How to Write Critical Reviews

When you are asked to write a critical review of a book or article, you will need to identify, summarize, and evaluate the ideas and information the author has presented. In other words, you will be examining another person’s thoughts on a topic from your point of view.

Your stand must go beyond your “gut reaction” to the work and be based on your knowledge (readings, lecture, experience) of the topic as well as on factors such as criteria stated in your assignment or discussed by you and your instructor.

Make your stand clear at the beginning of your review, in your evaluations of specific parts, and in your concluding commentary.

Remember that your goal should be to make a few key points about the book or article, not to discuss everything the author writes.

Understanding the Assignment

To write a good critical review, you will have to engage in the mental processes of analyzing (taking apart) the work–deciding what its major components are and determining how these parts (i.e., paragraphs, sections, or chapters) contribute to the work as a whole.

Analyzing the work will help you focus on how and why the author makes certain points and prevent you from merely summarizing what the author says. Assuming the role of an analytical reader will also help you to determine whether or not the author fulfills the stated purpose of the book or article and enhances your understanding or knowledge of a particular topic.

Be sure to read your assignment thoroughly before you read the article or book. Your instructor may have included specific guidelines for you to follow. Keeping these guidelines in mind as you read the article or book can really help you write your paper!

Also, note where the work connects with what you’ve studied in the course. You can make the most efficient use of your reading and notetaking time if you are an active reader; that is, keep relevant questions in mind and jot down page numbers as well as your responses to ideas that appear to be significant as you read.

Please note: The length of your introduction and overview, the number of points you choose to review, and the length of your conclusion should be proportionate to the page limit stated in your assignment and should reflect the complexity of the material being reviewed as well as the expectations of your reader.

Write the introduction

Below are a few guidelines to help you write the introduction to your critical review.

Introduce your review appropriately

Begin your review with an introduction appropriate to your assignment.

If your assignment asks you to review only one book and not to use outside sources, your introduction will focus on identifying the author, the title, the main topic or issue presented in the book, and the author’s purpose in writing the book.

If your assignment asks you to review the book as it relates to issues or themes discussed in the course, or to review two or more books on the same topic, your introduction must also encompass those expectations.

Explain relationships

For example, before you can review two books on a topic, you must explain to your reader in your introduction how they are related to one another.

Within this shared context (or under this “umbrella”) you can then review comparable aspects of both books, pointing out where the authors agree and differ.

In other words, the more complicated your assignment is, the more your introduction must accomplish.

Finally, the introduction to a book review is always the place for you to establish your position as the reviewer (your thesis about the author’s thesis).

As you write, consider the following questions:

  • Is the book a memoir, a treatise, a collection of facts, an extended argument, etc.? Is the article a documentary, a write-up of primary research, a position paper, etc.?
  • Who is the author? What does the preface or foreword tell you about the author’s purpose, background, and credentials? What is the author’s approach to the topic (as a journalist? a historian? a researcher?)?
  • What is the main topic or problem addressed? How does the work relate to a discipline, to a profession, to a particular audience, or to other works on the topic?
  • What is your critical evaluation of the work (your thesis)? Why have you taken that position? What criteria are you basing your position on?

Provide an overview

In your introduction, you will also want to provide an overview. An overview supplies your reader with certain general information not appropriate for including in the introduction but necessary to understanding the body of the review.

Generally, an overview describes your book’s division into chapters, sections, or points of discussion. An overview may also include background information about the topic, about your stand, or about the criteria you will use for evaluation.

The overview and the introduction work together to provide a comprehensive beginning for (a “springboard” into) your review.

  • What are the author’s basic premises? What issues are raised, or what themes emerge? What situation (i.e., racism on college campuses) provides a basis for the author’s assertions?
  • How informed is my reader? What background information is relevant to the entire book and should be placed here rather than in a body paragraph?

Write the body

The body is the center of your paper, where you draw out your main arguments. Below are some guidelines to help you write it.

Organize using a logical plan

Organize the body of your review according to a logical plan. Here are two options:

  • First, summarize, in a series of paragraphs, those major points from the book that you plan to discuss; incorporating each major point into a topic sentence for a paragraph is an effective organizational strategy. Second, discuss and evaluate these points in a following group of paragraphs. (There are two dangers lurking in this pattern–you may allot too many paragraphs to summary and too few to evaluation, or you may re-summarize too many points from the book in your evaluation section.)
  • Alternatively, you can summarize and evaluate the major points you have chosen from the book in a point-by-point schema. That means you will discuss and evaluate point one within the same paragraph (or in several if the point is significant and warrants extended discussion) before you summarize and evaluate point two, point three, etc., moving in a logical sequence from point to point to point. Here again, it is effective to use the topic sentence of each paragraph to identify the point from the book that you plan to summarize or evaluate.

Questions to keep in mind as you write

With either organizational pattern, consider the following questions:

  • What are the author’s most important points? How do these relate to one another? (Make relationships clear by using transitions: “In contrast,” an equally strong argument,” “moreover,” “a final conclusion,” etc.).
  • What types of evidence or information does the author present to support his or her points? Is this evidence convincing, controversial, factual, one-sided, etc.? (Consider the use of primary historical material, case studies, narratives, recent scientific findings, statistics.)
  • Where does the author do a good job of conveying factual material as well as personal perspective? Where does the author fail to do so? If solutions to a problem are offered, are they believable, misguided, or promising?
  • Which parts of the work (particular arguments, descriptions, chapters, etc.) are most effective and which parts are least effective? Why?
  • Where (if at all) does the author convey personal prejudice, support illogical relationships, or present evidence out of its appropriate context?

Keep your opinions distinct and cite your sources

Remember, as you discuss the author’s major points, be sure to distinguish consistently between the author’s opinions and your own.

Keep the summary portions of your discussion concise, remembering that your task as a reviewer is to re-see the author’s work, not to re-tell it.

And, importantly, if you refer to ideas from other books and articles or from lecture and course materials, always document your sources, or else you might wander into the realm of plagiarism.

Include only that material which has relevance for your review and use direct quotations sparingly. The Writing Center has other handouts to help you paraphrase text and introduce quotations.

Write the conclusion

You will want to use the conclusion to state your overall critical evaluation.

You have already discussed the major points the author makes, examined how the author supports arguments, and evaluated the quality or effectiveness of specific aspects of the book or article.

Now you must make an evaluation of the work as a whole, determining such things as whether or not the author achieves the stated or implied purpose and if the work makes a significant contribution to an existing body of knowledge.

Consider the following questions:

  • Is the work appropriately subjective or objective according to the author’s purpose?
  • How well does the work maintain its stated or implied focus? Does the author present extraneous material? Does the author exclude or ignore relevant information?
  • How well has the author achieved the overall purpose of the book or article? What contribution does the work make to an existing body of knowledge or to a specific group of readers? Can you justify the use of this work in a particular course?
  • What is the most important final comment you wish to make about the book or article? Do you have any suggestions for the direction of future research in the area? What has reading this work done for you or demonstrated to you?

critical review of a novel

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  • Writing a Critical Review


Writing a Critique

girl with question mark

A critique (or critical review) is not to be mistaken for a literature review. A 'critical review', or 'critique', is a complete type of text (or genre), discussing one particular article or book in detail.  In some instances, you may be asked to write a critique of two or three articles (e.g. a comparative critical review). In contrast, a 'literature review', which also needs to be 'critical', is a part of a larger type of text, such as a chapter of your dissertation.

Most importantly: Read your article / book as many times as possible, as this will make the critical review much easier.

1. Read and take notes 2. Organising your writing 3. Summary 4. Evaluation 5. Linguistic features of a critical review 6. Summary language 7. Evaluation language 8. Conclusion language 9. Example extracts from a critical review 10. Further resources

Read and Take Notes

To improve your reading confidence and efficiency, visit our pages on reading.

Further reading: Read Confidently

After you are familiar with the text, make notes on some of the following questions. Choose the questions which seem suitable:

  • What kind of article is it (for example does it present data or does it present purely theoretical arguments)?
  • What is the main area under discussion?
  • What are the main findings?
  • What are the stated limitations?
  • Where does the author's data and evidence come from? Are they appropriate / sufficient?
  • What are the main issues raised by the author?
  • What questions are raised?
  • How well are these questions addressed?
  • What are the major points/interpretations made by the author in terms of the issues raised?
  • Is the text balanced? Is it fair / biased?
  • Does the author contradict herself?
  • How does all this relate to other literature on this topic?
  • How does all this relate to your own experience, ideas and views?
  • What else has this author written? Do these build / complement this text?
  • (Optional) Has anyone else reviewed this article? What did they say? Do I agree with them?

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Organising your writing

You first need to summarise the text that you have read. One reason to summarise the text is that the reader may not have read the text. In your summary, you will

  • focus on points within the article that you think are interesting
  • summarise the author(s) main ideas or argument
  • explain how these ideas / argument have been constructed. (For example, is the author basing her arguments on data that they have collected? Are the main ideas / argument purely theoretical?)

In your summary you might answer the following questions:     Why is this topic important?     Where can this text be located? For example, does it address policy studies?     What other prominent authors also write about this?

Evaluation is the most important part in a critical review.

Use the literature to support your views. You may also use your knowledge of conducting research, and your own experience. Evaluation can be explicit or implicit.

Explicit evaluation

Explicit evaluation involves stating directly (explicitly) how you intend to evaluate the text. e.g. "I will review this article by focusing on the following questions. First, I will examine the extent to which the authors contribute to current thought on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) pedagogy. After that, I will analyse whether the authors' propositions are feasible within overseas SLA classrooms."

Implicit evaluation

Implicit evaluation is less direct. The following section on Linguistic Features of Writing a Critical Review contains language that evaluates the text. A difficult part of evaluation of a published text (and a professional author) is how to do this as a student. There is nothing wrong with making your position as a student explicit and incorporating it into your evaluation. Examples of how you might do this can be found in the section on Linguistic Features of Writing a Critical Review. You need to remember to locate and analyse the author's argument when you are writing your critical review. For example, you need to locate the authors' view of classroom pedagogy as presented in the book / article and not present a critique of views of classroom pedagogy in general.

Linguistic features of a critical review

The following examples come from published critical reviews. Some of them have been adapted for student use.

Summary language

  •     This article / book is divided into two / three parts. First...
  •     While the title might suggest...
  •     The tone appears to be...
  •     Title is the first / second volume in the series Title, edited by...The books / articles in this series address...
  •     The second / third claim is based on...
  •     The author challenges the notion that...
  •     The author tries to find a more middle ground / make more modest claims...
  •     The article / book begins with a short historical overview of...
  •     Numerous authors have recently suggested that...(see Author, Year; Author, Year). Author would also be once such author. With his / her argument that...
  •     To refer to title as not to say that it is...
  •     This book / article is aimed at... This intended readership...
  •     The author's book / article examines the...To do this, the author first...
  •     The author develops / suggests a theoretical / pedagogical model to…
  •     This book / article positions itself firmly within the field of...
  •     The author in a series of subtle arguments, indicates that he / she...
  •     The argument is therefore...
  •     The author asks "..."
  •     With a purely critical / postmodern take on...
  •     Topic, as the author points out, can be viewed as...
  •     In this recent contribution to the field of...this British author...
  •     As a leading author in the field of...
  •     This book / article nicely contributes to the field of...and complements other work by this author...
  •     The second / third part of...provides / questions / asks the reader...
  •     Title is intended to encourage students / researchers to...
  •     The approach taken by the author provides the opportunity to a qualitative / quantitative research framework that nicely complements...
  •     The author notes / claims that state support / a focus on pedagogy / the adoption of...remains vital if...
  •     According to Author (Year) teaching towards examinations is not as effective as it is in other areas of the curriculum. This is because, as Author (Year) claims that examinations have undue status within the curriculum.
  •     According to Author (Year)…is not as effective in some areas of the curriculum / syllabus as others. Therefore the author believes that this is a reason for some school's…

Evaluation language

  •     This argument is not entirely convincing, as...furthermore it commodifies / rationalises the...
  •     Over the last five / ten years the view of...has increasingly been viewed as 'complicated' (see Author, Year; Author, Year).
  •     However, through trying to integrate...with...the author...
  •     There are difficulties with such a position.
  •     Inevitably, several crucial questions are left unanswered / glossed over by this insightful / timely / interesting / stimulating book / article. Why should...
  •     It might have been more relevant for the author to have written this book / article as...
  •     This article / book is not without disappointment from those who would
  •     This chosen framework enlightens / clouds...
  •     This analysis intends to be...but falls a little short as...
  •     The authors rightly conclude that if...
  •     A detailed, well-written and rigorous account of...
  •     As a Korean student I feel that this article / book very clearly illustrates...
  •     The beginning of...provides an informative overview into...
  •     The tables / figures do little to help / greatly help the reader...
  •     The reaction by scholars who take a...approach might not be so favourable (e.g. Author, Year).
  •     This explanation has a few weaknesses that other researchers have pointed out (see Author, Year; Author, Year). The first is...
  •     On the other hand, the author wisely suggests / proposes that...By combining these two dimensions...
  •     The author's brief introduction to...may leave the intended reader confused as it fails to properly...
  •     Despite my inability to...I was greatly interested in...
  •     Even where this reader / I disagree(s), the author's effort to...
  •     The author thus argue...which seems quite improbable for a number of reasons. First...
  •     Perhaps this aversion to...would explain the author's reluctance to...
  •     As a second language student from ...I find it slightly ironic that such an anglo-centric view is...
  •     The reader is rewarded with...
  •     Less convincing is the broad-sweeping generalisation that...
  •     There is no denying the author's subject knowledge nor his / her...
  •     The author's prose is dense and littered with unnecessary jargon...
  •     The author's critique of...might seem harsh but is well supported within the literature (see Author, Year; Author, Year; Author, Year). Aligning herself with the author, Author (Year) states that...
  •     As it stands, the central focus of Title is well / poorly supported by its empirical findings...
  •     Given the hesitation to generalise to...the limitation of...does not seem problematic...
  •     For instance, the never properly defined and the reader left to guess as to whether...
  •     Furthermore, to misguides...
  •     In addition, this research proves to be timely / especially significant to... as recent government policy / proposals has / have been enacted to...
  •     On this well researched / documented basis the author emphasises / proposes that...
  •     Nonetheless, other research / scholarship / data tend to counter / contradict this possible trend / assumption...(see Author, Year; Author, Year).
  •     Without entering into detail of the..., it should be stated that Title should be read by...others will see little value in...
  •     As experimental conditions were not used in the study the word 'significant' misleads the reader.
  •     The article / book becomes repetitious in its assertion that...
  •     The thread of the author's argument becomes lost in an overuse of empirical data...
  •     Almost every argument presented in the final section is largely derivative, providing little to say about...
  •     She / he does not seem to take into consideration; however, that there are fundamental differences in the conditions of…
  •     As Author (Year) points out, however, it seems to be necessary to look at…
  •     This suggest that having low…does not necessarily indicate that…is ineffective.
  •     Therefore, the suggestion made by Author (Year)…is difficult to support.
  •     When considering all the data presented…it is not clear that the low scores of some students, indeed, reflects…

Conclusion language

  •     Overall this article / book is an analytical look at...which within the field often overlooked.
  •     Despite its problems, Title offers valuable theoretical insights / interesting examples / a contribution to pedagogy and a starting point for students / researchers of...with an interest in...
  •     This detailed and rigorously argued...
  •     This first / second volume / book / article by...with an interest highly informative...

