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The Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna decided to give Avior Byron the Avenir Foundation Research Grant for a one month research trip in Vienna in order to work on two books that he is writing.  
 

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My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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How to write a book review

There are several reasons why to write a book review. It is a good way to gain experience in writing. Publishing reviews is easier than publishing articles. One is not expected to contribute something completely new to the world of research. When you submit your review to a journal you usually receive feedback from the editor and that can improve the level of your writing. Another reason is that it may help you learn the book more thoroughly than if you would just read it. Good writing is a form of teaching. When one teaches something, one remembers it forever. Moreover, this is a way that other scholars in the field (especially the one whose book your will review) will know you and what you think. In other words, this is a way to start making a name in the field. Finally, if you where asked to review a book, although you will probably not be paid for it, you will receive the book. In this post I will mention some of the things that can help you write a good book review.

Read the book

If you decide to write a book review, it is highly recommended to thoroughly read that book that you are reviewing. The person who wrote the book invested in it an enormous amount of time and effort and you would like to be fair (see also the following point). Moreover, other people who read the book will read your review. They will want to compare their view of the book to yours. If you will not read the book thoroughly they might feel it from your review. This might result in a bad impression.  
 

Read review written by others

The best way to learn how to write is to carefully study how the giants do it. Scan the publication lists of scholars that you admire and find their reviews. Read some of these reviews and analyze them. Write notes about the strategy of their review, the structure, the tone of voice, and other points that you think that are significant.
 

Do not be too critical

One of the tendencies of young scholars (but not only young ones) is to be too critical. In order to demonstrate their abilities and perhaps also because of lack of confidence, many behave in what may be considered an over critical manner. If you are at the beginning of your carrier as a scholar, it may be wise to be aware that such a tendency could be also part of your behavior (at least to a certain extent). Try to accept that other people may have different views or perspectives of music than you have, which are not completely wrong. If you find something that you want to criticize, do it in a gentle manner.
 

Balance your criticism

Never write a completely negative review. It is important to balance your book review also with positive remarks. This will show that you are able to see the benefits in the book. There will always be some people that may benefit from reading the book. Try to ‘speak’ to them when you write the positive arguments. People who write too many negative reviews may not be asked in the future to review book.
 

Show your personal reading

Beware from writing a review that will be only descriptive (the first chapter contains… the second chapter contains… etc.) Make sure that you mention your opinion about the important part of the book. Although over criticism is something that you would like to avoid. Being not critical at all is also problematic.
 
Showing your personal view of the book or some of the issues in it may make your review more colorful. People are interested in personal perspectives and interpretations. Make sure that yours will sound clearly.
 

Be helpful

Try to keep in mind that many people are reading your review in order to know whether or not to read it themselves. It will be helpful if you point out things in the book that are interesting. If you thing that this book may be of interest to some people, make sure that you mention it at the end of the book. It can be useful to mention to whom you think the book may be interesting. 
 

Listen to the comments of the editor

Editors are usually experienced scholars. When they will send you comments, make sure that you read them very carefully. Pay attention to both comments on writing style and arguments. Reading their comments one by one and thinking about them is a great lesson for improving your writing.
 
Do you have any other points that you think that one should remember when writing a book review? Have questions? Feel free to comment on this post in the form below.

 

 

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