Handout for a Book Review assignment

"Book Stack On Wood Shelf" by vorakorn at freedigitalphotos.net
“Book Stack On Wood Shelf” by vorakorn at freedigitalphotos.net

Although I’ve adopted rubrics for all assignments, I also find that students sometimes need more information about my expectations than can be provided in a rubric alone if they are to complete projects successfully. I therefore usually have a handout that details how to complete the response paper, article review, etc. I’m posting here a book review guideline that I’ve used in my “Introduction to Latin American Studies” class. Obviously, the handout is pitched to introductory and sophomore students, who may have limited experience with book reviews. In my experience, although book reviews seem straightforward to faculty, they can be daunting for students. For this reason, this outline gives a great deal of detail about my expectations. Good luck adapting it to your projects. And if you are new the blog, check out the top ten most popular posts. Shawn Smallman, Portland State University.

Guide for the Book Review.


Students will write a five page book review of one of the two assigned books for the course. This paper is due in Dropbox by 5pm on Thursday, October 25th. The paper will be double spaced, with one-inch margins, no font-size larger than thirteen, and no spaces between paragraphs. Your paper should have page numbers. You do not need a bibliography. Although we are only discussing selections of Mann in the class, you will be expected to have read the entire work if that is your choice for the book review.


A book review is not a summary of the work, although you will have to provide a brief description (no more than one page) of the book for the reader.  Instead, the key question any book review asks is what is the author trying to do, and how well do they do it?  The book review then analyzes interesting questions raised in the work, problems with the book, ties to other issues raised in the course, etc. . . Your paper should have a strong introduction and conclusion, and a clear organization throughout. Please do not focus on your emotional reaction to the reading. I am more concerned with your analysis. There is no need to do additional reading for this project. You should use spell-check, and proof read meticulously for grammar errors. Random papers will be checked for plagiarism online. Please note the late paper policy in the syllabus.


This can sound intimidating. But what a book review should be is an interesting discussion of the book. In class we will be talking about particular books, and having a conversation about these works. A book review would make the same kind of points, and consider the same kind of issues, as in a class discussion. Once you have evaluated the book (what are its strengths and weaknesses; does the author accomplish what they are trying to do?) you move on to the points or questions that particularly interested you about the work, and what they tell you about the author or book.




I have run spell check __

I have had a friend or classmate read it (to check for awkward wording, etc.)  __

I do not have excessive summary of the book _

I have good transitions between paragraphs _

I have a strong introduction and conclusion __

I do not focus on my emotional response to the book __

I evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the work __

I talk about particular questions or issues raised by the work that interest me __

I did not use text from book reviews available on-line __

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