This assignment has two primary purposes:
1) to get everyone to read a comprehensive and reasonably scholarly book related to Tudor and Stuart Britain.
2) to give everyone an opportunity to write a book review, rather than a book report.
What is the purpose of book reviews? There are many different types of book reviews and they have somewhat different purposes. They appear in newspapers, popular magazines (Newsweek), scholarly journals (Journal of American History, The Historian), and in specialized review publications (New York Review of Books, Choice, or History: Reviews of New Books).
All book reviews exist to tell the reader something substantial about the book and so spare the reader from having to read it themselves. As a result of reading the review, the reader may want to buy it and read it, check it out from the library and read it, buy it for a library so that the library patrons can read it, or ignore the book because its subject is of no interest or because it quality is poor.
The audience for book reviews will vary by publication. Newspapers and popular magazines publish book reviews to let their readers know about important or interesting new titles. They are aimed at a popular audience and review works of fiction and non-fiction that often are not at all scholarly in intent.
Some publications are a bit more highbrow than others. New Republic, New York Review of Books, TLS (Times Literary Supplement), and New York Times Book Reviews tend to publish more scholarly reviews as their readers are professionals and other intellectuals. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that reviews appearing in the New York Review of Books often spend more time talking about the book reviewer's ideas on the subject than the ideas presented in the book.
Other book reviews are written to tell librarians about new books. These reviews generally are very short (100-200 words), providing a brief description of the contents of the book and an evaluation.
Finally there are scholarly reviews of books. These appear in scholarly journals. Such reviews are 500-1500 words in length. They basically evaluate the books for other members of the profession. Book reviews written for this class will follow the pattern of a scholarly review.
A book review is not a summary of the contents of a book. Book reports summarize contents and they belong in high school. A good book review is a commentary on the book. That means that it analyses, evaluates, and judges the contents of the book.
10 Points for a Reviewer.
A reviewer must be thorough. Here are ten points to consider when you read a book for the purpose of reviewing it.
1) Find the author's point of view. This is often clearly stated in the introduction or preface.
2) Identify the author's major hypothesis, point, or contention. There may be more than one, or there may be a main point accompanied by several lesser but still important hypotheses. Again, most authors will state their point or hypothesis in the introduction and the conclusion of their book.
3) What types of evidence does the author use? Look at the footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography.
4) How is the book organized to present its argument? Is the organization effective?
5) How does the author use the evidence presented in the book? Is the evidence sufficient, is it convincing, is it appropriate?
6) Is the author's point of view appropriate? Is there a discernible bias, or is the author objective? Is the author true to that point of view in the way the book has been written? Always remember to respect how the author wrote the book, as long as it is appropriate. Do not criticize an author for writing a book (or an article) differently from how you would have written it. If you feel so strongly about it, write it yourself.
7) How does the book fit into the existing literature? Are there other books on this topic? Does the book revise them, enhance them, or contradict them? Is this book unique?
8) Based on the organization, argumentation, and evidence presented, do you find that the book contains a convincing argument?
9) If possible, compare the book with other books on similar topics.
10) Do you recommend this book to others? Why or why not? Comment on readability, whether the book grabbed your interest, was it useful, etc.?
The Structure of a Book Review.
I. Supply a brief summary or overview of the book's hypotheses and contents.
II. Assess the nature and the quality of the evidence presented.
III. Compare the work with similar titles.
IV. Comment on the author's presentation: organization, writing style, illustrations, tables, bibliography, index.
V. Conclusion with final assessment and recommendation to readers.
When reviewing a book, there are several other key words that can guide your efforts. Ask yourself, what is the author's purpose for writing this book? Purpose encompasses both point of view and hypothesis. Ask yourself, what is the scope of the book? Scope deals with what the book is about. What is its subject (person, time period, place, etc.?
It is also important to know something about the author. The keyword for this is authority. What is the author's authority? Does the author have expertise or a reputation in the subject? Beginning students will know little or nothing about the authors they are reading. That is why it is a good idea to look them up and learn about them. All the writers on your reading list are well known and significant historians who are the subjects of entries in biographical reference works.
Beginning students do not know where a book fits into to the historical literature. One way to quickly find out where it fits is to locate book reviews written by other scholars. How do they evaluate the book and why? Where do they say it fits? Their word is not necessarily gospel. Be sure you find good scholarly reviews, not simple library selection reviews, which are too short and lack detail for this purpose.
Remember, when writing your review, your audience is your classmates and your professors.
Your book review should be 3 to 5 pages long. Provide complete bibliographic information at the front, i.e., author's name, title, place of publication, publisher, year of publication, pages. Put your name at the end of the review. Look at various reviews published in scholarly journals and see how they do it.
The book review is due on 17 September. It will be graded and returned to you.
Richard III by Charles Ross
Henry VII by S. B. Chrimes
The First of the Tudors: A Study of Henry VII and His Reign by Michael Van Cleave Alexander
Henry VIII by A.F. Pollard
Henry VIII by J. J. Scarisbrick
Henry VIII by Michael Graves
Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty by Lacey Baldwin Smith
Henry VIII by Jasper Ridley
Henry VIII and the English Reformation by Richard Rex
Catherine of Aragon by Garrett Mattingly
The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn by Retha M. Warnicke
Statesman and Saint: Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More and the Politics of Henry VIII by Jasper Ridley
Sir Thomas More by Richard Marius
Reform and Reformation: England 1509-1558 by G. R. Elton
Policy and Police: A Study of the Enforcement of the English Reformation by G. R. Elton
In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII by Derek Wilson
The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 by Eamon Duffy
The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch
The Reign of Mary Tudor by D. M. Loades
Before the Armada: The Emergence of the English Nation, 1485-1588 by R. B. Wernham
The Armada by Garrett Mattingly
Elizabeth I by Wallace MacCaffery
Elizabeth I by Jasper Ridley
Queen Elizabeth by J. E. Neale
Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser
Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir
Jacobean Pageant: The Court of King James I by P. V. Akrigg
Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser
Investigating Gunpowder Plot by Mark Nicholls
Unnatural Murder: Poison in the Court of James I by Anne Somerset
Bourbon and Stuart by John Miller
Charles I by Pauline Gregg
Charles I by Charles Carleton
Charles I by Richard Cust
The King's Peace, 1637-1641 by C. V. Wedgwood
The King's War, 1641-1647 by C. V. Wedgwood
Oliver Cromwell by Antonia Fraser
Royal Charles by Antonia Fraser
Charles II by Ronald Hutton
Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas
Man and the Natural World: A History of the Modern Sensibility by Keith Thomas
Family, Sex, and Marriage in England 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone