How to Write a Critical Book Review
A book review is more than a book report or summary of a book’s contents. A review is a critical essay
evaluating the merits of an academic work. Its purpose is not to prove that you read the book—which is
understood as a given—but to show that you can think critically about what you’ve read.
You can see examples of reviews in virtually any historical journal, and these may help you to write your
own review. Reviews are a vital part of academic life, as you will see in the journals. Most professors
regularly read and write reviews to find interesting books, stay informed of new work, and ensure that
their voices continue to be heard.
A book review requires a lot of thought and effort. This handout will assist you. The process can be
broken down into three main stages: as you read; as you prepare to write; and, as you write. With each
stage there are a series of questions and factors to consider as you work on your review. Many of these
issues are int