Writing a Book Review

Writing a book review can be a thankless task, but it is also a great opportunity to engage with scholarship, practice short writing, and develop a critical mind. And heck, you get a free book!

Reviews should be between 750 and 1000 words long, and should conform to the GJFS style guidelines. The book you review may be cited with in-text citations, but outside sources must be in endnotes. Reviewers should submit their drafts with the following listed at the top of the page:

BOOK REVIEW | YOUR NAME [reviewer name]
Full Title of Book [not italicized]
Author Name
Name of University Press, Year. xii, 208 pp. [number of pages in preface, then number of body text pages]

Books under review must be academic in nature and published within the past two years. Reviewers may propose a book of their choosing or select a book from our book list.

All reviews should give readers a sense of the book’s argument, content, and what it adds to existing literature. Reviewers should consider:

  • What is the book about? What is the author trying to argue?
  • Who is the intended audience? Who might find this book valuable?
  • How does this book compare to others in its subfield?
  • Is the book successful in the author’s aims? Is it original? How can it be improved?
  • Were the additional materials (suggested reading, glossary, appendices) useful?

It is difficult to answer these questions in fewer than 1000 words, so take notes as you read, make an outline for your review, and edit until your text is as concise as possible. The most successful reviews tend to give a short, general summary of what the book is about, focus on two or three original concepts, and end with a critique of its successes and shortcomings.

Reviewers should quote the book very sparingly, two to three times at most. Every quote must add value to the review that the writer’s own words cannot. Discussing the logic behind the structure of the book can be very valuable, but describing the table of contents is not.

Critique is necessary for a good review. It demonstrates ability to think critically about academic literature and evaluate it within the context of its field. However, all critique should be delivered in a balanced, fair, objective way. Write as if the author is reading, and you want to impress her.

We want writing a book review for this journal to be a constructive, painless, and maybe even fun process. If you are not sure what to write, just take a stab at your first draft. Our team will work with you through a few drafts to ensure that your writing is at its best before we publish it.

If you have any questions or need help during writing process, please contact our Reviews Editor, Clara Hanson, at reviews AT graduatefoodassociation DOT org.

©Copyright 2015 by the Graduate Association for Food Studies.