Example extracts from a critical review

Writing critically.

If you have been told your writing is not critical enough, it probably means that your writing treats the knowledge claims as if they are true, well supported, and applicable in the context you are writing about. This may not always be the case.

In these two examples, the extracts refer to the same section of text. In each example, the section that refers to a source has been highlighted in bold. The note below the example then explains how the writer has used the source material.    

There is a strong positive effect on students, both educationally and emotionally, when the instructors try to learn to say students' names without making pronunciation errors (Kiang, 2004).

Use of source material in example a: 

This is a simple paraphrase with no critical comment. It looks like the writer agrees with Kiang. (This is not a good example for critical writing, as the writer has not made any critical comment).        

Kiang (2004) gives various examples to support his claim that "the positive emotional and educational impact on students is clear" (p.210) when instructors try to pronounce students' names in the correct way. He quotes one student, Nguyet, as saying that he "felt surprised and happy" (p.211) when the tutor said his name clearly . The emotional effect claimed by Kiang is illustrated in quotes such as these, although the educational impact is supported more indirectly through the chapter. Overall, he provides more examples of students being negatively affected by incorrect pronunciation, and it is difficult to find examples within the text of a positive educational impact as such.

Use of source material in example b: 

The writer describes Kiang's (2004) claim and the examples which he uses to try to support it. The writer then comments that the examples do not seem balanced and may not be enough to support the claims fully. This is a better example of writing which expresses criticality.

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Further resources

You may also be interested in our page on criticality, which covers criticality in general, and includes more critical reading questions.

Further reading: Read and Write Critically

We recommend that you do not search for other university guidelines on critical reviews. This is because the expectations may be different at other institutions. Ask your tutor for more guidance or examples if you have further questions.

IOE Writing Centre Online

Self-access resources from the Academic Writing Centre at the UCL Institute of Education.

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Book Reviews

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you write a book review, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective on a text. It offers a process and suggests some strategies for writing book reviews.

What is a review?

A review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This handout will focus on book reviews. For a similar assignment, see our handout on literature reviews .

Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews need to be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:

  • First, a review gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant description of the topic as well as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose.
  • Second, and more importantly, a review offers a critical assessment of the content. This involves your reactions to the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand.
  • Finally, in addition to analyzing the work, a review often suggests whether or not the audience would appreciate it.

Becoming an expert reviewer: three short examples

Reviewing can be a daunting task. Someone has asked for your opinion about something that you may feel unqualified to evaluate. Who are you to criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve never written a novel yourself, much less won a Nobel Prize? The point is that someone—a professor, a journal editor, peers in a study group—wants to know what you think about a particular work. You may not be (or feel like) an expert, but you need to pretend to be one for your particular audience. Nobody expects you to be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, but your careful observations can provide you with the raw material to make reasoned judgments. Tactfully voicing agreement and disagreement, praise and criticism, is a valuable, challenging skill, and like many forms of writing, reviews require you to provide concrete evidence for your assertions.

Consider the following brief book review written for a history course on medieval Europe by a student who is fascinated with beer:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600, investigates how women used to brew and sell the majority of ale drunk in England. Historically, ale and beer (not milk, wine, or water) were important elements of the English diet. Ale brewing was low-skill and low status labor that was complimentary to women’s domestic responsibilities. In the early fifteenth century, brewers began to make ale with hops, and they called this new drink “beer.” This technique allowed brewers to produce their beverages at a lower cost and to sell it more easily, although women generally stopped brewing once the business became more profitable.

The student describes the subject of the book and provides an accurate summary of its contents. But the reader does not learn some key information expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book and its argument, and whether or not the student would recommend the book. As a critical assessment, a book review should focus on opinions, not facts and details. Summary should be kept to a minimum, and specific details should serve to illustrate arguments.

Now consider a review of the same book written by a slightly more opinionated student:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 was a colossal disappointment. I wanted to know about the rituals surrounding drinking in medieval England: the songs, the games, the parties. Bennett provided none of that information. I liked how the book showed ale and beer brewing as an economic activity, but the reader gets lost in the details of prices and wages. I was more interested in the private lives of the women brewsters. The book was divided into eight long chapters, and I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to read it.

There’s no shortage of judgments in this review! But the student does not display a working knowledge of the book’s argument. The reader has a sense of what the student expected of the book, but no sense of what the author herself set out to prove. Although the student gives several reasons for the negative review, those examples do not clearly relate to each other as part of an overall evaluation—in other words, in support of a specific thesis. This review is indeed an assessment, but not a critical one.

Here is one final review of the same book:

One of feminism’s paradoxes—one that challenges many of its optimistic histories—is how patriarchy remains persistent over time. While Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 recognizes medieval women as historical actors through their ale brewing, it also shows that female agency had its limits with the advent of beer. I had assumed that those limits were religious and political, but Bennett shows how a “patriarchal equilibrium” shut women out of economic life as well. Her analysis of women’s wages in ale and beer production proves that a change in women’s work does not equate to a change in working women’s status. Contemporary feminists and historians alike should read Bennett’s book and think twice when they crack open their next brewsky.

This student’s review avoids the problems of the previous two examples. It combines balanced opinion and concrete example, a critical assessment based on an explicitly stated rationale, and a recommendation to a potential audience. The reader gets a sense of what the book’s author intended to demonstrate. Moreover, the student refers to an argument about feminist history in general that places the book in a specific genre and that reaches out to a general audience. The example of analyzing wages illustrates an argument, the analysis engages significant intellectual debates, and the reasons for the overall positive review are plainly visible. The review offers criteria, opinions, and support with which the reader can agree or disagree.

Developing an assessment: before you write

There is no definitive method to writing a review, although some critical thinking about the work at hand is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a review is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, and making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft. See our handout on argument .

What follows is a series of questions to focus your thinking as you dig into the work at hand. While the questions specifically consider book reviews, you can easily transpose them to an analysis of performances, exhibitions, and other review subjects. Don’t feel obligated to address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to the book in question.

  • What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to the world you know? What has the book accomplished?
  • What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately? Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? What is the approach to the subject (topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive)?
  • How does the author support her argument? What evidence does she use to prove her point? Do you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author’s information (or conclusions) conflict with other books you’ve read, courses you’ve taken or just previous assumptions you had of the subject?
  • How does the author structure her argument? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?
  • How has this book helped you understand the subject? Would you recommend the book to your reader?

Beyond the internal workings of the book, you may also consider some information about the author and the circumstances of the text’s production:

  • Who is the author? Nationality, political persuasion, training, intellectual interests, personal history, and historical context may provide crucial details about how a work takes shape. Does it matter, for example, that the biographer was the subject’s best friend? What difference would it make if the author participated in the events she writes about?
  • What is the book’s genre? Out of what field does it emerge? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of its genre? These questions can provide a historical or literary standard on which to base your evaluations. If you are reviewing the first book ever written on the subject, it will be important for your readers to know. Keep in mind, though, that naming “firsts”—alongside naming “bests” and “onlys”—can be a risky business unless you’re absolutely certain.

Writing the review

Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Check out our handout on thesis statements . Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis.

Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review. What follows is just one of many ways to organize a review.


Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your review differently depending on the argument and audience. The Writing Center’s handout on introductions can help you find an approach that works. In general, you should include:

  • The name of the author and the book title and the main theme.
  • Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You could also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.
  • The context of the book and/or your review. Placing your review in a framework that makes sense to your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. Perhaps you want to situate a book about the Cuban revolution in the context of Cold War rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union. Another reviewer might want to consider the book in the framework of Latin American social movements. Your choice of context informs your argument.
  • The thesis of the book. If you are reviewing fiction, this may be difficult since novels, plays, and short stories rarely have explicit arguments. But identifying the book’s particular novelty, angle, or originality allows you to show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.
  • Your thesis about the book.

Summary of content

This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.

The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book reviews for colleagues—to prepare for comprehensive exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as a class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty to explore more subtle points and to emphasize your own argument. See our handout on summary for more tips.

Analysis and evaluation of the book

Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly. You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book. If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review remains in the spotlight. Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.

Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis. This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do they all add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions can help you make a final assessment.

Finally, a few general considerations:

  • Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can and should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be.
  • With any luck, the author of the book worked hard to find the right words to express her ideas. You should attempt to do the same. Precise language allows you to control the tone of your review.
  • Never hesitate to challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.
  • Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—and sometimes obligated—to voice strong agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, and every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult to prove and can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.
  • A great place to learn about book reviews is to look at examples. The New York Times Sunday Book Review and The New York Review of Books can show you how professional writers review books.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Drewry, John. 1974. Writing Book Reviews. Boston: Greenwood Press.

Hoge, James. 1987. Literary Reviewing. Charlottesville: University Virginia of Press.

Sova, Dawn, and Harry Teitelbaum. 2002. How to Write Book Reports , 4th ed. Lawrenceville, NY: Thomson/Arco.

Walford, A.J. 1986. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

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critical review of a novel

How to Review a Novel

London review of books editor mary-kay wilmers on the language of criticism.

How do novel reviews begin? Just like novels very often:

Motherless boys may be pitied by mothers but are not infrequently envied by other boys.

For the friends of the Piontek family, August 31st, 1939 was a red-letter day.

All her life Jean Hawkins was obedient.

It looks as though the writers of these reviews have set out not to summarize the plot but to tell the story, with the drawback, from the novelist’s point of view, that readers may content themselves with the reviewer’s version. Other reviews begin with a different sort of story—the reviewer’s:

Halfway through Beryl Bainbridge’s new novel I found I was laughing until the tears ran down my cheeks.

Some start by characterizing the novel:

An aura of death, despair, madness and futility hangs over the late James Jones’s posthumous novel.

Others by characterizing the reviewer: “Count me among the Philistines,” says Jerome Charyn, inauspiciously, at the start of a review in the New York Times . Some begin with a paragraph on the novel now; some begin by addressing the reader:

You might not think there would be much wit or lyricism to the story of a subnormal wall-eyed Balkan peasant who spends 13 years masturbating in a pigsty . . .

Some kick off at the end: “ Final Payments is a well-made, realistic novel of refined sensibility and moral scruple”; and others at the beginning: “The five writers under review have been browsing . . .”

Different openings suggest different attitudes, both to the novel and to the practice of reviewing novels. There are ideologies of the novel and ideologies of the novel review, fictional conventions and reviewing conventions. They don’t necessarily overlap. A regular reviewer, confident of his own constituency, may describe a novel in terms of his own responses to it: he wouldn’t for that reason applaud a novelist for writing in a similarly personal vein.

What reviews have in common is that they must all in some degree be re-creations: reshapings of what the novelist has already shaped. The writer’s fortunes depend on the reviews he gets but the reviewer depends on the book to see that his account of it—his “story,” to use the language of the newspaper composing room—is interesting. Dull novels don’t elicit interesting reviews: not unless a reviewer decides to be amusing at the novel’s expense or tactfully confines himself to some incidental aspect of it. A generous reviewer may also invent for the novel the qualities it might have had but hasn’t got.

The most brusque reviews occur in the most marginal newspapers: “The new novel by Camden author Beryl Bainbridge,“ said the Camden Journal , “took just a few hours to read yet cost £3.95 . . . The story is fairly interesting, mildly amusing and a little sad.” A hundred years ago the most brutal things were said about novelists and their works (cf. Henry James on Our Mutual Friend : “It is poor with the poverty not of momentary embarrassment, but of permanent exhaustion”).

Today many literary editors, alert to the fact that the novel is under pressure, ask their reviewers to be kind and most of them are. Kind to the old novelist because he is old; kind to the young novelist because he is young; to the English writer because he is English (“all quiet, wry precision about manners and oddities”) and not American or German; to others because they are black (or white) or women (or men) or refugees from the Soviet Union. Every liberal and illiberal orthodoxy has its champions.

Failings are seen to be bound up with virtues (“there are rough edges to his serious simplicity”); even turned into them (“though inelegant and sometimes blurred, their heaviness and urgency create their own order of precision”); but seldom passionately denounced, and although every novelist has had bad reviews to complain of, it sometimes seems as if novel reviewing were a branch of the welfare state.

The reasons have a lot to do with the economics of publishing. In the 1920s Cyril Connolly described the reviewing of novels as “the white man’s grave of journalism”: “for each scant clearing made wearily among the springing vegetation,” he sighed, “the jungle overnight encroaches twice as far.” The jungle has now dwindled to something more like a botanic garden (“it is a knockdown miracle that publishers continue to put out first novels,” noted a reviewer in the Times ), and far from having to hack his way through the springing vegetation, the critic is required to give the kiss of life to each week’s precarious flowering.

“SAVE THE NOVEL,” implored the novelist Angus Wolfe Murray addressing reviewers. Only in the case of such writers as Harold Robbins or Sidney Sheldon, whose fortunes or morale he cannot affect, does the reviewer have the freedom to write as he pleases.

Given that the novel is to be saved, what claims do reviewers make for it? John Gardner in his book On Moral Fiction (1978) complains of the flimsiness of “our serious fiction”:

The emphasis, among younger artists, on surface and novelty of effect is merely symptomatic. The sickness goes deeper, to an almost total loss of faith in—or perhaps understanding of—how true art works. True art, by specific technical means now commonly forgotten, clarifies life, establishes models of human action, casts nets towards the future, carefully judges our right and wrong directions, celebrates and mourns.

But it is clear from the exhilarated comments they make that many reviewers regularly find in the novel they have been reading the kind of guidance and instruction Gardner has in mind:

In the vaunted creative process, he has transcended himself and given us an access to liberty.

Her book is full of lessons about the art of creative literature, and about life, and how each reflects and enhances and deepens the meaning of the other.

Its indignation is blazingly imaginative, furiously vital and gives us hope.

A truer and deeper perception of the world’s agony comes from the . . . stories . . . about her native land.

There is no suggestion here that novelists are suffering from diminished responsibility or reviewers from any cramping of their responses. But it depends which reviewers one reads. Hope, agony, the meaning of life and of art, a transcending of the self: for every critic who finds these in the novels sent to him for review—and a critic who finds them once tends to find them once a week—there are more who see confusion, ambivalence, ambiguity, and count themselves well pleased:

The best English novelists are getting more ambiguous all the time.

I suppose this is what Iris Murdoch means when she distinguishes between philosophy and fiction—that what the novel does superlatively is mirror our continuing confusion and muddle.

Gardner is not eccentric in detecting among both novelists and critics an active commitment to uncertainty; as a reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement observed apropos of a novel involving a mystery and its detection: “Once upon a time novels and readers and detectives discovered things; now they fail to discover them.” An achieved character is a mixed-up character: “his grief and obsession lack ambiguity and don’t feel real”; he “is confused but by that token the more convincing.”

Gardner finds repugnant the notion that confusion may be the most appropriate response to a confusing world, but on countless occasions novels are praised for making it clear that nothing is clear, that a trouble-free verisimilitude can no longer be expected:

The book is convincingly comic, and at the same time ambiguous and nervy enough to suggest that nothing is as solid as it seems.

