Book Review: Two of the main skills that you learn as a student of sociology are a) how to do deep research and b) how to analyze. When you become a student of social science half of the time you utilize goes into improving and practicing these two skills. Therefore, to review any sort of information such as books, movies, songs, advertisements, posters, etc. is a task that you should be familiar with if you already are not. In this article, you will learn how to review anything from a sociological lens. It will be a step-by-step guide with a continuing example throughout the length for better understanding. Let’s dive into the process without wasting any more time.
Sociological Book Review: Step-by-step guide
Step 1: Determine what you want to review
The first step is to decide which is the medium you wish to review. If it is an open assignment or project where you have the autonomy to choose what you wish to review then select the option that is most intriguing for you. Otherwise, if it is a scenario where you have already been allotted what to review then make sure that you are up for the challenge.
For the purpose of this article, the example we will take is that of a Book Review of “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Step 2: Select a review lens
Now that you have selected what you wish to review, in this case, a book, then the second step is to decide on HOW you will review it. Sociology is a very vast subject that is why you have to ground your review on some idea or another. Selecting a review lens means selecting a theme through which you will look at the book to review it. For example, you can try to review your book from a lens of different “schools of thoughts”, i.e. according to the Marxist School, the Functionalist School, the Feminist School, etc. As another style, you can also review on thematic bases such as caste, culture, nationality, etc. When you contextualize or ground your review you stay on a definitive path rather than digressing everywhere.
To review “Unaccustomed Earth” we will locate ourselves to review the book from a cultural lens. Since it is a book written on the topic of diasporic experiences, we will look at the details of the diasporic culture, i.e., the Indians Abroad.
Step 3: Read it All
Before reviewing a book you need to read the book in its entirety. Do not take shortcuts and read summaries from the internet because even these summaries are written by someone from their own perspective. Your task is to read the book completely and then form your own ideas around it. While you read the book, you could either take down notes separately or jot down points in the margin of the book. The more insights you have the better your review will be.
Since this is a sociological review, just reading the book will not be enough. To locate it contextually in the theme of diasporic culture, you will have to read around the topic of diaspora and culture as well. Thus, once you complete reading the book start your research to read relevant academic articles which contribute to your analysis. Relate what you read in the book with what you researched and add your insights for the best sort of result.
Step 4: Review it
At this point, you have read the book, researched the academically relevant articles, and made notes which include your thoughts and insights. Now is the moment for you to write your book review. The structure of your sociological book review is very similar to the structure of any assignment which you do.
- Summary of the book
- Main body
If you want to know the details of writing a Sociological Essay in the most simplistic and elaborative format
Your title should reflect the main idea that you are trying to convey through your book review. A bad title can be misleading, distracting the reader from the main agenda of your writing. Therefore take your time and choose your title wisely.
One suggested title for the book review of “Unaccustomed Earth” can be:
Contrasting Diasporic Experiences of Intergenerational Immigrants in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Unaccustomed Earth”
The abstract should be a glance into your review. In your abstract write how you plan to review the book. Explain the main ideas and themes that you will be taking up. Keep it brief but crisp and precise. Reading your abstract the reader should ideally get a sense of what the full review would talk about. If you are unsure about your review format, in the beginning, it is always advisable to return to the abstract and write it in the end. This way you already know what you did convey in your review article.
In your abstract, you can write about how you will look at the intergenerational aspects of diaspora and how it keeps changing. You can then explain that you will prove your argument by focusing on various cultural themes such as intergenerational experiences, culture in diaspora, community in diaspora, etc.
To review a book the most crucial part is to summarize the book. You cannot assume that everyone who is reading your review is familiar with the book. Therefore, it is your duty to explain the context and the plot of the book as precisely as possible. If the readers do not understand what the book is about then how would they understand your review. Write a summary that tells the audience a larger framework of the work and its main premise. You do not have to get into all the details of the book, but it is imperative that you paint a picture that reflects all that is needed to understand the book without actually reading it. Remember to keep your summary neutral and not include any sociological analysis in this segment.
- Main Body
The main body of your review is where you put all your hard work into words. The insights and the research that you gathered will be put into use in this section. Your main body should cover all the various arguments that you have to put forth. You can either divide your main body into subsections or arrange paragraphs in such a way that they cover all the topics. Although your work looks much cleaner and more professional if it is divided properly into various sections.
Each different section should cater to different ideas or themes that you want to present. A subsection can be composed of two to three paragraphs. In the first paragraph introduce the theme from the book which you would like to analyze. Bring light to that section or theme of the book which is important for your analysis. Use the second paragraph to relate what you read in the book with your research. To write a sociological review it is very crucial to relate it with different theories of the same sociological lens. In the third paragraph, you can write your insights and/or reflections that came to you while reading the book and researching around it.
For reviewing “Unaccustomed Earth” through the lens of cultural analysis of diasporic community, you can divide your main body into sections like:
Diasporic experiences of the First and the Second Generation,
Culture in Diaspora,
Women in Diaspora, etc.
In the conclusion, you bring together the book idea and the sociological analysis together and explain how they gel together. It is the conclusion that summarizes all of the arguments mentioned above by you and locates them within the discipline of sociology. Here you can demonstrate how your review helps benefit the discussion which is already taking place within the sociological lens that you chose to apply.
Your conclusion can elaborate on how your review of “Unaccustomed Earth” adds benefit and depth to the ongoing debates around the connection between culture and diasporic studies.
Without citation and references, no sociological write-up is complete. Therefore ensure that your references and citations are marked properly.
Step 5- Revise it
The golden rule is to never submit the first draft of your article. Always go back for checks and edit. But not immediately. The best way to revise your review is to write it on day one and then revisit it on day two. When you write something and sit back down to immediately revise it, your brain can miss on little nuances because of over-exhaustion. That is why, when you finish writing your first draft, leave it alone. Come back the next day and look at it with a fresh eye and then make the changes necessary. If you do not have that kind of time with you, it is still advisable to edit your review at least after 2 to 3 hours of being done with it.
Read: Applied Sociology