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Article For Dummies: Reviewing A Book

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

“For Antonia and for me, this had been the road of Destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be. Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.” – Willa Cather, My Antonia

These last lines of Willa Cather’s My Antonia add an aftermath reflection upon a pure adventure of a lifetime in one of my favorite Great Plains novels. A first step of any favoritism is to reminisce on a quotation favorable to your likings. And such an act also serves as a good way to review a book. What are some of your favorite quotations? And why? What are their contexts in the story? What has the author meant by them? Would you share them with others? Would you journal or think about them? What lines stand out to you?

Any one step mentioned here does not have to take place in order per se. But after considering favorite quotations, one might be inclined to consider some positive remake or two about the book and what it got right or how it did it’s narration correctly - be it small or large. At no point in Willa Cather’s work did I think of the story as incorrectly choppy, for if it appeared to, one might find it justified in that the narrator was reminiscing on his past in a flow that mimics real-life memory; it is not always smooth or in perfect sequence of details. And still the story stands smoothly without a lengthy number of pages. The topic sentences helped the reader get into the flow of remembrances.

You may humble the writer or perhaps the writing but it may very well be the case that you humble yourself in your love of a book that you critique its structure or content in some way that could be better. Building on what you’ve favorited, you might observe some comparison between the work at hand and some other one where some part was written in a more favorable way. I remember once reading Feed, an adult dystopia that uses modern texting language - or at least, an equivalent - for its dialogue (much of the time). If that didn’t give a dystopian feeling, I don’t know what would. It was excruciating to read, and perhaps that was the point. But in so doing, it (as far as I could recall) failed to have any language that explained away the human experience in any profound way. It stayed on the surface level of the use of messaging technology in the lives of its characters - as perhaps a case to reflect on the society at large and how it has been affected by digital messaging. While this topic may be interesting, there are many more intriguing ways to fashion the reader in a position to reflect on it besides having characters speak in LOLs, WDYMs, and so on. Add in some dynamic dialogue with both types of written language. My point here is that any book can be critiqued in a constructive way.

Finding quotations, leaving a positive remark, and then critiquing a portion that could be better are three steps that any person can do to begin a book review. It’s not easy, but it can be well-received as many people will look to you for what a good story - and who doesn’t like a good one!? - looks like.

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