His theatrical memoir-scribbling existence is the best (i.e. most problematic) metaphor for how most of us function.

The brackets here reinforce the point, assuming as they do a coincidence of meaning between “best” and “most problematic.” In another review Frank Tuohy’s stories of English life are said to have a “grim predictability” but when he writes about Englishmen abroad his “subtle talent emerges”:

The barriers of language and culture give rise to a slightly baffled and tentative querying of reality; perspectives shift and blur, appearances bemuse and all our certainties suddenly lack foundation.

The writer should not merely baffle but himself be baffled: a way perhaps of acknowledging, and absorbing into a naturalistic tradition, the more exigent dubieties of such postmodernist writers as Borges, Sarraute, or Robbe-Grillet, whose ritual dismemberings of plot and character, especially when mimicked by native writers, have not gone down well among either reviewers or the public.

The baffled writer has various ways of disclaiming verisimilitude. In Renata Adler’s Speedboat , for instance, the narrative is fragmented into a series of discrete events, anecdotes, perceptions. Elizabeth Hardwick, writing about the book in the New York Review , showed her respect for it by adopting in her review the novel’s own fragmentary procedures. Likening it to some of the work of Barthelme, Pynchon, and Vonnegut, she claimed for all of them an “honourable” attempt to deploy “the intelligence that questions the shape of life and wonders what we can really act upon”; but then added:

It is important to concede the honor, the nerve, the ambition—important even if it is hard to believe anyone in the world could be happier reading Gravity’s Rainbow   than reading Dead Souls .

The old, unreconstructed pleasures of reading sometimes slip the reviewer’s mind but a conflict between enjoyment and the “honourable” measures writers take to accommodate doubt and perplexity has to be acknowledged. Take Robert Nye’s Merlin . Instead of a plot, it offers, as many non-conventional novels now conventionally do, a sprawling of plots, lists, jokes, and retelling of old stories. A prospective reader may be more grateful for a review that tells him what it is like to read such a novel (“In the end, it is just too much . . . rather like finding a hotel that serves you a Christmas dinner three times a day”) than for one written in the spirit of the novel itself and dedicated to teasing out its many “implications about art and reality.”

The most frequent recourse of the baffled writer is to offer himself as part of his fiction, stepping into the novel either in person (Margaret Drabble in The Realms of Gold ) or in the guise of another novel writer purportedly engaged in writing this novel or another novel contingent on it, so that the novel tells two stories concurrently, its own and the novelist’s, thereby foreshadowing, and in some cases forestalling, its own reviews.

Two recent instances have been T he World According to Garp by John Irving and John Wain’s The Pardoner’s Tale . The latter links a conventional account of a novelist’s life with the equally conventional novel he is currently writing. Malcolm Bradbury, a critic committed to the notion of the text that doubts itself, praised it as being “among [Wain’s] best novels, realism modestly considering itself.” Reviewers often talk about realism as if it were something tangible (Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato contained, according to the New Statesman , “a strange and impressive balance of realisms”), the idea being that where intention and meaning are in doubt, literary styles and devices have a life of their own.

The World According to Garp is a much more complicated book, baroque, labyrinthine, full of internal fictions and comments on those fictions. One reviewer remarked that “there is little one can say about the book or its author that Irving has not in some way anticipated in his own text.” The baffled writer, it turns out, has this advantage over his critics: he can tell them what is wrong with his novel before they tell him.

Just as some novels supply their own reviews, so many reviews supply their own novels. It isn’t so much a matter of different interpretations (which are unavoidable: one reviewer saw in The Pardoner’s Tale “the lineaments of gratified desire . . . persuasively drawn . . . an amorous haze spreading delight,” another “a man who has evaded what real love requires”) as of giving a novelistic account of the novel. For instance:

William Trevor’s characters . . . seem to live perpetually in an afternoon sun which filters through the Georgian fanlight onto a balding carpet.

Whether “she“ is Nell or Julie or Ellen there’s always the same tearstained voice, stuffing old love letters into the mouth to hold back the sob at parting.

That Beryl Bainbridge has a quirky way of doing things may be put straightforwardly:

She views life from so odd an angle that normal proportions and emphases are disconcertingly altered.

or, if you like, mimetically:

The characters proclaim their loves and loathings dimpled with breadcrumbs, adorned with swellings, fiddling with troublesome socks.

Mary-Kay Wilmers

Mary-Kay Wilmers

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critical review of a novel

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How to Write a Critical Book Review

Your review should have two goals: first, to inform the reader about the content of the book, and second, to provide an evaluation that gives your judgment of the book’s quality.

Your introduction should include an overview of the book that both incorporates an encapsulated summary and a sense of your general judgment. This is the equivalent to a thesis statement.

Do NOT spend more than one-third or so of the paper summarizing the book. The summary should consist of a discussion and highlights of the major arguments, features, trends, concepts, themes, ideas, and characteristics of the book. While you may use direct quotes from the book (make sure you always give the page number), such quotes should never be the bulk of the summary. Much of your grade will depend on how well you describe and explain the material IN YOUR OWN WORDS. You might want to take the major organizing themes of the book and use them to organize your own discussion. This does NOT mean, however, that I want a chapter-by-chapter summary. Your goal is a unified essay.

So what do I want, if not just a summary? Throughout your summary, I want you to provide a critique of the book. (Hence the title: “A Critical Book Review.”) A critique consists of thoughts, responses, and reactions. It is not necessarily negative. Nor do you need to know as much about the subject as the author (because you hardly ever will). The skills you need are an ability to follow an argument and test a hypothesis. Regardless of how negative or positive your critique is, you need to be able to justify and support your position.

Here are a number of questions that you can address as part of your critique. You need not answer them all, but questions one and two are essential to any book review, so those must be included. And these are ABSOLUTELY NOT to be answered one after another ( seriatim ). Don’t have one paragraph that answers one, and then the next paragraph that answers the next, etc. The answers should be part of a carefully constructed essay, complete with topic sentences and transitions.

  • What is your overall opinion of the book? On what basis has this opinion been formulated? That is, tell the reader what you think and how you arrived at this judgment. What did you expect to learn when you picked up the book? To what extent – and how effectively – were your expectations met? Did you nod in agreement (or off to sleep)? Did you wish you could talk back to the author? Amplify upon and explain your reactions.
  • Identify the author’s thesis and explain it in your own words. How clearly and in what context is it stated and, subsequently, developed? To what extent and how effectively (i.e., with what kind of evidence) is this thesis proven? Use examples to amplify your responses. If arguments or perspectives were missing, why do you think this might be?
  • What are the author’s aims? How well have they been achieved, especially with regard to the way the book is organized? Are these aims supported or justified? (You might look back at the introduction to the book for help). How closely does the organization follow the author’s aims?
  • How are the author’s main points presented, explained, and supported? What assumptions lie behind these points? What would be the most effective way for you to compress and/or reorder the author’s scheme of presentation and argument?
  • How effectively does the author draw claims from the material being presented? Are connections between the claims and evidence made clearly and logically? Here you should definitely use examples to support your evaluation.
  • What conclusions does the author reach and how clearly are they stated? Do these conclusions follow from the thesis and aims and from the ways in which they were developed? In other words, how effectively does the book come together?
  • Identify the assumptions made by the author in both the approach to and the writing of the book. For example, what prior knowledge does the author expect readers to possess? How effectively are those assumptions worked into the overall presentation? What assumptions do you think should not have been made? Why?
  • Are you able to detect any underlying philosophy of history held by the author (e.g., progress, decline, cyclical, linear, and random)? If so, how does this philosophy affect the presentation of the argument?
  • How does the author see history as being motivated: primarily by the forces of individuals, economics, politics, social factors, nationalism, class, race, gender, something else? What kind of impact does this view of historical motivation have upon the way in which the author develops the book?
  • Does the author’s presentation seem fair and accurate? Is the interpretation biased? Can you detect any distortion, exaggeration, or diminishing of material? If so, for what purpose might this have been done, and what effect does hit have on the overall presentation?

These questions are derived from Robert Blackey, “Words to the Whys: Crafting Critical Book Reviews,” The History Teacher, 27.2 (Feb. 1994): 159-66.

– Serena Zabin, Feb. 2003

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Critical review

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During your studies, you may be asked to write a critical review of a book, a book chapter or a journal article. This form of assessment requires you to critically examine a piece of writing in the light of what you know about that field of research. Your critical review is written for a reader (your lecturer or tutor) who is knowledgeable in the discipline and is interested not just in the coverage and content of the writing being reviewed, but also in your critical assessment of the ideas and argument that are being presented by the author.

Key steps in beginning your review

To begin the task, you need to read and critically analyse the article. When reading the text, have some questions in mind to guide your analysis and help you to focus on areas to critique. The following questions are some ideas on how to engage with the text and help you form your critical analysis:

  • Objectives: what does the article set out to do?
  • Theory: is there an explicit theoretical framework? If not, are there important theoretical assumptions?
  • Concepts: what are the central concepts? Are they clearly defined?
  • Argument: what is the central argument? Are there specific hypotheses?
  • Method: what methods are employed to test these?
  • Evidence: is evidence provided? How adequate is it?
  • Values: are value positions clear or are they implicit?
  • Literature: how does the work fit into the wider literature?
  • Contribution: how well does the work advance our knowledge of the subject?
  • Style: how clear is the author's language/style/expression?
  • Conclusion: a brief overall assessment.

When critically analysing the text, consider how it relates to your course materials, to the other articles or books that you have been reading and the lecture material. This can help you find supporting evidence or alternative theoretical models or interpretations of data.

Structuring the review

The following is a suggested structure for your review.


Initially, identify the text (author, title, date of publication and other details that seem important), indicate the main points you will be discussing and state your overall message regarding the text.

Briefly summarise the range, contents, and argument of the text. Occasionally you may summarise the entire text, but in a short review (1000-1500 words) you usually pick up the main themes only. This section should not normally take up more than a third of the total review.

Critically discuss 2-3 key issues raised in the text. This section is the core of your review. Make clear the author's own argument before you criticise and evaluate it. Support your criticisms with evidence from the text or from other writings. You may also want to indicate gaps in the author's treatment of a topic, but it is seldom useful to criticise a writer for not doing something they never intended to do.

Evaluate the overall contribution that the text has made to your understanding of the topic (and maybe its importance to the development of knowledge in this particular area or discipline, setting it in the context of other writings in the field).

Compare and contrast critical review

Sometimes you will be asked to compare and contrast two or more journal articles in a critical review. The process is the same as above, however you will need to think about the following questions:

  • What do the authors agree and disagree about?
  • Which author's argument do you agree with the most, and why?

Keep these questions in mind as you read your journal articles and start to compare and contrast them. They will also help guide you in structuring your critical/analytical response. Your structure might look like this:

Initially, identify both the texts (author, title, date of publication and other details that seem important), indicate your answer to the questions posed above (or any specific question you have been given by your lecturer) and the main points you will be discussing about the texts.

Briefly summarise the range, contents, and arguments of both the texts picking up the main themes only. This section should not normally take up more than a third of the total review.

Critically discuss 2-3 key issues raised in the texts. This section is the core of your review. As you are comparing and contrasting, at this point you need to show how the author's agree and/or disagree around your chosen issues. Use evidence from the texts to illustrate and support your views.

Evaluate the overall contribution that the texts have made to your understanding of the topic and how they agree or disagree with each other.


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Writing a Critical Review

The advice below is a general guide only. We strongly recommend that you also follow your assignment instructions and seek clarification from your lecturer/tutor if needed.

Purpose of a critical review

The critical review is a writing task that asks you to summarise and evaluate a text. The critical review can be of a book, a chapter, or a journal article. Writing the critical review usually requires you to read the selected text in detail and to read other related texts so you can present a fair and reasonable evaluation of the selected text. 

What is meant by critical?

At university, to be critical does not mean to criticise in a negative manner. Rather, it requires you to question the information and opinions in a text and present your evaluation or judgement of the text. To do this well, you should attempt to understand the topic from different perspectives (i.e. read related texts), and in relation to the theories, approaches and frameworks in your course.

What is meant by evaluation or judgement?

This is where you decide the strengths and weaknesses of a text. This is usually based on specific criteria. Evaluating requires an understanding of not just the content of the text, but also an understanding of a text’s purpose, the intended audience, and why it is structured the way it is.

What is meant by analysis?

Analysis requires separating the content and concepts of a text into their main components and then understanding how these interrelate, connect and possibly influence each other.

  Next: Structure of a critical review

Essay and assignment writing guide.

  • Essay writing basics
  • Essay and assignment planning
  • Answering assignment questions
  • Editing checklist
  • Structure of a critical review
  • General criteria for evaluating
  • Sample extracts
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Reflective writing
  • ^ More support

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  • How to Write a Critical Review

How to Write a Critical Review

Structure of a Critical Review


When you have to write a critical review (like a cause and effect essay ), it’s important to understand the main goal of this document. In a critical paper, you need to evaluate and summarize the ideas and information from an article, book, essay, etc. You have to express your point of view following your knowledge about the subject. Needless to say, you must read the text thoroughly, and then think carefully to understand what you want to write in the review. 

For many people, writing a critical review seems like a very difficult task. Of course, it requires particular skills like the ability to read, analyze, review, and present your point of view about a certain topic. In our short guide, we will provide you with the main rules of making a successful structure for a review. Feel free to ask professionals for help if you cannot fulfill this task by yourself.

The process of writing a review can be separated into two stages:

  • Scanning information. It includes seeking the right literature to understand the subject better.
  • Effective review. Asking questions about the information, evaluating it, and presenting the results.

Here are some questions you can ask before you start making a review:

  • What’s the main topic of the article?
  • How does the writer present information and evidence in his or her writing?
  • What are the problems raised by the author in the text?
  • Does the article look balanced?

A critical review is much more than a simple summary; it is an analysis and evaluation of a book, article, or other medium. Writing a good critical review requires that you understand the material, and that you know how to analyze and evaluate that material using appropriate criteria. 

Before you start making a review, it’s important to understand its structure. This will help you to divide the whole document into small parts and build your review successfully. Structure your paper properly and remember that your review shouldn’t be longer than 4 pages. Needless to say, this document must be structured properly. Follow our recommendations for the paper structure below to create a professional manuscript easily. 

Choose a structure that will best allow you to support your thesis within the required page constraints. The first example below works well with shorter assignments, but the risk is that too much time will be spent developing the overview, and too little time on the evaluation. The second example works better for longer reviews because it provides the relevant description with the analysis and evaluation, allowing the reader to follow the argument easily. 

Start your work by stating the writer and the article or a book title. Explain the topic briefly. Remember you have to write a short summary of the main arguments presented in the whole paper. Add a short statement of the evaluation of the article at the end of this paragraph.

The length of an introduction is usually one paragraph for a journal article review and two or three paragraphs for a longer book review. Include a few opening sentences that announce the author(s) and the title, and briefly explain the topic of the text. Present the aim of the text and summarise the main finding or key argument. Conclude the introduction with a brief statement of your evaluation of the text. This can be a positive or negative evaluation or, as is usually the case, a mixed response.

