The purpose of a book review is, first, to bring the book to the attention of interested readers; only secondarily does a book review allow a reviewer to expand into an essay. A book review should be limited to some 750 words, and include more-or-less a number of very flexible elements and, typically, in the order described here:
A description of the book itself: title, author, date of publication, place of publication, publisher, number of pages, book format, cost. This can be in a list format.
Description of content: The content should be described accurately and literally. The table of contents should not be reproduced, but the review should indicate and describe clearly the central topics taken up in the book, putting the subtopics or various chapters into logical relation with the subject so that the reader of the review has a clear idea of what he or she would be reading in the book. [200+ words]
- Audience: The reviewer should describe the audience that the book addresses and the level of education or sophistication that the author of the book expects in the reader. The reviewer should indicate whether the book is written for students, professional academics, a business audience, practicing diplomats, the public, or other. [50-100 words]
Thesis, Theme, or Subject: The reviewer should provide a concise statement of the thesis or the argument of the book, without critical analysis, so the reader can have an idea of the author’s point of view or position on his or her subject. This is an important part of a review, as it lets the reader know the conceptual stance of the book’s author. It requires the reviewer to state clearly and without criticism the perspective of the book’s author. [200+ words]
- Critique: The reviewer may also offer a concise critique, emphasising what is new, appealing, or useful in the book. The critique may include how the thesis, theme, or unique conceptual approach of the author has helped the reviewer clarify or tackle problems and the advantages of the perspective that the author of the book proposes. The reviewer may also point out what the thesis may lack, as well as what may be difficult to understand. He or she may also indicate what in the physical publication is good or bad, such as having an excellent organisation or having no index, too many typographical errors. [200+ words]
An experienced reviewer may weave these elements together in an essay style, beginning with, perhaps, even the critique, but these elements need to appear somehow in a useful review.