A book critique differs from a book review
in that it focuses heavily on a writer's evaluation and critique of a work, as well as its scholarly merit. A book review on the other hand may provide only a simple review or discussion of the book for potential readers. Also in book reviews a recommendation is normally warranted by the reviewer as well as a more detailed summary of events and details. This is mainly due in part to the fact that many book reviews are written based on the assumption that the reader has not yet read the book whereas a book critique is usually the opposite of that.
Additionally, book critiques are often done on books that pertain to a specific field or discipline. These critiques allow for researchers, professionals, or other interested parties to gain other perspectives on a work and possibly add to an ongoing discussion of it as well as evaluate its contribution to a field of study or discipline.
*Note that a book critique may also be on a book that is not specifically connected to a field or discipline.
When formulating any critical analysis of writing, the obvious focal point will be on evaluating how well the author worked in achieving his purpose. The organization of the book as well as the evidence presented, connections to the main idea, research, and other elements of good writing
are all taken under consideration when evaluating a book. To begin, the first and most important step is to thoroughly read the work and take excellent notes.
Preparing for your critique
Read the work and take substantial notes
This factor cannot be emphasized enough as excellent note taking and concentrated reading promotes proper comprehension as well as the ability to make key observations and acknowledgments. These observations set the groundwork for your argument by giving you a sufficient amount of evidence and 'ammunition' to fuel your critique.
Identify the main objective of the author
The key objective, message, or thesis
of the author should be made clear to you very early on in the writing. Its important to record this and make any important notations as one of the primary things you will be evaluating is how well this message was relayed or this objective was accomplished by the author.
*If you are not sure of the objective or the message then this is a great flaw on behalf of the author and should be addressed.
List the author's key points in your own words
If you prefer you can save this step for later- but if not fulfilled during the note taking process, take a few minutes to re-write the major points discussed in the book. This will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the text as well as prepare you for your first draft.
Record your lasting impressions
After reading, step back from the work and try to articulate in the best manner possible the final message of the author and the impression that he/she left on you as a reader. All of the pieces of the puzzle might not fall into place right away so it may take for you to leave the book and come back to it to fully grasp the author's point. This step is important and should not be overlooked. Exercises such as this also do a good job of allowing you to gain a better understanding of the author's tone and style.
Create an outline for your critique
Your outline will quickly propel you to writing your first draft
while insuring that all major points are addressed. Below is a sample outline for your book critique.
The introduction of your critique may include some or all of the following components;
Provide a brief synopsis of the book and its major events and arguments. For a review this would be larger section but assuming that readers are familiar with the work you simply need to provide some basic descriptions of what is covered.
Background information on the author and his works
Its important to note this as well as publication information (for some forms of critiques) in the beginning of your paper. You can just provide a brief bio of the author such as his academic achievements and professional accomplishments as well as any other publications he has authored.
Author's main message, theme, or thesis
Clearly identify the author's message and how it develops throughout the paper. Essentially these are all the key points you will be critiquing so be sure to be clear about them and place them in the order in which you will address them.
*You may also want to indicate a general commentary about the book and your evaluation of it to indicate to the reader what to expect in terms of a critique. Obviously the best critique is the one that is unbiased but since we all have some type of bias when writing providing a general commentary informs the reader of the basic direction that you are headed and your overall take on the piece.
The body of your critique should properly illustrate your main argument and provide supportive evidences for each claim. This section will also include quotations of the author to illustrate specific points or aide readers in identifying the author's overall message and objective.
The author's methodology
Discuss how the author approaches the subject matter and any unique or innovative methods used as well as how his or her's methods relate to others in a similar discipline or genre.
For example; 'Johnson provides an intriguing take on the civil war by incorporating recollections of children and teens as opposed to soldiers and major authors and writers.'
Dissect the author's argument
When providing a critical analysis avoid trying to give attention to every intriguing argument that the book presents. Instead dissect the book as a whole or the author's argument, into a few clear points. This will make it easier to address each and properly provide evidence to support claims.
Evaluation of the author's work
This can be done by taking each point that you have identified and making a general statement about it (or a topic/main idea statement) and then support that statement with evidence from the work. After you provide evidence you can then evaluate the work by making a judgment or claim regarding it.
*Your evaluation differs from an analysis in that an analysis is non-judgmental and fact based, but an evaluation, though it also should include facts or evidence, makes a judgment or an assessment (such as good, fair, poor) on a particular point.
In the conclusion of your critique you can state your position on the author's viewpoints, provide some summarizing details (such as the key points discussed in the body of your paper and the author's main objective) as well as the author's overall contribution to the field and the weight of his work in comparison to others covering similar subject matters.
Other points to consider in formulating your critique are whether or not you want to state any personal bias you have towards the subject and how that may have affected your analysis; or any biases you have identified in the author's work that is considerable to note and be aware of.