What is the political and historical context of the book? For example, if your book is about the

BOOK REVIEW

I.​NAME__________________________________________​DATE​____________

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​BOOK TITLE:​______________________________________________________

​AUTHOR _______________________________​PUBLISHER​__________________

​DATE OF PUBLICATION​________________​PLACE OF PUB.​____________

II.​AUTHOR’S THESIS: If you can put the author’s thesis in a single sentence, the commentary part will be easy.

III.​HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: What is the political and historical context of the book? For example, if your book is about the assassination of Lincoln, the historical context would include the end of the Civil War and the hostilities between the North and the South. If your book is a biography, it may cover a broad period of history, perhaps 70 or more years. In that case, one period may be more important or influential. Or the book may focus on a very narrow period of history such as a military campaign. In that case, what are the events just prior to the main focus of the book, which may have had significant influence on the subject at hand?

IV.​SUMMARY/DESCRIPTION OF CONTENTS: In this section, you inform the reader what the book says, how the contents were presented, and in general, write a brief synopsis of the book you read. Is it a biography, a history of diplomacy, or the narrative of a political campaign? Include the setting—time and place and a description of the main character or the author’s main idea. In this section, you also tell the reader about any extras that the book contains, such as a preface, introduction, maps, charts, and sources. For example, the biography of Eleanor Roosevelt by J. William T. Youngs uses a number of primary and secondary sources including Eleanor’s autobiography, letters, diaries, newspaper articles and schoolbooks.

V.​COMMENTARY: this is the heart of the review and the most difficult. Here you are observations, reflections or musings to which the book gives rise. Think of these as potential starting points for this part. This is where you get to criticize the author and agree or disagree with his main points. Is the author biased? Does the author seem to make assumptions and judgments that he or she cannot prove? If the book was written a long time ago, such as Plato’s Republic or Machiavelli’s The Prince, is it still relevant? How or why? Go back and check the historical and political background. How does it affect the author’s ideas? Is the author making a special commentary or is the book an objective report of the facts? Work up a draft. Revise your first draft. Revise your second draft. This, your third version, is the finished book review. You’re done!

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