How to Write a Critical Book Review in Chicago Manual Format

The purpose of a critical book review is to demonstrate a solid understanding of the material and to critique the concepts the book contains; it is more analytical than a book report, but requires less research than a term paper or critical essay. Refer to “The Chicago Manual of Style” to format the title page of the review, footnotes, and bibliographic references, and to resolve questions about grammar, style and punctuation.

Look over the preface or introduction and table of contents, skim through the book, and read the first and last chapters. Pick two or three possible main points for your paper then carefully read the entire book, taking notes as you go. Pay attention to the central ideas and the author’s point of view. Decide on whether you agree with the author’s conclusions and be able to defend your position.

Outline the structure of the paper. In the first paragraph, summarize the thesis of your review, list and discuss two or three main points, and discuss the purpose of your review. Write down the complete book title, the author’s name, and the date of publication to include on the title page after you finish your review.

Write a paragraph about each main point, discussing the author’s point of view. Consult other books or articles written on the same subject with different points of view to give you a balanced picture of the topic. In additional paragraphs, compare the evidence with the counter-evidence, summarizing your conclusion in a final paragraph or two. The paper should be approximately five pages.

Use quotations in your paper, but use them sparingly. Paraphrase the material in the book, incorporate other references in discussing the topic, and include your ideas. Quotations distinguish your opinion from the point of view of the authors, provide credibility to your review, and avoid plagiarism.

Format the paper according to the “Chicago Manual of Style.” Use New Times Roman 12-point font and left justification. On the first page, write the complete title of the book, the author's full name, the publisher's name, the place of publication, the date of publication, and the name of the reviewer — your name -- and the page numbers.

Footnotes follow the same format, but only include the specific page or page numbers referenced in each citation. For bibliographic references, invert the author's name starting with the last name first; do not include page numbers. An in-text citation includes the author's last name, the date of publication and the page or page numbers.


About the Author

Mary Foster began writing professionally in 1990. She has experience as a freelance copywriter and scriptwriter, and has worked for such organizations as Lockheed Martin and North Carolina Public TV. Foster has a Master of Arts in communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in film from the University of Central Florida.

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