How to review a book

I picked this up in my first weekend when at the University of Birmingham in 1914. I’ve applied it to a few books, such as Niall Ferguson’s ‘Pity of War’. You end up doing more than reading the book: you eat it with a knife and fork.

At any one time I have some six books out with reviewers; I took have around six books to get through (at least). The latest being ‘The Western Front: Landscape, Tourism and Heritage’ by Stephen Miles and the other the unusual, but smart, densely researched and seriously cited ‘National Myth and the First World War in Modern Popular Music’ by Peter Grant.

I’ve given neither this treatment, however I am going to go through ‘A Kingdom United’ by Catriona Pennell in this way because it is a text that I will need to have absorbed deeply before I tackle my dissertation, which in some respects would be treated like this, but with the focus on one modestly sized English market town and its immediate local.

 

Title

What does it suggest?

Thesis?

Author’s standpoint

 

Preface

Author’s stated purpose

Have they succeeded?

Freinds in high places

 

Contents and layout

Chronological

Thematic

 

Pre-Reading

Reputation

Qualifications

Influence

Approach in theoretical terms

 

The Field

The Historiographical Cycle

 

Preliminary Steps

Audience

Journal

Academic exercise

Author

What is the purpose of the book?

Cash

Academic publication

Book of the TV/Film

Contents

Authority

Version & Publisher

 

Reading the Book

Critical, but sympathetic

Do not set out to attack the book

Read carefully and thoroughly

Don’t skip – go back and read the hard bits!

Don’t skip the forewards, prefaces and notes on the end.

Read twice – preferably

Overview

Detailed read

 

Take Notes

Hard bits to re-read

Impressions as they develop

Helps to stay awake

 

Highlight?

Flags

Slips of paper

Post-Its

 

As you read – questions to keep in mind

What is the genre or field and how does the book fit into it?

 

How does the author approach the subject?

Assumptions

Concepts- defined?

Methodology

Audience

 

What is the central thesis?

Research question

Several these bound together

Unifying element

Ust be clearly defined

 

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