SAMPLE GUIDELINES FOR CRITICAL BOOK REVIEW
First, one must understand that a critical book review is not a book report (a summary of the
contents of a book). A critical book review is a vehicle for examining and discussing issues the
book itself raises or fails to raise. One writes a critical book review for the benefit of those who
might not presently have time to read the book but who nevertheless need to learn more about
its basic approach should they desire to read or study it at a future time. The job of the book
reviewer is to inform these readers concerning any merits and/or shortcomings the book may
have. From information based on a well-written review, the reader may conclude that this book
is either indispensable or inconsequential.
Components of a Critical Book Review
A. Give complete bibliographical information at the top of the page (title, author, publisher,
place of publication, date of publication, number of pages, and name of reviewer).
Use the following format:
Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
l987. 250 pages. Reviewed by Randy C. Slocum.
B. Briefly state the reason this book was chosen for review. State the author's credentials
(education, place of employment, previous achievements, etc.) as a preface to giving the book a
serious hearing. Biographical information about the author should be included only as it
demonstrates the author’s competency to write the book. Within the context of the paper, do
not use titles (Dr., Rev., etc.). In most brief reviews, you will likely need to limit the
introduction to one or two paragraphs.
C. Briefly (in one or two well-written sentences) summarize the thesis of the book.
This is a crucial step because the thesis contains the reason why the author produced this
particular book (there may be dozens on the market with similar subject matter).
The thesis will state the author's basic presuppositions and approach. The critical nature of the
book review will then grow from the reviewer's conclusion that the book does or does not
achieve the author's stated purpose.
D. The main body of a critical book review will be concerned with "thesis development."
That is, did the author achieve the stated purpose? In this section the reviewer will inspect each
of the chapters of the book to see how the thesis is (or is not) developed. If the author makes
progress and develops the thesis convincingly, providing adequate information and statistical
data, the reviewer says so, providing concrete examples and citing their page numbers in the
Given the limited amount of space in a brief book review, footnotes should not be utilized.
Quotations or ideas taken directly from the text should be followed parenthetically by the page
number of the quotation. The abbreviation for page(s) (p./pp.) should not be used.