Book Reviews

Beginnings

Like writing the introduction of a composition, there several possible strategies to use for beginning a book review. One type of strategic beginning is prompt definition-assigning meaning to terms in the title of the book, for example, or giving the scope of the review as it relates to the subject and the reviewer's response to the book. Another effective approach is to highlight the origins and past history of the subject treated in the book; this technique may also be used to introduce ideas about genre, style, or view of life, depending on what the reviewer has chosen as the focus of the review. A statement of exclusion shows what will not be addressed in a review and focuses attention on what really will be discussed.

At the beginning of his review of Reynold Price's Noble Norfleet, David Milofsky uses a comparison between Price's newest novel and his previous works: "It would be nice to report that Reynolds Price, the distinguished author of more than thirty books, including A Long and Happy Life and Surface of Earth, has added significantly to his oeuvre with his new novel, but such is not the case. Not by a long shot."

A reviewer might also quickly catch reader attention by appealing to human interest-perhaps a personal reference or brief anecdote. The anecdote should connect to or exemplify the main focus of the book review.

Note the anecdotal technique Wendy Rawlings uses in the introduction of her review of John D'Agata's Halls of Fame: "While on a recent trip to England, I witnessed a cultural exchange that struck me as emblematic of John D'Agata's book of essays, Halls of Fame. An American friend who has spent the past year tolerating a chilly flat in a London suburb for the sake of his British fiancée wanted me to guess the height of the World's Largest Pencil. 'I don't know-eight, nine feet tall?' I said. 'See? See? I knew it!' my friend shouted. He explained that when asked the same question, an English friend had guessed the height of the world's largest pencil to be 'perhaps a foot high, or two.' His modest expectations compared to my great ones (I could not but visualize the World's Largest Pencil as at least a foot taller than an NBA All-Star) represented to my friend something essential about the differences between British and American sensibilities."

« Previous
Continue »
Introduction