate or summarize your book. You should focus on and explain three to five main points, which support the thesis, for your analysis and evaluation. Do not stray from these points. This is critical, since your review is an analysis, not a narration of a battle of event.
Assessment: You must assess how well the author proves the thesis, whether the thesis and analysis are clear, logical, and credible. The best review integrates assessment into one's analysis of the key points. Ideally, you would not write separate sections for analysis and assessment.
Both would be blended. You can do this by structuring your topic sentences of your analysis so that they evaluate how well the author made each particular point of the argument. A successful review asks: Was this book worth the time spent reading it? Why? Why not?
Assess the author's style. Was the argument easy to grasp? Did the prose flow smoothly? Were all elements in balance? Did anecdotes and historical examples advance or intrude upon the progress of the narrative? Examine the author's documentation. Did the author provide supporting sources in citations and a bibliography?
What types of sources were used: primary sources (those created contemporaneously with the topic being discussed) or secondary sources (books and articles of other historians), or some mix of the two types?
A strong review examines the types of historical documentation, evaluates the completeness and authoritativeness of the sources, and assesses the author's use of sources (methodology).
Was the author seeking to tell a "new" story or to give a new "spin" to a familiar tale? Again, pay close attention to the preface/introduction.
Assessment of the Book's Value: How has the author contributed to the understanding of the topic? In what ways has he/she succeeded and/or failed? State the contribution, strengths, and/or weaknesses concisely and clearly. Let potential readers know, as simply as possible, why or why not she/he should read the book.
Conclusion: Summarize your thesis, your main points of analysis, and your evaluation in at least one paragraph of at least three sentences in length.
Writing Conventions: Please proofread the paper carefully. Grammar, punctuation, organization, and readability are part of the grade. A sloppy review, with spelling errors, bad grammar, and poor transitions between paragraphs, breaks the reader's concentration and detracts from your argument. A journal editor will return such a document for revision. Write your review as an essay without labeling your introduction, thesis, body, and conclusion.