Here you should put a summary of the main ideas of the reading. Feel free to add examples and a short explanation of the main goal of the article. Make sure this part of your review takes up to ⅓ of the whole paper.

Present a summary of the key points along with a limited number of examples. You can also briefly explain the author’s purpose/intentions throughout the text and you may briefly describe how the text is organised. The summary should only make up about a third of the critical review.

This is the main part of your document where you heed to evaluate and discuss all the text features, including weaknesses and strengths. Don’t forget to support every argument with references. Make your discussion specific and logical for readers.

The evaluation should be a balanced discussion and evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses and notable features of the text. Remember to base your discussion on specific criteria. Good reviews also include other sources to support your evaluation (remember to reference).

You can choose how to sequence your evaluation. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Most important to least important conclusions you make about the text.
  • If your evaluation is more positive than negative, then present the negative points first and the positive last.
  • If your evaluation is more negative than positive, then present the positive points first and the negative last.
  • If there are both strengths and weaknesses for each criterion you use, you need to decide overall what your judgement is. For example, you may want to comment on a key idea in the text and have both positive and negative comments. You could begin by stating what is good about the idea and then concede and explain how it is limited in some way. While this example shows a mixed evaluation, overall you are probably being more negative than positive.
  • In long reviews, you can address each criterion you choose in a paragraph, including both negative and positive points. For very short critical reviews (one page or less), where your comments will be briefer, include a paragraph of positive aspects  and another of negative.
  • You can also include recommendations for how the text can be improved in terms of ideas, research approach; theories or frameworks used can also be included in the evaluation section.

You have to finish your paper and restate your opinion of the article. Here you can also put some recommendations (for example, write for whom this book is recommended to read), and explanations of your judgment to show readers it’s fair. 

This is usually a very short paragraph.

  • Restate your overall opinion of the text.
  • Briefly present recommendations.
  • If necessary, some further qualification or explanation of your judgement can be included. This can help your critique sound fair and reasonable.

At the end of your paper, you need to include a list of references. Here you have to put all sources you have used to write a critical review . We suggest finding and following the main rules on citing sources to make a list of references properly. 

The best way to summarize

  • Scan the text. Look for information that can be deduced from the introduction, conclusion, title, and headings. What do these tell you about the main points of the article?
  • Locate the topic sentences and highlight the main points as you read.
  • Reread the text and make separate notes of the main points. Examples and evidence do not need to be included at this stage. Usually they are used selectively in your critique.

Paraphrasing means putting it into your own words. Paraphrasing offers an alternative to using direct quotations in your summary (and the critique) and can be an efficient way to integrate your summary notes.

The best way to paraphrase

  • Review your summary notes
  • Rewrite them in your own words and in complete sentences
  • Use reporting verbs and phrases, e.g. 'The author describes…', 'Smith argues that …'.
  • Use quotation marks if you include unique or specialist phrases from the text.

As you can see, it’s not so difficult to make a critical review when you know how to structure this paper and what to write in every part. But for some people, it’s almost impossible to create a good document due to weak skills. Others haven’t got enough time for writing. Both of them have a great chance to make a perfect manuscript with our writing service!

Ask our specialists to create a proper paper, and we will fulfill your task in the shortest terms. We have the best writers who can analyze texts and create perfect reviews without delays. Even urgent tasks can be completed just in a few hours. Choose our cooperation and get successful documents without spending a lot of money!

17 Book Review Examples to Help You Write the Perfect Review

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Blog – Posted on Friday, Mar 29

17 book review examples to help you write the perfect review.

17 Book Review Examples to Help You Write the Perfect Review

It’s an exciting time to be a book reviewer. Once confined to print newspapers and journals, reviews now dot many corridors of the Internet — forever helping others discover their next great read. That said, every book reviewer will face a familiar panic: how can you do justice to a great book in just a thousand words?

As you know, the best way to learn how to do something is by immersing yourself in it. Luckily, the Internet (i.e. Goodreads and other review sites , in particular) has made book reviews more accessible than ever — which means that there are a lot of book reviews examples out there for you to view!

In this post, we compiled 17 prototypical book review examples in multiple genres to help you figure out how to write the perfect review . If you want to jump straight to the examples, you can skip the next section. Otherwise, let’s first check out what makes up a good review.

Are you interested in becoming a book reviewer? We recommend you check out Reedsy Discovery , where you can earn money for writing reviews — and are guaranteed people will read your reviews! To register as a book reviewer, sign up here.

Pro-tip : But wait! How are you sure if you should become a book reviewer in the first place? If you're on the fence, or curious about your match with a book reviewing career, take our quick quiz:

Should you become a book reviewer?

Find out the answer. Takes 30 seconds!

What must a book review contain?

Like all works of art, no two book reviews will be identical. But fear not: there are a few guidelines for any aspiring book reviewer to follow. Most book reviews, for instance, are less than 1,500 words long, with the sweet spot hitting somewhere around the 1,000-word mark. (However, this may vary depending on the platform on which you’re writing, as we’ll see later.)

In addition, all reviews share some universal elements, as shown in our book review templates . These include:

  • A review will offer a concise plot summary of the book. 
  • A book review will offer an evaluation of the work. 
  • A book review will offer a recommendation for the audience. 

If these are the basic ingredients that make up a book review, it’s the tone and style with which the book reviewer writes that brings the extra panache. This will differ from platform to platform, of course. A book review on Goodreads, for instance, will be much more informal and personal than a book review on Kirkus Reviews, as it is catering to a different audience. However, at the end of the day, the goal of all book reviews is to give the audience the tools to determine whether or not they’d like to read the book themselves.

Keeping that in mind, let’s proceed to some book review examples to put all of this in action.

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Book review examples for fiction books

Since story is king in the world of fiction, it probably won’t come as any surprise to learn that a book review for a novel will concentrate on how well the story was told .

That said, book reviews in all genres follow the same basic formula that we discussed earlier. In these examples, you’ll be able to see how book reviewers on different platforms expertly intertwine the plot summary and their personal opinions of the book to produce a clear, informative, and concise review.

Note: Some of the book review examples run very long. If a book review is truncated in this post, we’ve indicated by including a […] at the end, but you can always read the entire review if you click on the link provided.

Examples of literary fiction book reviews

Kirkus Reviews reviews Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man :

An extremely powerful story of a young Southern Negro, from his late high school days through three years of college to his life in Harlem.
His early training prepared him for a life of humility before white men, but through injustices- large and small, he came to realize that he was an "invisible man". People saw in him only a reflection of their preconceived ideas of what he was, denied his individuality, and ultimately did not see him at all. This theme, which has implications far beyond the obvious racial parallel, is skillfully handled. The incidents of the story are wholly absorbing. The boy's dismissal from college because of an innocent mistake, his shocked reaction to the anonymity of the North and to Harlem, his nightmare experiences on a one-day job in a paint factory and in the hospital, his lightning success as the Harlem leader of a communistic organization known as the Brotherhood, his involvement in black versus white and black versus black clashes and his disillusion and understanding of his invisibility- all climax naturally in scenes of violence and riot, followed by a retreat which is both literal and figurative. Parts of this experience may have been told before, but never with such freshness, intensity and power.
This is Ellison's first novel, but he has complete control of his story and his style. Watch it.

Lyndsey reviews George Orwell’s 1984 on Goodreads:

YOU. ARE. THE. DEAD. Oh my God. I got the chills so many times toward the end of this book. It completely blew my mind. It managed to surpass my high expectations AND be nothing at all like I expected. Or in Newspeak "Double Plus Good." Let me preface this with an apology. If I sound stunningly inarticulate at times in this review, I can't help it. My mind is completely fried.
This book is like the dystopian Lord of the Rings, with its richly developed culture and economics, not to mention a fully developed language called Newspeak, or rather more of the anti-language, whose purpose is to limit speech and understanding instead of to enhance and expand it. The world-building is so fully fleshed out and spine-tinglingly terrifying that it's almost as if George travelled to such a place, escaped from it, and then just wrote it all down.
I read Fahrenheit 451 over ten years ago in my early teens. At the time, I remember really wanting to read 1984, although I never managed to get my hands on it. I'm almost glad I didn't. Though I would not have admitted it at the time, it would have gone over my head. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate it fully. […]

The New York Times reviews Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry :

Three-quarters of the way through Lisa Halliday’s debut novel, “Asymmetry,” a British foreign correspondent named Alistair is spending Christmas on a compound outside of Baghdad. His fellow revelers include cameramen, defense contractors, United Nations employees and aid workers. Someone’s mother has FedExed a HoneyBaked ham from Maine; people are smoking by the swimming pool. It is 2003, just days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, and though the mood is optimistic, Alistair is worrying aloud about the ethics of his chosen profession, wondering if reporting on violence doesn’t indirectly abet violence and questioning why he’d rather be in a combat zone than reading a picture book to his son. But every time he returns to London, he begins to “spin out.” He can’t go home. “You observe what people do with their freedom — what they don’t do — and it’s impossible not to judge them for it,” he says.
The line, embedded unceremoniously in the middle of a page-long paragraph, doubles, like so many others in “Asymmetry,” as literary criticism. Halliday’s novel is so strange and startlingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction. One finishes “Asymmetry” for the first or second (or like this reader, third) time and is left wondering what other writers are not doing with their freedom — and, like Alistair, judging them for it.
Despite its title, “Asymmetry” comprises two seemingly unrelated sections of equal length, appended by a slim and quietly shocking coda. Halliday’s prose is clean and lean, almost reportorial in the style of W. G. Sebald, and like the murmurings of a shy person at a cocktail party, often comic only in single clauses. It’s a first novel that reads like the work of an author who has published many books over many years. […]

Emily W. Thompson reviews Michael Doane's The Crossing on Reedsy Discovery :

In Doane’s debut novel, a young man embarks on a journey of self-discovery with surprising results.
An unnamed protagonist (The Narrator) is dealing with heartbreak. His love, determined to see the world, sets out for Portland, Oregon. But he’s a small-town boy who hasn’t traveled much. So, the Narrator mourns her loss and hides from life, throwing himself into rehabbing an old motorcycle. Until one day, he takes a leap; he packs his bike and a few belongings and heads out to find the Girl.
Following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and William Least Heat-Moon, Doane offers a coming of age story about a man finding himself on the backroads of America. Doane’s a gifted writer with fluid prose and insightful observations, using The Narrator’s personal interactions to illuminate the diversity of the United States.
The Narrator initially sticks to the highways, trying to make it to the West Coast as quickly as possible. But a hitchhiker named Duke convinces him to get off the beaten path and enjoy the ride. “There’s not a place that’s like any other,” [39] Dukes contends, and The Narrator realizes he’s right. Suddenly, the trip is about the journey, not just the destination. The Narrator ditches his truck and traverses the deserts and mountains on his bike. He destroys his phone, cutting off ties with his past and living only in the moment.
As he crosses the country, The Narrator connects with several unique personalities whose experiences and views deeply impact his own. Duke, the complicated cowboy and drifter, who opens The Narrator’s eyes to a larger world. Zooey, the waitress in Colorado who opens his heart and reminds him that love can be found in this big world. And Rosie, The Narrator’s sweet landlady in Portland, who helps piece him back together both physically and emotionally.
This supporting cast of characters is excellent. Duke, in particular, is wonderfully nuanced and complicated. He’s a throwback to another time, a man without a cell phone who reads Sartre and sleeps under the stars. Yet he’s also a grifter with a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude that harms those around him. It’s fascinating to watch The Narrator wrestle with Duke’s behavior, trying to determine which to model and which to discard.
Doane creates a relatable protagonist in The Narrator, whose personal growth doesn’t erase his faults. His willingness to hit the road with few resources is admirable, and he’s prescient enough to recognize the jealousy of those who cannot or will not take the leap. His encounters with new foods, places, and people broaden his horizons. Yet his immaturity and selfishness persist. He tells Rosie she’s been a good mother to him but chooses to ignore the continuing concern from his own parents as he effectively disappears from his old life.
Despite his flaws, it’s a pleasure to accompany The Narrator on his physical and emotional journey. The unexpected ending is a fitting denouement to an epic and memorable road trip.

The Book Smugglers review Anissa Gray’s The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls :

I am still dipping my toes into the literally fiction pool, finding what works for me and what doesn’t. Books like The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray are definitely my cup of tea.
Althea and Proctor Cochran had been pillars of their economically disadvantaged community for years – with their local restaurant/small market and their charity drives. Until they are found guilty of fraud for stealing and keeping most of the money they raised and sent to jail. Now disgraced, their entire family is suffering the consequences, specially their twin teenage daughters Baby Vi and Kim.  To complicate matters even more: Kim was actually the one to call the police on her parents after yet another fight with her mother. […]

Examples of children’s and YA fiction book reviews

The Book Hookup reviews Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give :

♥ Quick Thoughts and Rating: 5 stars! I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to tackle the voice of a movement like Black Lives Matter, but I do know that Thomas did it with a finesse only a talented author like herself possibly could. With an unapologetically realistic delivery packed with emotion, The Hate U Give is a crucially important portrayal of the difficulties minorities face in our country every single day. I have no doubt that this book will be met with resistance by some (possibly many) and slapped with a “controversial” label, but if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk in a POC’s shoes, then I feel like this is an unflinchingly honest place to start.
In Angie Thomas’s debut novel, Starr Carter bursts on to the YA scene with both heart-wrecking and heartwarming sincerity. This author is definitely one to watch.
♥ Review: The hype around this book has been unquestionable and, admittedly, that made me both eager to get my hands on it and terrified to read it. I mean, what if I was to be the one person that didn’t love it as much as others? (That seems silly now because of how truly mesmerizing THUG was in the most heartbreakingly realistic way.) However, with the relevancy of its summary in regards to the unjust predicaments POC currently face in the US, I knew this one was a must-read, so I was ready to set my fears aside and dive in. That said, I had an altogether more personal, ulterior motive for wanting to read this book. […]

The New York Times reviews Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood :

Alice Crewe (a last name she’s chosen for herself) is a fairy tale legacy: the granddaughter of Althea Proserpine, author of a collection of dark-as-night fairy tales called “Tales From the Hinterland.” The book has a cult following, and though Alice has never met her grandmother, she’s learned a little about her through internet research. She hasn’t read the stories, because her mother, Ella Proserpine, forbids it.
Alice and Ella have moved from place to place in an attempt to avoid the “bad luck” that seems to follow them. Weird things have happened. As a child, Alice was kidnapped by a man who took her on a road trip to find her grandmother; he was stopped by the police before they did so. When at 17 she sees that man again, unchanged despite the years, Alice panics. Then Ella goes missing, and Alice turns to Ellery Finch, a schoolmate who’s an Althea Proserpine superfan, for help in tracking down her mother. Not only has Finch read every fairy tale in the collection, but handily, he remembers them, sharing them with Alice as they journey to the mysterious Hazel Wood, the estate of her now-dead grandmother, where they hope to find Ella.
“The Hazel Wood” starts out strange and gets stranger, in the best way possible. (The fairy stories Finch relays, which Albert includes as their own chapters, are as creepy and evocative as you’d hope.) Albert seamlessly combines contemporary realism with fantasy, blurring the edges in a way that highlights that place where stories and real life convene, where magic contains truth and the world as it appears is false, where just about anything can happen, particularly in the pages of a very good book. It’s a captivating debut. […]

James reviews Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon on Goodreads:

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is one of the books that followers of my blog voted as a must-read for our Children's Book August 2018 Readathon. Come check it out and join the next few weeks!
This picture book was such a delight. I hadn't remembered reading it when I was a child, but it might have been read to me... either way, it was like a whole new experience! It's always so difficult to convince a child to fall asleep at night. I don't have kids, but I do have a 5-month-old puppy who whines for 5 minutes every night when he goes in his cage/crate (hopefully he'll be fully housebroken soon so he can roam around when he wants). I can only imagine! I babysat a lot as a teenager and I have tons of younger cousins, nieces, and nephews, so I've been through it before, too. This was a believable experience, and it really helps show kids how to relax and just let go when it's time to sleep.
The bunny's are adorable. The rhymes are exquisite. I found it pretty fun, but possibly a little dated given many of those things aren't normal routines anymore. But the lessons to take from it are still powerful. Loved it! I want to sample some more books by this fine author and her illustrators.

