Book Review Assignment Instructions
For this course, you will be required to complete two 1000-1250 word (approximately 4-5 pages) book review papers. Each paper will analyze a book that focus on some aspect of American history from 1914 to the present While you may choose any two non-fiction works of history focusing on this period, I highly recommend that you send me the title and author of the book to have it approved before you write your essay. I will approve only college-level works of history. The easiest way to ensure that the book you choose meets this standard is to check it out from the library at Foothill College. The vast majority of books students choose are approved; I am simply trying to make sure that you do not accidentally choose a collection of primary sources or a book geared to a high school audience. If you do not send me your book information ahead of time and review an inappropriate book your paper grade will be penalized.
If you are having trouble choosing a book I am happy to offer a suggestion. Just send me a message saying what topics you are interested in (for example, the Civil Rights Movement, World War II, the rise of conservative thought after the 1960’s, or women’s history) and I’ll come up with a couple of possible titles. Another good way to find a book is to look at the end of the chapters in the textbook. You will find a list of suggested “further reading” at the end of each chapter. All of these books would be good choices.
Once you have chosen a book to review, you will write a 1000-1250 word essay analyzing the text. Because many students may think of a “book report” as little more than a summary of a book’s contents, I have used the term “book review” to emphasize that something more is expected. The student is expected to go beyond merely outlining the contents. Although it is, of course, important to summarize the contents of the book as part of the review, the student should analyze it in some depth. In reading the book, the student should pay attention to the footnotes and bibliography, seek out information about the author, and consult the text and other books to gain a wider perspective on the book’s subject.
The most important aspect of the essays is to determine the thesis or main argument of the book and describe how this is presented and supported. Is the case convincing? Does the author seem to have approached the topic from a relatively objective point of view, or is a clear bias apparent? What sources did the author use? Is the author clearly arguing against another historian’s interpretation of the subject? What is your opinion about the argument the author is making?
All books of history have some argument in the material they are presenting. Try to identify what this argument is and give your opinion about the validity of this approach.
The main body of your reviews should be at 1000-1250 words in length (this is equivalent to at least 4 full pages in length, typed and double spaced, with margins no larger than 1 inch in width, using a standard word processing program). Every paper must have a full citation of the book being reviewed and a proper bibliography in the MLA style at the end if you have consulted any additional works.
Papers will be graded out of 9 points.
An “A” paper will address all of the following points:
- Papers must be written in college-level English.
- Papers must be at least 1000 words in length.
- Papers must review an approved or appropriate book.
- Papers must have a thesis and support that thesis in the body of the paper.
- Papers must not simply summarize the book being reviewed.
- Papers must use the MLA system of citation with a “Works Cited” page, giving a full citation for the book being reviewed and any other books cited.
Foothill College has a number of wonderful resources for students writing papers. Please take a look at the guides and suggestions that the Teaching and Learning Center (Links to an external site.)has to offer. This includes online assistance (Links to an external site.)with individual papers.
How to Do Citations
This library site (Links to an external site.) provides information about how to use citations within a paper and also explains plagarism and how to avoid it. In this class, we use the MLA system.
Foothill College Library
The Foothill library (Links to an external site.) is a great place to find a book for the book review paper! While the majority of the collection is of hard copy books, e-books are also available for those of you who are not local to the college.
The “Library Resources” link on the course menu on the left of your screen is also very helpful and contains a lot of advice about paper writing and information about the library’s resources.
I am happy to look at rough drafts or discuss ideas with you! Simply send me a message in the Inbox and we can work together to address any issues or questions you might have. Give yourself plenty of time to communicate with me, so don’t leave the paper until the last minute!
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