Durán, Robert J.  2013.  Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider’s Journey.  New York, NY:  

     Columbia University Press.     



Formal reflective (also sometimes called a critical) book review.

A reflective book review allows you to exercise original analytical judgment.  In other words, do not include the views of others who have reviewed the book.



This assignment is intended to give you practice in the critical evaluation of criminological literature.  You will also hone your skills in locating an author’s most valuable information within a book. 


Preliminary Considerations

This type of book review is not a book report (a summary of the contents of a book).  This type of book review is a vehicle for examining and discussing issues the book itself raises or fails to raise.  A formal reflective book review is written for the benefit of those who might not presently have time to read the book but who nevertheless need to learn more about the book should they desire to read or study it at a future time.  The job of the book reviewer is to inform these readers concerning any merits and/or shortcomings the book may have.  From information based on a well-written review, the reader may conclude that this book is either indispensable or inconsequential.


Components of a Formal Reflective/Critical Book Review


  1. You will not have a title page. Do not use a running head.  Instead, at the top of your first page, give complete bibliographical information (title, author, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, number of pages, and name of reviewer).  For my clarification, please include the section number of your class, either -001 or -002, after your name.   


Your bibliographical information should resemble the example below:


The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice, by Jeffrey Reiman.  Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon Publishing, 2004.  288 pages.  Reviewed by YOUR NAME HERE, -00X.


Why this format?  This is the format used in criminological scientific journals for book reviews. 


  1. Briefly summarize the thesis of the book. The thesis contains the reason why the author produced this particular book and should distinguish it from other books with similar subject matter.  Your thesis summary should include why the author chose to research what he researched, his reasons why the subject matter is important, and his research question or questions.  You should include the theoretical perspective of the author as best you can identify it.  Try not to make this section longer than two or three paragraphs.  


  1. Discuss the author’s research methodology. Include how he collected his data, why he chose these particular data-collection method(s), where he collected his data, when he collected his data, and how long it took him to collect his data.  How did he then go about analyzing his data?  This section should not be longer that two or three paragraphs.      


  1. This is the main body of your book review and will be concerned with the author’s findings and how well the author answered his research question or questions. Does the author convincingly present his findings and connect them to his purpose and research questions or questions?  Inspect each of the chapters of the book to see how it relates to the author’s purpose and research question(s).  Provide adequate information to show how the author develops his points, but you should not outline each chapter.  You should provide concrete examples where appropriate. 

      You should not use footnotes or endnotes in this book review.  Quotations or ideas taken directly from the text should be followed parenthetically by the page number of the quotation or idea. 


  1. Your final section of the formal reflective book review should include the major strengths and weaknesses of the book and should evaluate its value for readers who may be interested in this particular field of inquiry. Your primary purpose in this section is to respond both positively and negatively to the book’s contents.  Needless to say, this response should be more in-depth than, “This book is a good book that should be recommended reading for everyone in criminology and the general public.”  On the other hand, “This book is really awful, very boring, and biased and is not worth the paper it is printed on” is also inadequate.  Central to this section is the basic question of whether or not the author has achieved the book’s stated purpose.

Answer questions such as:

What are the strengths of the book and what contributions does the book make?

Why should a person read this book?

What did you learn from this research?

Can the conclusions of this research be realistically applied?

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