Publishers Weekly reviews Elizabeth Lilly’s Geraldine :

This funny, thoroughly accomplished debut opens with two words: “I’m moving.” They’re spoken by the title character while she swoons across her family’s ottoman, and because Geraldine is a giraffe, her full-on melancholy mode is quite a spectacle. But while Geraldine may be a drama queen (even her mother says so), it won’t take readers long to warm up to her. The move takes Geraldine from Giraffe City, where everyone is like her, to a new school, where everyone else is human. Suddenly, the former extrovert becomes “That Giraffe Girl,” and all she wants to do is hide, which is pretty much impossible. “Even my voice tries to hide,” she says, in the book’s most poignant moment. “It’s gotten quiet and whispery.” Then she meets Cassie, who, though human, is also an outlier (“I’m that girl who wears glasses and likes MATH and always organizes her food”), and things begin to look up.
Lilly’s watercolor-and-ink drawings are as vividly comic and emotionally astute as her writing; just when readers think there are no more ways for Geraldine to contort her long neck, this highly promising talent comes up with something new.

Examples of genre fiction book reviews

Karlyn P reviews Nora Roberts’ Dark Witch , a paranormal romance novel , on Goodreads:

4 stars. Great world-building, weak romance, but still worth the read.
I hesitate to describe this book as a 'romance' novel simply because the book spent little time actually exploring the romance between Iona and Boyle. Sure, there IS a romance in this novel. Sprinkled throughout the book are a few scenes where Iona and Boyle meet, chat, wink at each, flirt some more, sleep together, have a misunderstanding, make up, and then profess their undying love. Very formulaic stuff, and all woven around the more important parts of this book.
The meat of this book is far more focused on the story of the Dark witch and her magically-gifted descendants living in Ireland. Despite being weak on the romance, I really enjoyed it. I think the book is probably better for it, because the romance itself was pretty lackluster stuff.
I absolutely plan to stick with this series as I enjoyed the world building, loved the Ireland setting, and was intrigued by all of the secondary characters. However, If you read Nora Roberts strictly for the romance scenes, this one might disappoint. But if you enjoy a solid background story with some dark magic and prophesies, you might enjoy it as much as I did.
I listened to this one on audio, and felt the narration was excellent.

Emily May reviews R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy Wars , an epic fantasy novel , on Goodreads:

“But I warn you, little warrior. The price of power is pain.”
Holy hell, what did I just read??
➽ A fantasy military school
➽ A rich world based on modern Chinese history
➽ Shamans and gods
➽ Detailed characterization leading to unforgettable characters
➽ Adorable, opium-smoking mentors
That's a basic list, but this book is all of that and SO MUCH MORE. I know 100% that The Poppy War will be one of my best reads of 2018.
Isn't it just so great when you find one of those books that completely drags you in, makes you fall in love with the characters, and demands that you sit on the edge of your seat for every horrific, nail-biting moment of it? This is one of those books for me. And I must issue a serious content warning: this book explores some very dark themes. Proceed with caution (or not at all) if you are particularly sensitive to scenes of war, drug use and addiction, genocide, racism, sexism, ableism, self-harm, torture, and rape (off-page but extremely horrific).
Because, despite the fairly innocuous first 200 pages, the title speaks the truth: this is a book about war. All of its horrors and atrocities. It is not sugar-coated, and it is often graphic. The "poppy" aspect refers to opium, which is a big part of this book. It is a fantasy, but the book draws inspiration from the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking.

Crime Fiction Lover reviews Jessica Barry’s Freefall , a crime novel:

In some crime novels, the wrongdoing hits you between the eyes from page one. With others it’s a more subtle process, and that’s OK too. So where does Freefall fit into the sliding scale?
In truth, it’s not clear. This is a novel with a thrilling concept at its core. A woman survives plane crash, then runs for her life. However, it is the subtleties at play that will draw you in like a spider beckoning to an unwitting fly.
Like the heroine in Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking, Allison is lucky to be alive. She was the only passenger in a private plane, belonging to her fiancé, Ben, who was piloting the expensive aircraft, when it came down in woodlands in the Colorado Rockies. Ally is also the only survivor, but rather than sitting back and waiting for rescue, she is soon pulling together items that may help her survive a little longer – first aid kit, energy bars, warm clothes, trainers – before fleeing the scene. If you’re hearing the faint sound of alarm bells ringing, get used to it. There’s much, much more to learn about Ally before this tale is over.

Kirkus Reviews reviews Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One , a science-fiction novel :

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles.
The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three.
Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.
Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Book review examples for non-fiction books

Nonfiction books are generally written to inform readers about a certain topic. As such, the focus of a nonfiction book review will be on the clarity and effectiveness of this communication . In carrying this out, a book review may analyze the author’s source materials and assess the thesis in order to determine whether or not the book meets expectations.

Again, we’ve included abbreviated versions of long reviews here, so feel free to click on the link to read the entire piece!

The Washington Post reviews David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon :

The arc of David Grann’s career reminds one of a software whiz-kid or a latest-thing talk-show host — certainly not an investigative reporter, even if he is one of the best in the business. The newly released movie of his first book, “The Lost City of Z,” is generating all kinds of Oscar talk, and now comes the release of his second book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” the film rights to which have already been sold for $5 million in what one industry journal called the “biggest and wildest book rights auction in memory.”
Grann deserves the attention. He’s canny about the stories he chases, he’s willing to go anywhere to chase them, and he’s a maestro in his ability to parcel out information at just the right clip: a hint here, a shading of meaning there, a smartly paced buildup of multiple possibilities followed by an inevitable reversal of readerly expectations or, in some cases, by a thrilling and dislocating pull of the entire narrative rug.
All of these strengths are on display in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Around the turn of the 20th century, oil was discovered underneath Osage lands in the Oklahoma Territory, lands that were soon to become part of the state of Oklahoma. Through foresight and legal maneuvering, the Osage found a way to permanently attach that oil to themselves and shield it from the prying hands of white interlopers; this mechanism was known as “headrights,” which forbade the outright sale of oil rights and granted each full member of the tribe — and, supposedly, no one else — a share in the proceeds from any lease arrangement. For a while, the fail-safes did their job, and the Osage got rich — diamond-ring and chauffeured-car and imported-French-fashion rich — following which quite a large group of white men started to work like devils to separate the Osage from their money. And soon enough, and predictably enough, this work involved murder. Here in Jazz Age America’s most isolated of locales, dozens or even hundreds of Osage in possession of great fortunes — and of the potential for even greater fortunes in the future — were dispatched by poison, by gunshot and by dynamite. […]

Stacked Books reviews Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers :

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Malcolm Gladwell’s writing. Friends and co-workers tell me that his subjects are interesting and his writing style is easy to follow without talking down to the reader. I wasn’t disappointed with Outliers. In it, Gladwell tackles the subject of success – how people obtain it and what contributes to extraordinary success as opposed to everyday success.
The thesis – that our success depends much more on circumstances out of our control than any effort we put forth – isn’t exactly revolutionary. Most of us know it to be true. However, I don’t think I’m lying when I say that most of us also believe that we if we just try that much harder and develop our talent that much further, it will be enough to become wildly successful, despite bad or just mediocre beginnings. Not so, says Gladwell.
Most of the evidence Gladwell gives us is anecdotal, which is my favorite kind to read. I can’t really speak to how scientifically valid it is, but it sure makes for engrossing listening. For example, did you know that successful hockey players are almost all born in January, February, or March? Kids born during these months are older than the others kids when they start playing in the youth leagues, which means they’re already better at the game (because they’re bigger). Thus, they get more play time, which means their skill increases at a faster rate, and it compounds as time goes by. Within a few years, they’re much, much better than the kids born just a few months later in the year. Basically, these kids’ birthdates are a huge factor in their success as adults – and it’s nothing they can do anything about. If anyone could make hockey interesting to a Texan who only grudgingly admits the sport even exists, it’s Gladwell. […]

Quill and Quire reviews Rick Prashaw’s Soar, Adam, Soar :

Ten years ago, I read a book called Almost Perfect. The young-adult novel by Brian Katcher won some awards and was held up as a powerful, nuanced portrayal of a young trans person. But the reality did not live up to the book’s billing. Instead, it turned out to be a one-dimensional and highly fetishized portrait of a trans person’s life, one that was nevertheless repeatedly dubbed “realistic” and “affecting” by non-transgender readers possessing only a vague, mass-market understanding of trans experiences.
In the intervening decade, trans narratives have emerged further into the literary spotlight, but those authored by trans people ourselves – and by trans men in particular – have seemed to fall under the shadow of cisgender sensationalized imaginings. Two current Canadian releases – Soar, Adam, Soar and This One Looks Like a Boy – provide a pointed object lesson into why trans-authored work about transgender experiences remains critical.
To be fair, Soar, Adam, Soar isn’t just a story about a trans man. It’s also a story about epilepsy, the medical establishment, and coming of age as seen through a grieving father’s eyes. Adam, Prashaw’s trans son, died unexpectedly at age 22. Woven through the elder Prashaw’s narrative are excerpts from Adam’s social media posts, giving us glimpses into the young man’s interior life as he traverses his late teens and early 20s. […]

Book Geeks reviews Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love :

“Eat Pray Love” is so popular that it is almost impossible to not read it. Having felt ashamed many times on my not having read this book, I quietly ordered the book (before I saw the movie) from and sat down to read it. I don’t remember what I expected it to be – maybe more like a chick lit thing but it turned out quite different. The book is a real story and is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things – Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name – EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India) and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia). These are also the three Is – ITALY, INDIA, INDONESIA.
Though she had everything a middle-aged American woman can aspire for – MONEY, CAREER, FRIENDS, HUSBAND; Elizabeth was not happy in her life, she wasn’t happy in her marriage. Having suffered a terrible divorce and terrible breakup soon after, Elizabeth was shattered. She didn’t know where to go and what to do – all she knew was that she wanted to run away. So she set out on a weird adventure – she will go to three countries in a year and see if she can find out what she was looking for in life. This book is about that life changing journey that she takes for one whole year. […]

Emily May reviews Michelle Obama’s Becoming on Goodreads:

Look, I'm not a happy crier. I might cry at songs about leaving and missing someone; I might cry at books where things don't work out; I might cry at movies where someone dies. I've just never really understood why people get all choked up over happy, inspirational things. But Michelle Obama's kindness and empathy changed that. This book had me in tears for all the right reasons.
This is not really a book about politics, though political experiences obviously do come into it. It's a shame that some will dismiss this book because of a difference in political opinion, when it is really about a woman's life. About growing up poor and black on the South Side of Chicago; about getting married and struggling to maintain that marriage; about motherhood; about being thrown into an amazing and terrifying position.
I hate words like "inspirational" because they've become so overdone and cheesy, but I just have to say it-- Michelle Obama is an inspiration. I had the privilege of seeing her speak at The Forum in Inglewood, and she is one of the warmest, funniest, smartest, down-to-earth people I have ever seen in this world.
And yes, I know we present what we want the world to see, but I truly do think it's genuine. I think she is someone who really cares about people - especially kids - and wants to give them better lives and opportunities.
She's obviously intelligent, but she also doesn't gussy up her words. She talks straight, with an openness and honesty rarely seen. She's been one of the most powerful women in the world, she's been a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, she's had her own successful career, and yet she has remained throughout that same girl - Michelle Robinson - from a working class family in Chicago.
I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.

Hopefully, this post has given you a better idea of how to write a book review. You might be wondering how to put all of this knowledge into action now! Many book reviewers start out by setting up a book blog. If you don’t have time to research the intricacies of HTML, check out Reedsy Discovery — where you can read indie books for free and review them without going through the hassle of creating a blog. To register as a book reviewer , go here .

And if you’d like to see even more book review examples, simply go to this directory of book review blogs and click on any one of them to see a wealth of good book reviews. Beyond that, it's up to you to pick up a book and pen — and start reviewing!

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Tips For Writing Critical Book Review Example

By: Henrique Bertulino

Tips For Writing Critical Book Review Example

Book reviews are important, and before you write a critical book review, you should have gone through it, and have in-depth knowledge about what it entails. What is required when writing a book review is to get your opinion about how you perceive the volume on paper, your experience, your analysis, and summarize it all. Often, people end up writing reports right from the introduction instead of book reviews, as they find it hard to distinguish between writing reports from book reviews. Furthermore, it should be noted that a review doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong, as you can end up giving good reviews when writing. The purpose of reviews is to provide the reader with an insight into the content so that such information can help the reader sharpen his or her mind on what to expect when reading. When you are writing a critical review, you need to have some patience from the beginning, for the introduction part and give your time. An example is the New York Reviewer of books , which, on average, receives 750 to 1000 books from different publishers. Reading from the introduction to the end takes plenty of time as expected, meaning you should have gone through it properly before writing.

What Critical Book Review Is All About?

How is a critical book review written, looking at a book review and what it should contain, having in-depth knowledge while reading the book, is reading the book important, have notes taken, using an acceptable language, examples of fiction books which has book reviews, literary fiction with book reviews and examples, children’s fiction book reviews with examples, different types of fiction book reviews with examples, different types of non-fiction book reviews with examples.

A book review means that all articles, thesis, and all forms of written projects are analyzed and critically examined to give an audience an opinion. In newspapers or academic journals, you would find out how brief reviews are. The writing rarely exceeds 1000 words and is clearly expressed, so on this account, you have to be conscious of the word count when writing. When writing a review, you can agree or disagree with some aspects of the work and bring out your evidence to what you feel about the work. Before you write a critical book review, you should know that it is more about a commentary than a summary. When writing a critical book review, you should note that you are entering a discussion with the author of the work from the introduction part and with a different audience, so you have to bear that in mind when writing. Additionally, reviews might vary in style or subject but can share some standard features like:

The first thing a review should give out to the reader is the summary of the content. Thus, you create an overview of the topic and have points, arguments, and evaluation.

The second aspect a review offers is critically assessing the content when writing.

And lastly, a review should analyze the work the author has created to determine if an audience would appreciate such writing.

