The book review is not a book report, but a review of the philosophical ideas contained in the book. (There are many different ways to review a book: psychological, literary, etc. But because this is a philosophy course, you will evaluate the philosophy presented in the book.) If you want a model for a good book review see the Sunday Denver Post or New York Times for examples of book reviews. (Although the length is 3 to 5 pages, I have not seen a good book review under 4 pages, so the closer you come to 5 pages the better. In fact, if you are having problems getting 5 pages you haven’t read the book with sufficient care. The problem is saying everything you want to say within 5 pages. So, yes, you can go over 5 pages if you need to.)
Book reviews serve two purposes: (a) extra credit for students who want to ensure a good grade, and (b) a necessary condition requirement to get a final grade of A in this class. The book review is especially useful for students who have a number of absences, do not regularly participate in class discussions, or have borderline grades.
Here is a way to think of the book review: imagine another student who is at about your academic level and who shares similar interests to you. This student sees you reading Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World and asks the two inevitable questions, “What is that book about? Is it any good?” Your book review answers these two questions. First, you summarize the key Philosophical ideas but in the book as you see themre is the way to . (As well as the book’s plot, characters, but since this is a Philosophy class focus on the Philosophy.) This summary should be around four pages in length. Obviously, you cannot summarize all the philosophers covered in Sophie’s World but I am looking for thoughtful and accurate summaries of the philosophies and questions you consider noteworthy and interesting. In addition, Sophie’s World assumes on an explicit philosophy. What is that philosophy? (The same is true for whatever book you review such as Pirsig’s books.)
Next, you evaluate the book: what are the books strengths and weaknesses? What would you have liked to see more of or less of in the book? What would you have liked to have seen changed in the book? What about Gaarder’s Philosophical orientation: did he portray it accurately? How does Sophie’s World compare with other movies that take a similar Philosophical approach, e.g., the Matrix series or The Truman Show? Evaluate the book according to the “stoplight method”: Green-light (you would definitely recommend the book to your friend); Yellow-light (you recommend the book with some qualifications. Be sure to state what those qualifications are.) And Red-light (you would not recommend that your friend read the book.) In addition, you can use a “Flashing Green-light” (You not only recommend your friend read the book—you insist on it. The book is that good!) And “Flashing Red-light” (The book is so bad that not only do you recommend that your friend not read the book, but you insist that your friend should stay at least 20 feet away from the book in order not to be contaminated by it!