Instructions How to Write

Book Review

Central Message
Presumably you chose this book because it addresses an issue that you believe is important (e.g., in terms of individual or societal well-being). Why is this issue important, and what does the book say about this issue that you want your reader to know about? This is your central message. Weave this central message throughout your entire paper. Your opening paragraph should introduce central message very explicitly, and should set the stage for how the book will provide insights into the issue. The main body of your paper should unfold, in detail, how the book sheds light on this central message. Your closing paragraph should summarize your central message.

Don’t use slang, except if relevant to the point you’re making. For example, in her book, “Becoming Cliterate,” author Laurie Mintz describes the different ways that people might refer to having sex, including “getting fucked.” You may use that kind of slang, but only if it’s relevant to the point you are making. Put such slang in quotes (e.g., “getting fucked”) to show your reader that you’re aware that some people might find the language offensive, while allowing you to still make your point.

1. Introduce the book, the issue it addresses, and your central message (1 paragraph)
Describe the problem, question, or issue that is the primary topic of the book. For example, if the book is about pornography, tell the reader why this is a worthy topic of investigation. Or, if the book is about a sexual subculture, tell the reader in general terms about this group and their interests, and explain the value of understanding this subculture. Add a sentence or two foreshadowing how the book illuminates this issue.

2. Summarize the main points of the book (approx. 2 pages)
In your own words, describe the main points of the book. Do not merely list topics, this makes it look like you’ve only read the table of contents, but not the actual book. Instead, describe the actual ideas and information in the book, giving details and concrete examples. A person who reads your review should learn, in reasonable detail, the main points of the book. Describe in detail what you’ve learned from the book!

3. Synthesize the main points with course content (1-3 paragraphs)
Describe how the information in the book connects with course content. For example, if you read a book about pornography, you may see connections between ideas in the book and the section in the text discussing whether sex addiction is a valid diagnostic category. Or, maybe one of the key theories that we discussed in the course gives you an idea of how the phenomenon could be studied further.

When synthesizing ideas from the book with course content, don’t just list points of overlap. Rather, pick one or two key connections and describe them in depth.

When referring to course material, cite the primary source if provided. Don’t write, “as discussed in lecture,” because your audience won’t know what you’re talking about—remember, your audience is the general public, not Dr. de Jong. Consider what de Jong said in lecture to be your own knowledge, and write about it as if it is your own knowledge. But cite the primary source if available (e.g., if provided on the slides).

4. Reflect on how the book connects with your personal observations of human sexuality (10 points; approximately 1 paragraph)
This is open-ended and intended to be exploratory. Discuss how what you’ve learned from the book sheds light on (or conflicts with) what you’ve observed, either in your own experiences or in what you’ve observed in other people. No need to get personal if you don’t want to. Feel free to frame in terms of other people. First person is OK. Remember, this is a book review to be read by the general public, including your family!

5. Critique (approximately 1 paragraph)
Describe at least one flaw or limitation of the book, or an important perspective that you feel has been omitted. Also, describe why this flaw, limitation, or perspective matters. If you feel the critiques are so serious that you feel the book should be dropped from the list, please email me to let me know (but don’t write that in your review!).

6. Conclusion (1 paragraph)
Wrap up your review by restating your central message and summarizing how the book illuminates that message.

Paragraph structure: First sentence of each paragraph should summarize the point of the paragraph—the reader should be able to skim the first sentence of each paragraph and understand the flow of your paper. Each paragraph should be 3-6 sentences long. Here is an excellent, very brief summary on how to structure a paragraph:

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