One of the things to know before writing a critical book review is that you shouldn’t just summarize, but instead, you should evaluate the strength and weaknesses of the volume of the content. Some points to ask are:

  • What is the author trying to convey? Is the thesis clearly understood?
  • What are your ideas about the content, and if there should have been more words added or fewer words?
  • Is it confusing, or did the author well construct it? How best could it have been written?

Questions like how easy or difficult the contents are should also be mentioned.

Did the author use relevant resources? Would the readers be able to locate and view the right materials?

The general value should be mentioned, and also if such values would be of purpose to an expert when reading.

Things You Should Know Before Choosing a Book

If you enjoy reading and looking for an article to read, and you do not know how to choose a tome. Then, below we are going to help you make the right choice:

Questions you should ask yourself to help you decide on if you like a science fiction book, a mystery, or a non-fiction book should not be ignored.

Secondly, if you have two minds, you can select them randomly and read them! You would be amazed at how interesting it might turn out to be.

Thirdly, most volumes you see on the top of the charts, although it might be untrue, are either just there to sell or be campaigned.

Reading requires patience and working with the right resources, but if you read the beginning, you can always tell the book's genre, and if you like what the author wrote.

As students, or a novice blogger, or whatever the case may be, knowing how to write a review is a valuable skill to have. Even though you may not know everything presented to you, you must ask the relevant questions to understand better. As someone who knows how to write an academic book review , it is expected that the appropriate resources should contain the following:

The first thing it should contain is a summary of the work the author has created. It should also contain brief quotes as examples for the reader. Information is important; hence essential areas should be included. A review should also have an introduction and a conclusion that generally talks about everything in the content. It should contain at least a similar illustration to serve as a reference when writing further information or comparison.

Lastly, a review won’t be complete without having a star rating attached to it. This is important for the audience as a good rating might be more appealing to the readers; the same way a bad rating on paper might put some audience off.

Before you decide to read, you have to know that there are four reading levels. The reading levels are;

  • Elementary reading
  • Analytical reading
  • Inspectional reading
  • Syntopical reading

Each reading level is specifically designed to make reading more accessible and comfortable for you to understand. That way, you can be able to differentiate when writing reviews. For instance, elementary reading is those kinds of reading, which were explained to elementary school students. Analytical reading requires you to read through the book and have a thorough understanding of the book.

While reading, there are about four critical questions you need to ask of each book:

  • What information is this author trying to send across
  • A detailed explanation of such a tome
  • Is such information about the content accurate, and how?
  • How do you perceive the content?

If, after asking such questions and you find out they are challenging, then you are truly a demanding reader.

The purpose of reading is to help you; the reader achieves various milestones. For instance, university students who have a thesis to prepare for, as they know how things work in college, have to read from the introduction to the conclusion.

The various reasons why people read is not to give just a review but rather excel in any course work given in the University or college as it helps in:

  • Broaden your knowledge
  • Having an overview of other cultures

When you read, you not only become open-minded but smarter. The purpose is to build your self-esteem.

In summary, these four reasons serve as a guide to aid either student, the audience, to see the importance of reading. You can’t write a critical review without allowing yourself to understand what the author wrote.

Also, you should be aware that topics or an article take a lot of time to go through from the introduction to the conclusion; hence there is a need to be patient before writing.

Things to Look Forward to While Reading

A lot of time, people fail to have a purpose while reading. Some try to get the information about what the content is trying to convey, while others find it difficult. To be a good critic or a reviewer, here are some of the things you ought to look at as you read:

  • The first thing to do is to identify your purpose

Identifying your purpose is vital, especially if you are going to review the content. If you fail to identify your purpose, then it would be difficult for you to have enough opinion on what the author created.

  • Keep in mind what you are reading

You cannot be going through a publication without keeping in mind what you are reading. It is important that you know what you are reading, especially when you are going to give an assessment of what you have read.

  • Work with the material

It is important for someone who is going to assess the content to work with the material. To have an in-depth knowledge of what the author is passing across then it is required that you work with the material as you would be judging the said content.

  • Go through and make a summary

After you have gone through the article, topic, magazine, or whatever you are presented with, then you have to make a summary of the message the author is trying to pass across. To summarize a content is also an essential part of the process.

If you want to give reviews, then notes have to be taken. Also, you start taking notes or valid points from the introduction till you conclude. The purpose of taking notes is not just to give reviews but rather to be able to either criticize or hail what the author wrote. Often, reviewers can spot some mistakes from the introduction; some are close to the conclusion. Sometimes, people do not know how to write a book review simply because they either fail to take notes or don’t have the time and patience to go through the work the author did and adequately evaluate the works done when writing. For instance, students in the University who are given a long thesis to defend have to settle down and pick out valid points else it would become hard to do a proper defense of their thesis. Thus, it would help if you had notes taken. By adopting this trait, you get to find out how easy it would be when writing a critical review. It doesn’t mean whether you are a university student or someone who enjoys reading.

What Is the Next Thing After You Have Read a Book?

This is when the notes or points you have gathered while reading comes to play. The notes you took serves as a guide when writing a proper review. As a university student or a reviewer, even if you are provided with a book report template , you still need to have additional resources such as notes down so that you would be able to analyze what the author is trying to convey and in other to give a review. As said earlier, the notes don’t just serve as a guide in writing reviews but aid you in assessing the main concept. Sometimes, when you start taking notes from the introduction, you can tell what genre, if it is going to be science fiction, or just an adventure, or whatever the case may be. Having an overview and understanding of the volume's concept would not have been achieved without you taking notes from the initial stage when writing.

After you have understood and gone through the novel from the introduction to the end and have a good overview, and want to write a review, you must remain mindful of the kind of language you use. Reviews usually have acceptable languages for the audience to understand the signal you are sending across. Even when writing exams in the University, you still need to use formal language. Also, as a person who enjoys writing reviews, you can not use words that are too complex and vague in each paragraph for your audience.

Additionally, acceptable language can also be called the evaluation language. People, after getting the right resources, usually use a particular language. An example is, “There should have been more evidence to support the notion the author didn’t give enough information concerning”. A bad and unacceptable language that should not be used while writing reviews is; “A perplexing novel the author points were flabbergasting”. Once you use the right and acceptable language, then the viewers would assimilate your writing better.

It is a lovely time to be a reviewer, immensely as it helps people discover their next read. In all honesty, the best way to learn how to do a thing is by actually doing that said thing. Which is why if you need evidence, you could visit sites like Goodreads have made review easy to access. Some good examples of fiction books which have reviewed are;

  • Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood (The New York Times reviews)
  • Elizabeth Lilly’s Geraldine (Publishers weekly reviews)
  • Jessica Barry’s Freefall, a crime novel (Crime Fiction Lover reviews)
  • Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give (The book hookup reviews)

These are just a few fiction titles with reviews to serve as a form of inspiration when writing. Book reviewers take their time before becoming exceptional. They take such pride in discussing some topics they have gone through in a social gathering. You can start by setting up a book blog. That way, it works well by serving as a little assistance for you to have an evaluation of such books and to write reviews.

Again, there are tons of literary fiction books written by a different author, and a lot of them have book reviews, but to gain inspiration especially from them should you begin writing, there are a few listed below, which are;

  • Lord of flies by William Golding
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

As much as reviewers are usually advised to create a book blog, they must learn to be patient before writing. A reviewer must always exercise patience as most of these books typically take a lot of time to read and understand. For instance, a university student who is asked to perform a play for a social gathering must understand the fiction title given before anything else. Some of the enlisted literary fiction books mentioned above can all serve as inspiration or an overview of what literary fiction is all about. Reviews aren’t more than a thousand words, so you have to be specific with your points when writing once you start.

Writing reviews doesn't come with age as even a little child can write reviews as long as they provide them the necessary resources. To inspire some young intending content reviewers below, there are some reviews carried out by children. They are;

  • Galaxy Zach: Journey to Juno: reviewed by a 6-year-old Young Mensan Connor C.
  • I capture the castle: reviewed by a 17-year old Lauren W
  • Frankenstein’s cat: reviewed by a 12-year old Zander H
  • About Marsupials: reviewed by a 6-year-old Connor

These children’s fiction novels mentioned above can bring a feel-good factor for the intending content reviewers when writing. Again, as stated before, it is important to exercise patience as the purpose is to give reviews and not to pass exams, hence the need for a thorough understanding of the novel from the introduction to the conclusion. Even if the child is given a report template to serve as a guide, they need to have some notes to aid the whole reviewing process.

By now, you should know that there are two different book types or genres; fiction and nonfiction. Fiction books usually contain stories made up by the author. An example is children’s or romance books. Some other examples are;

  • Action and adventure
  • Science fiction

Fiction books are by far the most commonly read works. This is because the story is usually fabricated and elaborated for people to enjoy. It is the most read because despite it containing cooked up stories, there might be some element of truth attached. Examples are;

  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

The titles mentioned above can help those who want to become a book reviewer and inspire them. All that is required is to understand the introduction part and follow it up till the end.

The non-fiction genres are more factual and are relatively less read. Examples are biographies and history books. Some other examples are;

  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Sports and Leisure
  • The Diary of Anne Frank is a non-fiction journal

Lastly, for some who want to be writing reviews, you must differentiate between fiction and non-fiction books.

In summary, being a reviewer takes a lot of time and practice. It entails reading from the introduction to the end, not just taking notes on each paragraph to get ideas of the message being communicated. To have an overview of the topic's intent, to be in a better position to give out the right judgment on topics read.

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from the book review archives

Review: ‘The Bell Jar,’ by Sylvia Plath

To our reviewer, the poet’s novel was “the kind of book Salinger’s Franny might have written about herself 10 years later, if she had spent those 10 years in Hell.”

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THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath | Review first published April 11, 1971

“The Bell Jar” is a novel about the events of Sylvia Plath’s 20th year: about how she tried to die, and how they stuck her together with glue. It is a fine novel, as bitter and remorseless as her last poems — the kind of book Salinger’s Franny might have written about herself 10 years later, if she had spent those 10 years in Hell. It is very much a story of the ’50s, but written in the early ’60s, and now, after being effectively suppressed in this country for eight years, published in the ’70s.

“Lady Lazarus,” Sylvia Plath called herself in a poem. And she added,

DyingIs an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well.I do it so it feels like hell,I do it so it feels real.I guess you could say I’ve a call.

And in another poem, “Daddy,” she wrote,

At twenty I tried to dieAnd get back, back, back to you.I thought even the bones would do.But they pulled me out of the sack,And they stuck me together with glue.

F. Scott Fitzgerald used to claim that he wrote with “the authority of failure,” and he did. It was a source of power in his later work. But the authority of failure is but a pale shadow of the authority of suicide, as we feel it in “Ariel” and in “The Bell Jar.” This is not so much because Sylvia Plath, in taking her own life, gave her readers a certain ghoulish interest they could not bring to most poems and novels, though this is no doubt partly true. It is because she knew that she was “Lady Lazarus.” Her works do not only come to us posthumously. They were written posthumously. Between suicides. She wrote her novel and her “Ariel” poems feverishly, like a person “stuck together with glue” and aware that the glue was melting. Should we be grateful for such things? Can we accept the price she paid for what she has given us? Is dying really an art?

There are no easy answers for such questions, maybe no answers at all. We are all dying, of course, banker and bum alike, spending our limited allotment of days, hours and minutes at the same rate. But we don’t like to think about it. And those men and women who take the matter into their own hands, and spend all at once with prodigal disdain, seem frighteningly different from you and me. Sylvia Plath is one of those others, and to them our gratitude and our dismay are equally impertinent. When an oracle speaks it is not for us to say thanks but to attend to the message.

“The Bell Jar” is about the way this country was in the 1950s and about the way it is to lose one’s grip on sanity and recover it again. It is easy to say (and it is said too often) that insanity is the only sane reaction to the America of the past two decades. And it is also said that the only thing to do about madness is relax and enjoy it. But neither of these “clever” responses to her situation occur to Esther Greenwood, who is the narrator and central character in this novel.

To Esther, madness is the descent of a stifling bell jar over her head. In this state, she says, “wherever I sat … I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my sour air.” Which is not to say that Esther believes the world outside the asylum is full of people living an authentic existence. She asks, “What was there about us, in Belsize, so different from the girls playing bridge and gossiping and studying in the college to which I would return? Those girls, too, sat under bell jars of a sort.”

The world in which the events of this novel take place is a world bounded by the Cold War on one side and the sexual war on the other. We follow Esther Greenwood’s personal life from her summer job in New York with “Ladies’ Day” magazine, back through her days at New England’s largest school for women, and forward through her attempted suicide, her bad treatment at one asylum and her good treatment at another, to her final re-entry into the world like a used tire: “patched, retreaded and approved for the road.”

But this personal life is delicately related to larger events — especially the execution of the Rosenbergs, whose impending death by electrocution is introduced in the stunning first paragraph of the book. Ironically, that same electrical power which destroys the Rosenbergs, restores Esther to life. It is shock therapy which finally lifts the bell jar and enables Esther to breathe freely once again. Passing through death she is reborn. This novel is not political or historical in any narrow sense, but in looking at the madness of the world and the world of madness it forces us to consider the great question posed by all truly realistic fiction: What is reality and how can it be confronted?

Sylvia Plath’s technique of defamiliarization ranges from tiny verbal witticisms that bite, to images that are deeply troubling. When she calls the hotel for women that Esther inhabits in New York the “Amazon,” she is not merely enjoying the closeness of the sound of that word to “Barbizon,” she is forcing us to rethink the entire concept of a hotel for women: “mostly girls of my age with wealthy parents who wanted to be sure that their daughters would be living where men couldn’t get at them and deceive them.” And she is announcing a major theme in her work, the hostility between men and women.

It is a fine novel, as bitter and remorseless as her last poems — the kind of book Salinger’s Franny might have written about herself 10 years later, if she had spent those 10 years in Hell.

With Esther Greenwood this hostility takes the form of obsessive attempts to get herself liberated from a virginity she finds oppressive, by masculinity she finds hideous. When her medical-student boyfriend suggests that they play a round of the traditional children’s game — I’ll show you mine if you show me yours — she looks at his naked maleness and reacts this way: “The only thing I could think of was a turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.” This is defamiliarization with a vengeance. The image catches up all cocky masculine pride of flesh and reduces it to the level of giblets.

It sees the inexorable link between generation and death and makes us see it too, because the image is so fitting. All flesh comes from this — and comes to this.

In the face of such cosmic disgust, psychological explanations like “penis envy” seem pitifully inadequate. Esther Greenwood is not a woman who wants to be a man but a human being who cannot avoid seeing that the price we pay for life is death. Sexual differentiation itself is only a metaphor for human incompletion. The battle of the sexes is, after all, a civil war.

Esther Greenwood’s account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing. Why, then, has this extraordinary work not appeared in the United States until eight years after its appearance in England?

Sylvia Plath’s mother has insisted that her daughter thought of the book as a “potboiler” and did not want it published in the United States. And Mrs. Plath herself felt that the book presented ungrateful caricatures of people who had tried to help her daughter. These sentiments are understandable. But a book published in England cannot be kept away from the United States. Already, the student underground has been smuggling copies from abroad into the country. Literature will out. And “The Bell Jar” is not a potboiler, nor a series of ungrateful caricatures; it is literature. It is finding its audience, and will hold it. — Robert Scholes

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

In “The Last Politician,” Franklin Foer presents the first half of Joe Biden’s presidency  as a series of made-for-television moments meant to inspire doubters and assuage critics.

