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How to Write a Book Review

Author: Hala Khalek

Writing a book review primarily means writing a critical summary of the book, by personally analysing the contents of the book and ultimately forming an opinion of the work of the writer. Thus, a book review is actually a critical evaluation of the book, which is not only informative, but also useful for readers who intend to read the book. A book review is written after thoroughly reading and comprehending the basic contents of the book, so that the author’s task extends beyond simply writing a summary of the book, by undertaking the responsibility to critique the ideas presented in the book, as lucidly and honestly as possible. While writing a book review is a comprehensive process, it involves three basic steps including, title, introduction, description and summary, which form the chief sections of the review followed by a critical analyses of the book.

Title: This section includes the name of the book, name of the author, publishing company and date and finally the number of pages. For instance a title in APA citation style would be:

David Waltner-Toews (2008) Food, Sex and Salmonella: Why Our Food is Making Us Sick. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 256 pages.


This is the first step in writing a book and introduces the topic and subject of the book to the reader. It also includes essential details such as the kind of literature presented in the book whether sociological, historical, academic or general. This section is could also comprise of any other information about the writer which could place the text and contents in a special perspective. An introduction to the above mentioned book could possibly begin as follows:

In Canada, food is very cheap with only ten percent of the total income being spent for shopping for food items, nearly half of what was being shelled out nearly four decades ago. However, with the cut in prices, there has also been an apparent decline in the quality of foods available at Canada’s grocery stores, resulting in the deaths of several individuals which were believed to have been caused by the Listeria bacteria traced in the cutting machines of a meat processing factory. The meat packaged at the factory was consumed mainly by senior people and those in hospitals, where readymade food is mainly brought in rather than being prepared.

Short Description and synopsis

This is the main section of the book review and includes a comprehensive and clear description of the book which helps in providing important insight to the prospective reader. Additionally, quotes from the book can be included in this section to provide important information about the work. One thing that needs to be remembered though is that the entire storyline of the book is not revealed, most importantly, the suspense of the book, since this would practically kill the reader’s interest. For instance:

            David Waltner-Toews is a veterinarian and epidemiologist, has revised and polished the first edition of his book and provided the audience with an edition which enables us to comprehend the existing and serious problems present in the foods we consume. Waltner-Toews compels us to think beyond the “normal” science in order to understand the “political and economic arrangement” which have a crucial impact on “food borne diseases” and infections which occur due to preservatives, parasites, metals, toxins and other harmful substances which affect the food while it is being processed and packaged for consumption……..

Critique or critical analysis

This section engages in a critical analysis or critique of the book, by taking on examples which are impactful and important. The section also presents the reader with a personal opinion regarding the worth of the book and the crucial message which is conveyed by the author. A critique is also a summation of the book review which could be concluded in the following manner:

  1.             In his book, Waltner-Toews asserts the fundamental point that reforms and solutions should be responsible, sensible and empathetic in addition to being reasonable and fair. Incidents which are casued due to contaminated food should be used as a means to realise that abuse and injustice in the ‘banana republics’ should be checked as a permanent solution rather than simply creating temporary means of correction like increasing food inspections on the borders of Canada. Using distinct cases and examples, Waltner-Toews startles the reader, educating and informing about the manner in which diseases and illnesses related to foods, occur in people. He proposes that “we sit down and listen to each other” so that “appropriate models for resolving food problems” other than “farm to fork technologies” can be created. The book ends with the golden rule “wash your hands………..Eat on”.  


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