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Not all professors require students to make a book review or critique, but some do, and sometimes it is difficult to know where to start if you have never written something like this before. One might find that they have to do a book review for the course HIS 214: United States, 1877-1945, where students can choose a book out of a list of choices. For example, Willa Cather’s My Antonia. At Bishop’s, professors give students some leeway in terms of structure and approaches, so students need not worry too much. Creativity and unique approaches and writing styles are what professors are typically looking for, not just in book reviews but all writing students do.

A book review and a book critique are somewhat different but they often intertwine, which is why professors will sometimes use critique and review interchangeably. In general, students are asked to do a book review but elements of critique can be used in a review which is why it is often difficult to figure out what to do so it is always best to verify what exactly the professors are looking for.

Book review

Unlike a book critique, book reviews are broader and students can be creative in terms of how they wish to review the book. To use My Antonia as an example, there are a number of ways you can approach this. The book takes place in Nebraska at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. You can discuss how life in rural Nebraska at that time was and how accurate it is portrayed. If you are an immigrant or have experienced living in another country, then you can discuss your experience and contrast it with Antonia’s or how accurate of a depiction of immigration is. Or you may also wish to approach it from a feminist perspective. There are different ways that the author subtly defies gender roles and norms in her writing. What does that say about her beliefs or society at the time? Overall, make sure you express your feelings candidly. What did you enjoy or not about the book and why? What shocked you the most and why. If you are still struggling, try to connect the book material that what you have discussed and learned in class. This shows you understand the course material and are able to relate it to external topics.

Book critique

A book critique is a critical evaluation of the content and purpose of a book/journal article where the strengths and weaknesses of the work are analyzed. A book critique often requires in-depth analyses and comparisons with other works by the same author or others who wrote on the same topic, which can take a long time to do. For a clear structure, visit the following link from Avondale University College (https://www.avondale.edu.au/Departments/Library/Writing-a-Book-Critique.pdf). In terms of format, both the book review and critique should follow roughly the same format as a typical essay with an introduction and a thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You should include the title of the book (also in the bibliography cited accurately) and describe briefly the author and what was occurring historically during the time of the publication (i.e. My Antonia came out in 1917, why would the author write a story focusing in the 1880s?). You should briefly describe the plot. You may wish to discuss the intended audience in the introduction and if you recommend the book in your concluding paragraph and why. What rating would you give the book? Why do you think the author wrote the book and did it accomplish its goal? What did you think the book was going to be about? Did it meet your expectations? Were you disappointed when it wasn’t what you were expecting? Did the story progress the way you wanted it to? Did you enjoy the ending?