What do you do when your doppelgänger becomes a conspiracy theorist on the internet? If you’re Naomi Klein, you write a book about it .

Ursula K. Le Guin’s powerful imagination turned hypothetical elsewheres into vivid worlds governed by forces of nature, technology, gender, race and class a far cry from our own. Here are her essential works .

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .


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How to Write a Book Review

Last Updated: August 6, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 66 testimonials and 90% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,185,910 times.

Writing a book review is not just about summarizing; it's also an opportunity for you to present a critical discussion of the book so others get an idea of what to expect. Whether you’re writing a review as an assignment or as a publication opportunity, you should combine an accurate, analytical reading with a strong, personal touch. An effective book review describes what is on the page, analyzes how the book tried to achieve its purpose, and expresses any reactions and arguments from a unique perspective.

Review Template

critical review of a novel

Preparing to Write Your Review

Image titled Review a Book Step 1

  • Write down notes in a notebook or use a voice recorder to document any thoughts or impressions you have of the book as you are reading. They don't have to be organized or perfect, the idea is to brainstorm any impressions you may have of the book.
  • Try summarizing the major sections of the book you’re reviewing to help understand how it’s structured.

Image titled Review a Book Step 2

  • For example, if you are reviewing a non-fiction book about the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s, consider reading other books that also examine the same scientific issue and/or period of scientific development. Or if you are reviewing a work of fiction like Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, consider how Hawthorne's book relates to other 19th-century works of romanticism and historical fiction set in the same time period (the 17th century) as points of comparison.

Image titled Review a Book Step 3

  • Pay attention to the preface, any quotes, and /or references in the book's introduction, as this content will likely shed light on the book's major themes and viewpoint.
  • A simple way to determine one of the major themes of a book is to sum up the book in one word or sentence. [1] X Research source So, for example, the major theme of The Scarlet Letter could be "sin". Once you have your one-word summary, stretch the single word into a message or lesson, such as "sin can lead to knowledge, but it can also lead to suffering."

Image titled Review a Book Step 4

  • For example, in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne attempts to combine the writing style of the Romantic Period (1800-1855) with the common, everyday language of the American Puritans of the 1600s. Hawthorne does this with long, descriptive sentences that are strung together with commas and semicolons. [3] X Research source

Image titled Review a Book Step 5

  • In the Scarlet Letter, for example, Hawthorne begins the book with an introduction to the text, narrated by an individual who has many autobiographical details in common with the author. In the introduction, the nameless narrator tells the story of finding the manuscript bundled in a scarlet letter "A". Hawthorne uses this narrative framing to create a story within a story, an important detail when discussing the book as a whole.

Image titled Review a Book Step 7

  • If we were to use the Scarlett Letter again, it would be significant to note that Hawthorne chose the adulterer and sinner Hester Prynne as his protagonist, and placed the religious, anti-sin Reverend Wilson in the role of antagonist. In writing a review of The Scarlet Letter, it would be useful to consider why Hawthorne did this, and how it relates back to the book's overall theme of sin.

Image titled Review a Book Step 8

Creating a First Draft of the Review

Image titled Review a Book Step 10

  • Ensure your introduction contains relevant details like the author's background, and if applicable, their previous work in the genre. [4] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source You can also indicate the main themes you will be discussing in your review to situate the reader and give them an indication of your "take" on the book.
  • Several possible openings include: a historical moment, an anecdote, a surprising or intriguing statement, and declarative statements. Regardless of your opening sentences, make sure they directly relate to your critical response to the book and keep them short and to the point.
  • If you're unsure on how to begin the review, try writing your introduction last. It may be easier to organize all of your supporting points and your critical position, and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the review. [5] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Image titled Review a Book Step 12

  • Keep the summary short, to the point, and informative. Use quotes or paraphrasing from the book to support your summary. [6] X Research source Make sure you properly cite all quotes and paraphrasing in your review to avoid plagiarism. [7] X Research source
  • Be wary of summaries that begin with phrases like “[This essay] is about…” “[This book] is the story of…” “[This author] writes about…”. [8] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Focus on weaving a description of the book's setting, narrative voice, and plot within a critical analysis. Avoid simply regurgitating the book's premise.
  • Don't give away important details or reveal the ending of the book in your summary, and don't go into detail about what happens from the middle of the book onwards. [9] X Research source As well, if the book is part of a series, you can mention this to potential readers and situate the book within the series. [10] X Research source

Image titled Review a Book Step 13

  • Use the answers you brainstormed during your preparation for the review to formulate your critique. Address how well the book has achieved its goal, how the book compares to other books on the subject, specific points that were not convincing or lacked development, and what personal experiences, if any, you've had related to the subject of the book.
  • Always use (properly cited) supporting quotes and passages from the book to back up your critical discussion. This not only reinforces your viewpoint with a trustworthy source, it also gives the reader a sense of the writing style and narrative voice of the book. [11] X Research source
  • The general rule of thumb is that the first one-half to two-thirds of the review should summarize the author’s main ideas, and at least one-third should evaluate the book.

Image titled Review a Book Step 14

  • Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the book, and discuss whether you would recommend the book to others. If so, who do you think is the ideal audience for the book? [12] X Research source Do not introduce new material in your conclusion or discuss a new idea or impression that was not examined in your introduction and body paragraphs. [13] X Research source
  • You can also give the book a numerical score, a thumbs up or thumbs down, or a starred rating. [14] X Research source

Polishing the Review

Image titled Review a Book Step 15

  • Always use spell check and adjust any grammar or spelling. Nothing undermines a quality review more than bad spelling and grammar.
  • Double check that all quotes and references are properly cited in your review.

Image titled Review a Book Step 16

Community Q&A

Community Answer

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

  • As you're writing, try thinking of your reader as a friend to whom you're telling a story. How would you relay the book's themes and main points to a friend in a casual conversation? This will help you balance formal and informal language and simplify your critical assessment. [15] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. Being critical means pointing out shortcomings or failures, but avoid focusing your criticism of the book on what the book is not. Be fair in your discussion and always consider the value of the book for its audience. [16] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Make sure, after you've finished your review, to reread it and check any grammar or spelling mistakes so that it makes sense. Try reading your review from numerous perspectives, or asking a friend to proofread it for you. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

Make sure to read the book thoroughly. If you don't, it will be bad.

critical review of a novel

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a book review, start with a heading that includes the book's title, author, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, and number of pages. Then, open your review with an introduction that includes the author's background as well as the main points you'll be making. Next, split up the body of your review so the first half of the review is a summary of the author's main ideas and the rest is your critique of the book. Finally, close your review with a concluding paragraph that briefly summarizes your analysis. To learn how to read a book critically so it's easier to write a review, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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‘Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland’ Review: The Troubles’ Survivors Speak

This series on pbs is an unvarnished look back at the violent history of the conflict, as remembered by those who lived through it..

John Anderson

Aug. 24, 2023 5:17 pm ET


The “Troubles” that beset Northern Ireland for three decades have hardly been neglected by TV and movies over the years, so encountering the five-part “Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland” on PBS might raise a question about timing. This year does mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed in 1998, but the peace has never been easy, not enough to risk old wounds being reopened. But the answer to “Why right now?” becomes obvious fairly early in the series, “right now” being the only time this particular study could have been done.

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‘you are so not invited to my bat mitzvah’ puts adam sandler’s kids front and center.

Brian Lowry

At first glance, “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” looks like the gift for kids who have everything: A starring role in one of dad’s Netflix movies. Yet Adam Sandler’s daughter Sunny – the clear belle of the ball – quickly dampens the “nepo baby” asides with her winning, natural performance in a familiar but very nicely done coming-of-age story.

Sunny is one of four Sandlers featured, with Adam playing her dad (as well as producing the movie), real-life older sister Sadie as her sister and mom Jackie as the mother of her best friend, who becomes the “so not invited” part of the title as the two girls clash over a boy at the religious school they attend.

Yet as adapted by director Sammi Cohen and writer Alison Peck from Fiona Rosenbloom’s book, the film acts as a sort-of Jewish companion to “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” – itself the subject of a recent movie adaptation – as Stacy Friedman (Sunny Sandler) talks to God as she narrates her enthusiasm about her coming Bat Mitzvah amid the angst, crushes and occasional humiliation associated with becoming a teenager.

Like a lot of teenage girls in such stories, Stacy harbors a secret crush on the dreamy if monosyllabic Andy (Dylan Hoffman), a secret she shares with her best-friend-since-toddlerhood Lydia (Samantha Lorraine), who tends to give Stacy lots of good advice that, in her desire to fit in, she isn’t always eager to heed.

Specifically, Lydia starts to get attention from the popular girls, which provokes some jealously on Stacy’s part, who nevertheless seizes on the opportunity, at the potential expense of their nerdier outsider pals.

There’s nothing much new in any of this, but the movie’s charms largely reside in its smallish details, from Lydia casually saying “My mom is trying to spend all my dad’s money before the next court date” to “Saturday Night Live’s” Sarah Sherman dropping in as the hip (or rather, wannabe hip) rabbi trying, awkwardly, to bond with the kids.

Then there are those unrealistic Bat Mitzvah fantasies, as the girls picture elaborate affairs involving yachts and guest appearances by Olivia Rodrigo, while mom ( Idina Menzel , like Sandler, in a very secondary role) and dad lament the insane escalation surrounding the ceremony, with the latter noting sarcastically that the theme of his Bar Mitzvah was “Being Jewish.”

Sandler is hardly the first Hollywood luminary to leverage that status to create employment opportunities for those sharing his surname; still, this showcase for Sunny, in particular, represents a major step up in class from modest cameos in his recent movies, including the Netflix titles “Hustle” and “Murder Mystery.”

While the elder Sandler hasn’t exactly raised the creative bar with his Netflix output, “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” marks a refreshing addition to that filmography, turning this family enterprise into a polished and ultimately sweet look at growing up. And who knows? A few more efforts like this one, and the youngest Sandler will have more than earned her place at the cool kids’ table.

“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” premieres August 25 on Netflix. It’s rated PG-13.

The Strange Feminism of Golda

The biopic starring helen mirren shies away from the moral implications of golda meir’s decisions..

critical review of a novel

There’s a powerful and timely political message running through Golda , the new historical drama starring Helen Mirren as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and that message is this: Smoking kills. You may have been under the impression that inhaling carcinogens constantly for years makes you look cool while helping to relieve stress and anxiety—benefits that anyone, but perhaps especially a national leader during wartime , might find appealing. But it turns out that regular tobacco consumption can increase the risk of developing lymphoma, the cancer that killed Meir in 1978 at age 80, by as much as 45 percent. Getting there is no fun either: You can expect hair loss, bloody coughing, and myriad other unpleasantness, all of which Meir apparently experienced while she was directing Israel’s counteroffensives against Egypt and Syria. So if you are a daily smoker, consider quitting, or you might spend your final days alone on a respirator in a hospital bed as your world-historical legacy plays out on TV, solemnly soundtracked by Leonard Cohen’s “ Who By Fire .”

Scenes of Meir smoking, ignoring the advice of her doctors and her personal aide to quit smoking, and suffering the ruinous consequences of smoking take up practically all of Golda ’s 100-minute running time, ensuring that this message won’t be lost on anyone. By contrast, the word “Palestinians” comes up exactly once, in a brief montage at the beginning laying out the bare facts of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and 1967 victory in the Six-Day War. The existence of a Palestinian refugee problem is alluded to almost apologetically, no doubt in the hopes that this will satisfy critics of Israel. There is no explicit reference to the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that marked Israel’s founding, or to the subsequent military occupation of internationally recognized Palestinian territories, which had been going on for six years at the time of the 1973 war and by now has gone on for 56 years, with no end in sight.

“There was no such thing as Palestinians,” Meir herself said in an infamous 1969 interview, and Golda makes the most perfunctory possible effort to correct her. If, like me, you were taught from a young age to understand Israel as a small, scrappy democracy surrounded by hostile Arab states that want to destroy it for no apparent reason, Golda is not going to do much to complicate that narrative.

I went into Golda with rock-bottom expectations, low enough that the film may have actually exceeded them. The performances are solid—Mirren, in particular, is remarkably human under layers of prosthetics—and director Guy Nattiv has crafted a competent little historical thriller that walks us efficiently through the beats of a major geopolitical crisis. If Golda spends zero time on the Palestinians, it spends only a bit more time than that on its protagonist’s formative traumas (antisemitism in the czarist Ukraine of her early childhood, which she recounts to win a political argument) and none whatsoever on her youth in Milwaukee, her young adulthood on a kibbutz in Mandatory Palestine, or her rise to political power in the male-dominated founding generation of the State of Israel.

Golda is not really a biopic; it keeps a tight focus on the Yom Kippur War, tracking the high-level decision-making day by day. The film uses a government hearing Meir was subjected to the following year as a frame for understanding why she made or failed to make certain strategic calls. The Agranat Commission hearing is a narrative device not unlike the one Christopher Nolan uses in the far more interesting Oppenheimer , but whereas Nolan is trying to show how the creator of the atomic bomb was subsequently brought down by his enemies in government, the stakes for Meir turn out to be considerably lower. Between the war and the cancer, the hearing is just a minor nuisance.

Of all the Israeli wars one might revisit in this format, 1973 could be the most dramatically rich choice. If 1948 and 1967 were unambiguous triumphs for Israel, 1973 was at best a draw, and could plausibly be spun as an Egyptian victory. This earned Egyptian President Anwar Sadat the domestic political capital he needed to spend in order to recognize the Jewish state and sign a formal peace treaty at Camp David five years later, which Meir would live just long enough to see. Israel’s political leadership was sufficiently shaken by the joint Egyptian and Syrian attacks on the holiest day of the Jewish year that Meir’s legacy remains controversial in Israel decades later; the decision by Meir and her military advisers not to strike first may have increased the Israeli death toll by hundreds. The Israelis faced an existential threat, and Meir turned to the United States for deliverance—and specifically to Henry Kissinger, who, in the final year of Richard Nixon’s doomed presidency, retained the global diplomatic clout to negotiate a cease-fire that both sides could respect.

To the extent Golda resists dull hagiography, it does so because Nattiv is an Israeli who clearly admires Meir but also understands that many of his countrymen are still angry at her: for failing to strike first; for green-lighting Ariel Sharon’s ill-considered push across the Suez Canal that, as she puts it, “created an army of widows and orphans”; and for then agreeing to Kissinger’s cease-fire instead of pressing ahead to Cairo, damn the consequences, as many Israeli hawks would have preferred. The film is effective at capturing Israel as a traumatized nation, in which Holocaust survivors are omnipresent and young men are eager to be heroes even when the political circumstances call for something less than heroic. Beyond being sickly and irritable, the Meir we get to know has to navigate between channeling the traumas of her electorate and making the rational choices that will best serve them. It’s an impossible balancing act, and it inevitably reveals human flaws.

