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HIST 462, French Revolution (Brown): Evaluating book reviews


Trade reviews are for people who work with the publishing industry - bookstore owners, librarians, public relations people. 

Popular reviews are written for people who read books, to persuade them that a book might be worth reading because it's relevant to present day dilemmas or offers insight on the events it recounts or the topic of the publication it's written for.

A review for a scholarly audience might showcase the expertise of the reviewer, discuss historical methods and evidence, or contrast the book with other books in the field. 

Examples of things you might observe reviewers doing: 

  • predict who the book will appeal to
  • present summary
  • demonstrate relevance to current events
  • judge book's style or pace
  • anticipate audience's interests
  • promote book to potential readers
  • share expertise
  • suggest a way to evaluate this book
  • identify author's academic methods
  • compare to other works on the topic
  • critique approach 
  • critique scope (what did author choose to include or ignore)
  • discuss evidence used
  • speculate about evidence that was not included
  • discuss how argument is structured
  • comment on author's new or different ideas or interpretations

A New World Begins: reviews

First, look at each review and make a guess about the probable audience - as a group, decide if each is a trade, popular or scholarly review. (Use details on the site or google the publication title for clues about the intended audience.)  We'll check in before continuing.

Next, each group member should select a different popular or scholarly review to skim - please include at least one popular and scholarly review per group, and skip the trades. Take 5-10 minutes and jot down some observations about what the reviewer is doing - see the Predictions column on the left for a few examples of the variety of intellectual tasks done by reviewers. 

When everyone has had time to skim, summarize the tasks you observed in your review for the group. How are the scholarly and popular reviews different? Did the review you skimmed fit the predictions? 

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