This guide intends to assist the contributors of book reviews.
What is a review?
A review is penned to discuss an original work by a single author, an edited volume, the proceedings of an academic conference or event, or an academic essay. Although its primary goal is to introduce, critical comments are incorporated.
Book reviews are not book reports. Book reports inform the reader of the book’s content only and occupy a certain section of academic book reviews. A book review, however, is a critical engagement with the book’s subject, treatment and theses in terms of constructive comments. Likewise, a review of an academic essay should critique the main views expressed, discuss their consistency and coherence and the sources used. In the reviews of proceedings, papers and discussions are conveyed to the reader in the manner of an academic discussion.
Reviews are concentrated efforts, a must of academic work rather than a protracted and forced act of labor, as can be seen in many academic journals. The academic community regularly browses the book review section, for its contents serve as an introductory and informative brief note for recent works and enables scholars to see how fellow academics receive their works. It thus engenders several academic gains for both the reviewer and the reviewed.
How to write a book review
While most reviewers consider a single book for review, others treat two or more at the same time. The latter reviews can be more extensive than the former ones. However, the basic form remains the same and Tahkik Journal of Critical Editions of Islamic Manuscripts welcomes both types.
The phase prior to writing a book review comprises two parts: reading the book to be reviewed and beginning the preparatory stage to actually writing it. After this two-step phase, one can proceed with penning the review.
Reading the book
Aim: What are the author’s objectives? Does he/she state them explicitly, or does the reviewer have to infer them? Is there a central thesis?
Interpretation: How are the treated subjects connected? How are the people or events described? Are they sorted in the appropriate manner? Does the author justify his/her work by an analytical method or a theory or just express his/her personal opinions? Are the author’s statements reasonable and consistent? Do they elucidate or obfuscate the issues being addressed? Do you have any suggestions concerning the author’s points and comments?
Context: Were the ideas and facts expressed put into a wider context? Does the author adequately concentrate on the proposed subject? Does the author’s perspective provide a proper understanding for the reader?
Silence: Are there intended or unintended silences? If so, do they take away from the book’s appeal or lend a clue to the author’s objectives?
Form: Is the book well written, easily comprehensible and/or eloquent, or jargon-laden and heavy with verbosity that obstructs understanding? Does the author exhibit a literary aptitude beyond the plain use of language? Does this literary style add to the book’s appeal?
Sources: What kind of sources are cited? Are they primarily printed or archival documents? Does the author refer to miscellaneous material like novels, interviews, or art works? Are the major sources fully mentioned, or have some salient works escaped his/her attention?
Literature: How does the book relate to other works in the field? Does it break new ground and/or modify the general perspectives, or does it locate itself within the established perspectives? Does it have a novel methodological or theoretical approach and/or raise controversy? If it is somewhat dated, did it lead to a debate following its publication? You might need to do some extra reading in order to answer these questions.
Background: Many academics want to know the author’s credentials. You may gather this information by utilizing various databases, library catalogues, or internet search engines. Is the author a junior researcher breaking new ground, or an established senior scholar?
The Preparatory stage
After reading and reflecting upon the book, begin developing the main sections of your review. Consider the relevant facts and how you should arrange them. Finally, devise an outline (e.g., introduction, body, and conclusion) that will present your basis points in the best possible manner.
Basic points: Return to your notes and arrange your points in order of importance to locate the central discussion and issues you will treat. In addition, consider the most effective plan to convey your thoughts. If you are reviewing an edited volume, you may expand your review by engaging critically with those contributions that fall within your expertise and citing the relevant sections.
Main theme: Your review requires a main discussion, like all academic works. Thus, how would you summarize your major opinion of the book reviewed and present it within the structure of your review (i.e., the introduction, body, and conclusion)?
Form: Provide a one-paragraph synopsis of the book’s main issues and discussions. This paragraph must be something more than a summary sentence for each chapter.
Writing the Review
Your review is a brief critical note. The following is a check list while writing or editing the text.
a) A concise and effective introduction that presents your review’s main theme and discussion.
b) A summary introduction of the book. Many reviewers relay this in the second paragraph, although it is not obligatory to offer it in the introduction.
c) The body should convey your main points as regards the book’s strengths and weaknesses. Present your thoughts coherently and avoid a haphazard arrangement. Try to relate your points in ways that will attract the readers’ attention.
d) Provide a brief conclusion to sum up your major points, and perhaps suggest points of reflection for the reader.
e) The general rules for academic essays published in Tahkik Journal of Critical Editions of Islamic Manuscripts also apply to book reviews. Take note of the rules relating to the writing style and citation format.
f) The submitted review for Tahkik Journal of Critical Editions of Islamic Manuscripts should be between 1000 and 2000 words.
g) Write in a plain, grammatically correct style. Go over it carefully after completion and print it out if you have written it on word processor. Do not rely on the word processor’s spell checking and textual structure programs.
h) The title of your review should include the following:
• Author’s or editor’s full name (indicate if it is an edited volume)
• Book title
• Year of publication
• Place of publication
• Publishing house
• Page count
i) Include the introductory information about yourself at the end of the review:
• Full name
• Institutional affiliation and position
• A short bio of 15-20 words
For Example: Taha Eğri and Necmettin Kızılkaya (Eds.), Islamic Economics: Basic Concepts, New Thinking and Future Directions, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015, ix, 244 pages