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EVS247: Environmental Chemistry: Writing Book Review

Book Reviews vs. Book Reports

Write a book report in 3rd grade?  This is NOT that.  Here's the difference:

Book reports [NOT this assignment] commonly describe what happens in a work; their focus is primarily on giving an account of the major plot, characters, and/or main idea of the work. Most often, book reports are a K-12 assignment and range from 250 to 500 words.

By contrast, book reviews [this assignment] are most often a college assignment, but they also appear in many professional works: magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. They typically range from 500-750 words, but may be longer or shorter. A book review gives readers a sneak peek at what a book is like, whether or not the reviewer enjoyed it, and details on purchasing the book.

This assignment has more components required than many book reviews. Be sure to follow the assignment instructions carefully.

Some content modified from:

What to Include

Be sure to refer to your assignment sheet. Your instructor lovingly provided you with LOTS of details about what to do & how to do it.

A few tips for particular sections of the assignment:

  • Front matter = stuff at the front of the book. Also called preliminaries. This might include one or more of the following: title page, (million-dollar word alert!) verso --that's the reverse of the title page, table of contents, foreward, preface, prologue, acknowledgements (the author thanking people), epigraph (a relevant quote or poem), etc.
  • Back matter = stuff at the back of the book, which might include one or more of the following: index, epilogue, afterword, bibliography, appendices, glossary, typeface information, etc.Find most citation information on the title page. The date is usually on the verso. The library catalog can often provide a citation for you.
  • ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is usually located on the physical book itself, where the publisher barcode is on the back of the book (not the library barcode sticker on the front). You can also look up ISBNs in the library catalog. Just search by book title.
  • An interesting short video about typography in various media (6:58): In books, typeface is sometimes (but not always) listed/described someplace in the front matter or back matter.
  • Summarizing is sometimes more difficult than it sounds. For the assignment section requiring you to summarize & analyze the book, think of this like any research paper you've ever written (at the college level); you are using evidence from a source (the book) to prove a conclusion (your thesis) about your topic (the book).  Your response to this section isn't your opinion since it's based on factual evidence. Save opinion for the last part of the assignment, the reflection.
  • Evaluating a book might be difficult if you don't have a background in the topic area. Find out more by searching for other books via the library catalog and/or articles in a library database (a general one, such as Academic Search Premier, is a good start).
  • For author information, look at the book itself first. Often there is author information on the book jacket. Also, determine if the author has a website, but understand that an author's official site will be designed primarily as a marketing tool to sell books. If the author is a researcher/professor at a university, they may have a website through their institution listing research areas & publications.

Need more tips about particular sections of the book review assignment?  Just ask Anne Marie & I'll add more suggestions here!