Book Review Assignment

Note: You need to complete either the book review or the creative piece. You can find the creative assignment here.

 Book Review Assignment

Task: You will write a book review, discussing one of the books we have read so far (Americanah, My Brilliant Friend, or The Argonauts). The book review is an interesting form; it is not a summary of the book, or academic argument about a book. Instead, think of a book review as your stance or point of view on the ideas/topics presented by the book you are reviewing. It’s a critical evaluation, written with potential readers in mind.

Specs: Your book review should be between 1,000-1,500 words. It can strike an informal, but professional, tone. It is due via email (mcgrat85@msu.edu) by midnight on June 9. An exemplary book review will 1.) make an argument about the book that extends beyond a gut reaction; 2.) summarize the book in relationship to your particular angle or take; evaluate the ideas the author has presented; 3.) provide good examples to the reader; 4.) adopt a distinct writerly voice; 5.) demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the book. You will be graded on these five criteria, as well as on the quality of the writing.

Book reviews are not summaries, and you do not to address each component of the book.

Helpful Hints:

  • Book reviews must make an argument. This is the most important component of a book review.
  • Read some good book reviews! I’ve assigned many good book reviews this semester. Publications like the LA Review of Books, Public Books, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Sunday Book Review publish fantastic book reviews. Get a sense of the form via these good examples.
  • You can have fun with this assignment! While a book review is not written in academic prose, it does need to be professional and knowledgeable in tone. You can quote other book reviews, but avoid restating the opinions of others. Feel free to write in the first person, tell some jokes, add some sass or snark.
  • Have a clear audience in mind as you write your book review. That audience might look a lot like you (a college student in the US, between the ages of 18-22); it might be a more general audience. Regardless, imagine a person or group of people that you’re writing to; imagine their tastes and their interests, and review the book with them in mind as potential readers.
  • Take a look at this page put together by the Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. They have great advice about the form of the book review, questions that you should consider before you write, and examples of book review language.

Note: Book reviews that are simply summary of the novel will receive an automatic 1.0.