On the other hand, Meir is played by Helen Mirren. Of course we’re supposed to root for her! And the casting of Mirren—who, like Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer and Bradley Cooper in the forthcoming Leonard Bernstein biopic, Maestro , is yet another example of a famous gentile playing a famous Jew —may provide a clue as to why Golda exists at all. In 2006, Mirren starred as Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’s The Queen , and in 2019, she portrayed the titular Russian empress in the entertaining but inconsequential HBO miniseries Catherine the Great . Elizabeth ruled the British Commonwealth as an all-but-powerless figurehead, and Catherine’s reign was long enough ago that it didn’t occur to critics to read any geopolitical subtext into the series (though it’s hard to imagine it getting made since Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Ukraine, which is essentially an attempt to reconquer the lands Catherine first brought under Russian rule). Four years ago, Catherine the Great was received as simply a raunchy costume drama starring the beloved and charismatic Mirren as one of history’s best-known women leaders, who was “great” in the morally neutral sense of having accomplished vast and terrible things.

I suspect this is also why Mirren wanted to play Meir. Though Golda mercifully avoids on-the-nose dialogue to this effect, this is a movie about a tough and ruthless woman presiding over an all-male Cabinet engaged in the traditionally male fields of politics and warfare. The contemporary American audience for a movie about the Yom Kippur War, or about Israel in general, is limited, but there are plenty of people who are still upset that we never got to see Hillary Clinton at the apex of American Empire. For them, seeing Mirren in the role of Catherine the Great or Golda Meir might serve as a kind of wish fulfillment: proof that women are just as capable as men of ordering (mostly) men into battle, regardless of why the battle is happening or what the underlying political stakes are. The common term for this is “girlboss feminism,” and if nothing else, Meir—the fourth elected female leader of any country, and the first in Israel—makes for a plausible girlboss.

Golda ’s indifference to the deeper moral implications of politics extends to the casting of the reliably likable Liev Schreiber as Kissinger; to prepare for the role, Schreiber actually met with the century-old diplomat in his apartment and incorporated his recollections into the script. It’s an understated performance—Kissinger as soft-spoken German-Jewish academic turned diplomat whose calm and rational foreign policy realism makes for a logical foil to Meir’s hard-edged, straight-from-the-shtetl, fighting Zionism. “I’m an American first, secretary of state second, and a Jew third,” he tells Meir over borscht in her modest apartment, gently reminding her that appeals to common peoplehood will only get her so far with him (her oh-so-clever rejoinder, that Israelis read from right to left, was related to Schreiber by Kissinger).

If you’re a liberal American Jew watching this, Kissinger is your stand-in here, pushing for Meir to make peace even though she leads a nation primed for endless war. In the narrow context of the film, this is accurate; Kissinger really did have to twist the Israelis’ arms to make peace, and it was probably for the best that he did. The script has Meir describe Kissinger as single-mindedly obsessed with checking the Soviet Union , which backed the Syrians and Egyptians in the war, and certainly Cold War realpolitik was central to Kissinger’s thinking, as was his countervailing and valid concern that the Gulf monarchies would spike the price of oil to punish the U.S. for supporting Israel. But we are talking about a man who the previous month had conspired with a right-wing junta to overthrow Chile’s elected left-wing leader and who, over the previous several years, had played an instrumental role in everything from the carpet-bombing of Cambodia to the genocide in Bangladesh. I’m not saying Golda needed to cover any of that, only that some hint of the kind of monster we’re dealing with would have made for a more interesting performance.

It also might have hinted at what the long-term legacy of the U.S.-brokered cease-fire and the subsequent Camp David Accords has proved to be. It’s true that Israel has never since faced the kind of conventional military threat it confronted in 1973, but the price of peace has been borne above all by the Palestinians, who have endured decades of statelessness, dispossession, and periodic airstrikes while Washington showers military aid on both their Israeli occupiers and a series of autocrats in neighboring Egypt. It’s understandable why Israelis like Nattiv, who was born the same year Golda takes place, are grateful for this legacy; for them, it has meant growing up in a safer, more prosperous, less isolated country, and even having the freedom to visit the pyramids. But that freedom is premised on what can fairly be termed an apartheid regime—one that has only become more entrenched with each passing year since the accords.

Golda is dedicated to the memory of all the men and women who fought in the Yom Kippur War, a phrasing that implicitly acknowledges the humanity of the Egyptian and Syrian soldiers (who between them took several times as many casualties as the Israelis) and situates Nattiv on the liberal end of the Israeli political spectrum. In an interview with Deadline , responding to critics of the film’s de-emphasis on Palestinians, he said, “No-one was speaking about the Palestinians while we were fighting the Egyptians.” He added that if he’d had a whole miniseries to explore Meir’s life, he’d have included her feelings about the Palestinians—and, moreover, that he has Palestinian friends and even uses the word “Nakba” himself. But if Nattiv acknowledges the injustice of the occupation in interviews, why can’t he find any room to do so in the film?

The answer seems to be that he is more interested in rescuing the dignity of Israel’s founding generation in the context of its current political crisis. Nattiv has participated in the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform, which is rapidly transforming Israel into an illiberal democracy along the lines of Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. “We miss leaders like Golda, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin that took responsibility and didn’t point fingers,” he told Deadline , drawing an obvious contrast with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is a corrupt thug, but his violent offenses against the Palestinians are on a continuum with those of his more left-leaning predecessors from Israel’s founding generation. Can a country that claims the right to impose indefinite military rule over millions of people on the basis of their ethnicity really call itself a democracy? Far too many of the Israelis protesting Netanyahu right now have been passive at best in the face of the occupation and have only turned out to protest when their own rights have come under direct threat. Golda didn’t have to be centrally concerned with the Palestinian question—the Yom Kippur War was a dramatic historical episode, Meir was a major historical figure, and filmmakers should have the right to choose their subject matter—but it ought to have something meaningful to say about the nature of the Zionist project to the younger generation of American Jew s, who are increasingly disenchanted with Israel and disinclined to empathize with the Israeli perspective. Failing that, it may at least persuade some of them to switch to vapes.

David Klion is a writer in Brooklyn.

critical review of a novel

critical review of a novel

‘The Equalizer 3’ Review: Denzel Washington Leans on His Star Charisma Once Again in Brutal Vigilante Sequel

Reteaming for the fifth time, director Antoine Fuqua and his ‘Training Day’ star leverage the familiarity they’ve established for the audience’s benefit.

By Murtada Elfadl

Murtada Elfadl

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Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall in Columbia Pictures THE EQUALIZER 3. Photo by: Stefano Montesi

Fuqua throws the audience directly into the action. The camera follows a man as he walks through an Italian vineyard strewn with bodies, knives and bullet wounds jutting out of them. McCall must be close by, a point reinforced by Marcelo Zarvos’ quietly alarming score. Though McCall manages to eliminate nearly all of his enemies once again, he does get hurt, saved by a kind policeman (Eugenio Mastrandrea) who takes him to a small-town doctor instead of a hospital.

As McCall recuperates, he makes connections with the locals: a flirty cafe owner, a fish seller who won’t let him pay, even a priest. Before long, he begins to relax and think of this place and people as his community. However, his trained spy eyes notice what’s lurking beneath this friendly surface — namely, that the mafia has a hold on these lovely people, controlling them with threats and extortion. The vigilante in him wakes up, and he proceeds to protect his new friends.

There’s more to the mafia backstory that involves an international conspiracy of drug money financing terrorists, so McCall enlists the help of a young CIA operative (Dakota Fanning). Despite these complications, the script — by returning screenwriter Richard Wenk — keeps things simple enough and repeats the plot revelations to make it easier on the audience. It’s always clear who the bad guys are: men who are just as violent as McCall. Additionally, the screenplay manages to convey how McCall charms the townspeople without becoming cloying or overtly earnest.

This time, he even gets to speak Italian and show a different side of McCall. True to formula, the movie gives him a chance to mentor a younger person. This time it’s Fanning’s spy. Their scenes together have a familial undertone, even if they are supposed to be strangers. The actors have worked together before (in 2004’s “Man on Fire”), and Fanning brings out Washington’s humorous side, as their time together becomes a short respite from the fury elsewhere.

Like its two predecessors, “The Equalizer 3” demands a strong stomach. There’s violence aplenty, loud bullets, body impalement and maiming. Some of it is cruel but draped in a veil of good intentions so earnest, its purpose is never questioned. There’s even a well-staged “Spartacus” moment in the town square where everybody comes together to support McCall, making it easy to accept, even applaud, when the bad guys are sadistically dispatched.

Fuqua orchestrates the action with propulsive style. Some of the visual motifs might be obvious — blood running into red wine — but it works. Collaborating with DP Robert Richardson, he takes advantage of the Italian setting to give the film a spacious feel. The creative team knows their ace in Washington, showing him off in dark and shadowy compositions, as if he were an avenging angel from the heavens. Zarvos’ music has two modes: threateningly ominous or loudly throbbing. It’s all very effective, like so much of the film, delivering exactly what’s expected. No more and no less.

Washington tends to alternate between action movies and prestige Oscar projects. While this film and others like it might not win him awards or critical raves, they remain watchable and entertaining, aided in no small part by the directors in charge. Both Fuqua and the late Tony Scott (with whom Washington also made five films) are able to deliver well-made adrenaline jolts. And Washington never phones it in. He’s always immensely present, knowing what his audience wants and giving it to them in true movie star fashion.

Reviewed at Regal Union Square, New York, Aug. 28, 2023. MPA Rating: R. Running time: 108 MIN.

  • Production: A Columbia Pictures release, in association with Eagle Pictures, of an Escape Artists, Zhiv production. Producers: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Denzel Washington, Antoine Fuqua, Steve Tisch, Clayton Townsend, Alex Siskin, Tony Eldridge, Michael Sloan. Executive producers: David Bloomfield, Tarak Ben Ammar, Andy Mitchell. Co-producer: Richard Wenk.
  • Crew: Director: Antoine Fuqua. Screenplay: Richard Wenk, based on the television series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. Camera: Robert Richardson. Editor: Conrad Buff. Music: Marcelo Zarvos.
  • With: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, David Denman, Eugenio Mastrandrea.

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Ahsoka episode 3 review: "Unexceptional but not a disaster, yet"


GamesRadar+ Verdict

Negligible plot momentum and lightweight character progression facilitate an unexceptional third episode, where Ahsoka basically points out where it’s going rather than actually going there.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

This review features minor spoilers for episode 3 - you have been warned...

“Not bad, but not good,” says Huyang , an ancient droid who long ago served the Jedi Order (and with the voice of chameleonic thespian David Tennant). While Huyang is referring to the results of Sabine’s lightsaber evaluation, his analysis also works for this episode of Ahsoka.

'Time to Fly', the third chapter of the latest live-action Star Wars series, occupies that annoying middle ground where it isn’t all expensive junk that is a symptom of the streaming era’s diseases. But neither is it a must-watch. Returning series director Steph Green, whose previous work nabbed Oscar and Emmy nominations (New Boy, Watchmen), seems to operate here on cruise control; despite riotous dogfighting that would have George Lucas salivating and some engaging character moments, nothing ever coalesces into singularly gripping appointment viewing. 'Time to Fly' is not the legendary Star Wars saga as a TV episode, but a functional TV episode that inexplicably carries the name of Star Wars.

Estranged buddies

Picking up just moments after episode 2, 'Time to Fly' presses onward in the series’ primary narrative of Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) and her relationship with the aforementioned Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). To briefly recap, the two are estranged war buddies who reluctantly reunite to defeat a resurgent Empire. While Sabine is first and foremost a Mandalorian, she opts to resume Jedi training under Ahsoka, with Huyang’s assistance. Meanwhile, Hera (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) runs into red tape from New Republic politicians who putz around and seem no more useful than their Empire predecessors. Thus, with whatever Ahsoka and Sabine encounter on their way to Seatos, they are on their own. 

Thanks to Tennant and his reliably brilliant talents even when playing a bafflingly old robot, Huyang is an honest menace about Sabine’s shortcomings as a would-be Jedi. “I only spoke the truth,” he asserts to Ahsoka, adding that her Padawan would not be an “acceptable candidate” for the Jedi. Ahsoka contends that not only are the Jedi gone and so their standards are bupkis, but Ahsoka simply needs Sabine to be her best and not the best. How fitting for a saga that began with Luke Skywalker, a farm boy with no inkling who the Jedi Order even were and is now himself so mythic that he even got Moff Gideon to quiver. If there’s anything worthwhile in this episode besides Tennant’s delectable line delivery, it is what Ahsoka wants from Sabine – to do all that only she can – that is shaping up into the core of her show. As Huyang himself observes, “In that way, she fits right in.”

An increasingly critical state

Somewhat ironically, 'Time to Fly' is not Star Wars at its best. Even with Ahsoka's stacked deck that includes a wildly beloved main character (played by a usually exceptional actress) and the endless resources of a powerful Disney regime, this week’s episode doesn’t bother to take advantage of its strongest assets. In its storytelling, it pretty much just circles its destination in Sharpie ink to tell us where things are going rather than actually going there. We learn this week the Empire’s remnants, including yet-to-be-seen Thrawn, are constructing a powerful “hyperspace ring” – basically a slingshot for spaceships – which Huyang fears can bring the Empire to anywhere it wants, at any time. Terrifying! But even with an efficient exposition dump, Ahsoka's third episode lacks the right urgency and tone for the threat to really register.

Working in Ahsoka's favor is Green’s proven expertise as a TV director; bear witness to how the visualist responsible for one of Watchmen's best episodes makes Ahsoka believable as a bonafide Jedi master in the opening training sequence. Watch her soar with a rousing space battle – its energy buoyed by spatial cohesion and proper pacing – that is all appropriately exciting in the way Star Wars is meant and expected to be. Praise be to Grogu for her, because Ahsoka could easily derail by the continued concrete performances from most of the cast save for Tennant (again) as well as both Ray Stevenson and Diana Lee Inosanto, who elevate their Sith antagonists above Power Rangers villains that they would otherwise feel like from lesser actors.

Ahsoka isn’t a disaster, yet, and 'Time to Fly' offers enough Saturday morning cartoon whimsy to not feel like a complete waste of time. But overall franchise fatigue in the wider culture, as evidenced by the lower box office for Marvel films, Fast & Furious, and even Mission: Impossible sequels this summer, leaves Ahsoka in an increasingly critical state to define its identity, get to the point, and bedazzle a more cynical audience – and fast. All told, things aren’t looking good. But with five episodes still to go and some semblance of direction established, things aren’t so bad either. 

New episodes of Ahsoka drop every Tuesday in the US and Wednesday in the UK on Disney Plus . For more on the Star Wars show, check out our guides to:

  • The history between Anakin and Ahsoka explained 
  • Everything you need to know about Star Wars Rebels  
  • What to watch before Ahsoka  
  • How to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars in order
  • Where does Ahsoka take place on the Star Wars timeline ?
  • Ahsoka release schedule explained

Eric Francisco is a freelance entertainment journalist and graduate of Rutgers University. If a movie or TV show has superheroes, spaceships, kung fu, or John Cena, he's your guy to make sense of it. A former senior writer at Inverse, his byline has also appeared at Vulture, The Daily Beast, Observer, and The Mary Sue. You can find him screaming at Devils hockey games or dodging enemy fire in Call of Duty: Warzone.

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