How to write a book review
Perhaps the best way to offer guidelines on how to write a book review is to give you an example of the kind of instructions and guidelines we (i.e. the academic staff) would be given by journals who invite us to review books for them. So, here are the instructions given to authors by the ‘Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders’. “A book review should be an objective and tactful evaluation of a book. The review should offer logic and fact in support of its evaluations. Without being just an abstract of the book, the review should indicate the nature and scope of the book’s content. It should indicate the goals of the author, the techniques used to achieve those goals, and the success of those techniques. You may also discuss how the book relates to its field and how it compares to other books in the field. It is important for your review to discuss what audience the book or other media best serves and to state whether the reviewer recommends it. The review should attempt to place the book within a context (e.g., Is this a new approach? One that builds on an earlier one?). Reviews should attempt to convey a flavor of the book overall (i.e., not just summarize the table of contents. Quotes (see below – AQ: are there examples to be provided?) can often help in this process. If you feel that the book does not merit a review in the Journal please let us know – there is no requirement that we review every book received and it is perfectly acceptable to do a negative review!” ….and here is an example of an actual review written by Dermot Bowler and published in the European Journal of Disorders of Communication (Volume 31, pp 210-213). Note, however, that this review is somewhat longer than your word-limit permits. SAMPLE REVIEW (reproduced with permission of the author):
Review of Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press. The integration of a range of theoretical perspectives to provide a coherent scientific account of a natural phenomenon is an easy task only for those who have never had to do it. In this volume, Simon Baron-Cohen has attempted such a difficult exercise by integrating currently fashionable modularist cognitive science accounts of the social dysfunction found in people with autism into neuropsychological and evolutionary frameworks. In the first three Chapters of the book, he aims to persuade us firstly that the explanation of the behaviour of other people using the mentalistic language of folk-psychology (John took his umbrella with him because he thought it might rain) is both highly efficient and evolutionarily advantageous to a species such as ourselves that relies heavily on social organisation for survival. In Chapter 4, he generates a model of development which can account for the emergence of the capacity to mindread in non-autistic children and, taking the well documented deficits in autism of lack of protodeclarative pointing, lack of symbolic play and the failure to understand that another person can act in accordance with a belief that the observer knows to be false, their failure to develop in children with autism. His account draws heavily on Fodor's (1983) notion that the mind is made up of independent domain-specific modules, the outputs of which interact to yield mental life and behaviour. He also develops earlier accounts such as that of Leslie and Roth (1993), which posit a specific modular mechanism that enables people to understand minds. Specifically, Baron-Cohen outlines four modular systems that are necessary for the process he calls 'mindreading'. The first of these he terms an intentionality detector (ID) which is triggered by stimuli exhibiting self-propelled motion and computes desire- or goal-based dyadic representations. The second is the eye direction detector (EDD) which is fired by eye-like stimuli and generates representations of the contents of agents' visual fields....
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