While a typical book report summarizes a book’s contents, a critical book report presents greater challenges of analysis and evaluation. In addition to providing background information, you will also critique its thesis, sources, claims and overall effectiveness in reaching its goals. Using critical reading and analytical writing skills, you can create a report that offers honest criticism and intrigues potential readers.
Read the Book Actively
While skimming the boring parts and reading for basic comprehension might work for other assignments, your report’s success depends on a careful, involved reading of the book. This means asking questions, tracing the development of the author’s argument and assessing the author’s use of references to support the main points. You can engage in the text by underlining key passages, writing notes in the margins and outlining its main ideas. This will make it easier to find sections to support your evaluation as you write your first draft.
Identify the Thesis and Formulate Your Own
Stating the author’s purpose for writing the book in your introduction will inform readers of its goal from the beginning of your essay. Once you’ve finished reading and taking notes, write a thesis statement that incorporates both the book’ purpose and your evaluation of how well it meets this goal. For example, if you are writing a book report on “The Great Gatsby,” the book’s purpose might be to portray the recklessness of the 1920s and its consequences. Your thesis might read, “From disturbing character relationships to symbolic settings, ‘The Great Gatsby’ presents a compelling portrayal of the recklessness of one of America’s most notorious eras: the Roaring ‘20s.”
Give Your Readers Context
Because many people read book reviews to determine whether a book is worth their time, they may not know much about its contents. In your introduction or a separate paragraph following it, give readers any information they’ll need to follow your report. This might include a short list of the author’s credentials, a brief plot summary or an overview of major concepts in the book. Be careful not to make this section too lengthy; it’s easy to allow your summary to overtake the report at the expense of critical analysis.
Evaluate the Content
The body paragraphs of your report work together to describe how effectively the book meets its purpose. Look back at your thesis statement to review your overall position on the book. Then, brainstorm about at least three aspects of the text that illustrate your appraisal. You might consider its organization and use of credible references. If you’re reviewing a work of fiction, you might talk about narrative elements like memorable characters, unique themes or symbolism. Use direct quotes from the book to make your assertions viable and specific.
The conclusion should review your main points in a way that does more than just summarize the report. Along with revisiting your overall appraisal, you might consider explaining how the book could be useful to readers. For example, you might state what types of readers would enjoy the book most or what academic classes it could be taught in. As a final sentence, offer an overall assessment of the work’s significance, whether it sheds new light on a topic or causes audiences to think about its subject in new ways.
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