Purpose of a Professional Book Review
Book reviewing is an important professional service of similar
importance to that of peer reviewing manuscripts submitted for
publication.  Runnels (1994) claims:
Book reviewers do more than tell us simply what books are about
or summarise their contents. They consist of critical peer evaluations
that profoundly affect the way in which our colleagues regard the book,
and often influence widely the decisions made by many … to read the
book, and ultimately determine its contribution to the field. [1, p. 358]
Recommended word length
Approximately 1000 words (not including references)
Contents of an Analytical Book Review
An analytical book review usually provides: [2,3,4]
- Bibliographic details.
- A brief description of the contents of the book.
- An assessment of the author's authority/biases.
- An evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the book taking
into account the author's objective/s in writing the book, and drawing
on relevant evidence to support the reviewer's judgments.
- An overall assessment of the book.
Steps for Writing a Book Review
Writing a good book review usually involves the following steps:
1. Get to know the book and establish the approach you will take
- Get to know the book. This may include an examination of title,
subtitles, chapter headings and subheadings, when the book was first
published and a careful read of the book.
- Identify the purpose and main theme of the book (this may be outlined in the preface or introduction).
- Make notes as you read as to the strengths and weaknesses of the book.
- Decide on what will be the main thesis of your review.
2. Provide bibliographic details
Begin the review by providing full bibliographic details of the
book. This should include: author, title, edition, publisher, place of
publication, and year of publication.
3. Summarise the book's contents
Prepare a brief description of the contents of the book. This description may include:
the subject of the book and general body of health management knowledge to which it belongs;
- the thesis of the book (ie, author/s beliefs, philosophy, or propositions);
- the intended audience;
- the author/s purpose in writing the book;
- a brief definition of the book's scope (eg, does it provide a
comprehensive overview or a detailed analysis of the subject matter?);
- a brief description of the structure of the book, the author/s
writing style (eg, formal or informal, professional or
non-professional), and if there are several authors the way in which the
various contributions are integrated;
a brief summary of the contents.
4. Describe the author/s authority and any particular biases
Who is/are the author/s and what particular credentials and
expertise do they have to write about the subject? Does the author/s
display any particular point of view or biases?
5. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the book
Is the subject matter of the book and author/s writing style appropriate for the intended audience?
Did the author/s achieve their stated objectives?
Does the book make a valuable and or unique contribution to the
body of health management knowledge? If in your judgment as reviewer it
does, support your claim with evidence (eg, examples from the book and
or other suitable references). Similarly, evidence should be provided if
in the reviewer's assessment the book does not make a valuable
Does the book have any particular features (eg, illustrations,
references, subject index, case studies) and how effectively are these
6. Concluding comment
State your final assessment of the book. Do you recommend that your
health management colleagues buy this book? Would you buy this book?