During the Economics class last night, Dru Williams, master in Communication and Critical Cultural Studies from San Diego State University, spoke about the main questions we need to ask ourselves to analyze a book and to write a substantial and well-formulated book review. These questions, among others, were: what is the book’s contribution? What is its organization, its audience, its method? How does the author fail? What is the book purpose?
I believe that to be a questioner is one of the best ways to jump into a deep thought on an intricate subject, and for that purpose, I agree that an interrogation of the specific book, as Mr. Williams suggested, might work. However, what seems more relevant to me is, first of all, to do a self-interrogation. Students need to be aware of their own capacity to judge someone’s work. The fact that graduate students already earned a diploma doesn’t mean they are absolutely ready to deny or to support every idea that is born in their field. If they will expose and fight against an erroneous assumption, they must deconstruct it, compare it to different theories, and, if possible, to reconstruct it in a logical manner.
My second concern provoked by the lecture of Mr. Williams is the priority of the criticisms. Within a short piece of paper or a limited-space blog entry, what is indispensable to be criticized and what is negligible and can be left out? Depending on the book, there might be different parts that are not well-covered, that lack explanations, that have disorganized data, and so on. How should we know what is more important to write about? An idea that comes to my mind is the general contribution of the book. If the reviewer found the book, despite of its problems, interesting and useful, I believe it has to be clear to the potential readers.