A critical book review is an unfamiliar ground that is not often required as a student assignment. It may be an unusual piece of work as it is written for a particular audience, such as lecturers, fellow students, readers, or tutors – all of whom are knowledgeable about the book and therefore not interested in the content and coverage of the book. The concentration is more on your own critical review of the arguments and ideas that are written by the author.
With this in mind, here are some tips on how to write a critical book review:
What is the book about?
The first thing to concentrate on would be the Title, Preface or Introduction and Table of Contents of the book. This will give you a fair idea about the central coverage of the book; the Preface tells a lot about the reasons of the author in writing it. Scan quickly through the whole book, but read closely in the first chapter where the main issue is discussed, and the last chapter which will show the conclusion/s of the author and how he/she arrived to it.
Pick out an area in the book
Pick out what you feel should be discussed whether it concerns the content, interpretation of evidence, or case selection. You may discuss the main issues of the author but you can choose an issue that you feel is more important to the area that you are studying, even if it is not the author’s.
Understand the issue well
Since you have singled out an issue that has importance to the subject you are involved in, focus on this by reading in detail everything in the book that touches on it. You may read other articles outside of the book to gain further knowledge and also to make it as an additional reference to back up your views.
Make a rating regarding the overall contribution that the book has made to your study. The importance of the book’s contribution to further develop knowledge of the chosen subject or field should also be emphasized. A reference list of other sources used could also be attached as long as it is relevant to the subject.