critical book review on The railroad to freedom by Hildeegarde Hoyt Swift

Each student will write a four to six page book review on a book of the students. It should be double-spaced with a New Times Roman font size of 12 points and approximately 20 lines of text per page and one inch margins. The student should consult a manual of style (Turabian, MLA, etc.) for aid in form and style regarding grammar and punctuation. The book should be either a nonfiction biography of a significant American who lived during the time period this course covers, or should be a reputable history of a time period, movement, or event in American history before 1865. It must have at least 200 pages of TEXT. It should also have a fairly recent date of publication, 1960 or later. The book report will be graded according to the criteria given below. Please, included a title page with your name, the authors name, and the bibliographic data for the book and staple the paper in the upper left-hand corner. No folders, etc., please. Please turn in a piece of paper with your name and the bibliographic data of the book by Wednesday of the class. Book reviews are due April 9 by 5:00 pm. The book report should include a brief summary of the thesis or theme of the book, a summary of the contents of the book not just list chapter title but summarizing the contents in a fashion that will enable the reader to understand the content of the book. Then, provide an analysis of the book. What are the strengths and weaknesses? Does the author appear biased in any way? Did the author accomplish his or her purpose? Comments about the readability of the book adequacy of annotations, pictures, illustrations, and bibliography are appropriate as well. Would you recommend this book to others? Other book reviews may be consulted but if utilized, citations and a bibliography should be used to avoid plagiarism.

Guide for Critical Book Review Written by Dr. Karen Bullock

a. Bibliographical Entry
Shurden, Walter B. Hints on Writing a Critical Book Review. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1972. 278 pp. $6.50.
b. Biographical Sketch of Author
This section should be no longer than one-half typewritten page. The purpose of this section of the review is to demonstrate the author’s
(translator’s or editor’s) competency or incompetency in writing this book. Illustrate specifically how the author’s backgtound, academic
training, vocational pursuits, or some such prepared, or faiied to prepare him/her for writing the book.
You need not go into detail about husband, wife, children, or all schools attended, except as those facts help one interpret the book. The
idea is to help the reader ofyour review understand the book by explaining the author ofthe book. One halfpage, please.
c. Summary of Contents
This section should be no longer than two (2) typewritten pages. Your purpose here is to focus on the contents of the book. Give the
reader ofyour review a thorough introduction to “what the book is about.”
A good rule to follow: Try to make the first sentence of your summary as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible. In other words,
summarize the book in one sentence. The remainder of your summary should be an elaboration of the “comprehensive sentence.”
One common weakness in this section is that students summarize the frst half of the book, begin to run out of space, and then slight the
latter half of the book. Do not do this! Carefully and logicaliy organize your summary. Be sure you have a balanced surnmary focusing
on all major points of interest.
Another common weakness in the summary of contents section is bogging down in minute details. Yow aim is to introduce the reader to
the forest, not to each individual tree. You have only two pages; concentrate on the significant and unique; omit the less signihcant.
d. Critical Evaluation
This is by far the most important section of the book review. A “critical book review” is not merely a sunmary of the book’s contents;
it is a critical evaluation ofhow the author handled the contents.
Here, one is to react to the book positively and negatively. Because all books, like people, are different, one can never impose a
predetermined set of critical questions on the book. Examples of some questions, however, which are often used to evaluate a book
are: What was the author’s purpose? Was it achieved? Why? Why not? What was unique about the book? Any unusual historical,
theological, literary traits? (Please avoid the clichd, “Every sincere Christian ought to read this book.”) What can the book and author
teach us?
The critical evaluation should be three (3) typewritten pages. Before witing a critical book review, read some critical reviews in
professional joumals such as Church History, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, or The Mennonie Quarterly Review.
Remember that a critical review is written for people who have never read the book. So take nothing for granted. Do not assume that
your reader knows aq’thing about the book’s contents, the author’s point of view, or the author. Imagine that you are the only person
who has read the book; you job is to explain it and to evaluate it for everyone else.
Be specific in your criticisms. Avoid general statements which tell one nothing. (For example; one student, in reviewing Roland
Bainton’s classic biography of Martin Luther, wront, “Bainton defended Luther’s action against the Roman Catholic Church.” If
Bainton, in fact, did that, it is an important observation. But how did he? Be specific. Illustrate with particular details).
As with all formal papers for college level, the critical analysis should be well-written. Keep the following 7 stylistic suggestion in
mind: (1) Never plagiarizel (2) Avoid first person; (3) Avoid contractions; (4) Avoid colloquial or trite expressions; (5) Use a
dictionary. Spelling and grammatical errors are without excuse at this level and indicate sloppy work. Proof and re-proof your paper.
Reader your paper backwards by sentence for spelling and typing errors; (6) Vary slvle of writing; good writing has a balanced rhythm
and style; and (7) Avoid verbosity and repetition. Good organization will eliminate both need to ramble and illogical argumentation.
Great Rule of Thumb: Write twice as much as the assignment calls for and reduce your script to the required length by expressing
exactly what you intend to say using the fewest possible worlds. Use connotations to help you communicatel Make every word count!

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