Critical Book Review Format
Overview: A critical book review is not one that is inherently negative, but is rather an evaluation
of the effectiveness of the argument the author of the book is trying to make. The key word here is
evaluation—the review is much like an essay in which the writer supports his evaluation of the book.
It is intended to give the reader an idea of how the book could contribute to there knowledge of the
subject. It should be written in a concise manner and take up less than two pages (about 500 words).
Heading: At the top of the page, put your name, date, and class period. The title of the book
review should actually be the citation in MLA format of the book, aligned left.
The Body of the Review: Be sure and cover the following four areas in your review. The
descriptions below gives you a lot of options in the form of questions—you will not have the space
to answer all of question, choose the ones that are important for the particular book you are
reviewing. You do need to address all four of the topics and you must find space for specific
examples to support your evaluation. Divide the review into logical paragraphs with effective
transitions as you would with an essay.
1. Evaluate the Argument: What is the author’s thesis or purpose—what is he or she trying
to accomplish in writing this book? How is the argument organized? How does the
organization contribute to the effectiveness of the argument? Did the argument beg any
discussions that the author left out? Give specific examples. What conclusions does the
author arrive at? Are these logical and well supported with evidence or examples?
2. Evaluate the Evidence: What sources does the author draw on? Are they used effectively?
Give examples. What could the author done to have been more convincing?
3. Evaluate Assumptions: What assumptions does the Author make about how the world
works, philosophy, history, etc.? How do these assumptions influence the author’s
presentation and argument? Give specific examples.
4. Conclusion: How does the book add to your knowledge of history or what does it have to
offer to the field as a whole. To whom would this book be useful?