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Writing a Book Review of a Critical Biography
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Writing a Book Review of a Critical Biography over an Author of Your Choice
After reading the biography you choose, write a fairly concise but illuminating review of the book. Your review should include this information, but not necessarily in this order. Structure your paper as you wish.
- The opening paragraph should include the book title, biographer’s name, basic publishing information, and—of course—the name and general identification of the subject of the biography.
- What are the biographer’s qualifications? Is the biographer a relative, friend, business associate, publisher, editor, or enemy? If this information is included in a preface or an introduction of the biography itself, please comment upon it. If no special information is given, omit it.
- Write a brief summary of the subject’s life, based only upon this biography. Think paragraphs here instead of pages. This is where the “brief but illuminating” challenge asserts itself.
- Discuss several of your subject’s outstanding writing accomplishments, such as awards, prizes, medals, press recognition, etc. If there were none, make mention of that interesting fact.
- What were the major works of the subject? Did they fall into types—short stories, poetry, novels, drama? Was the subject of this biography accomplished in more than one genre?
- What did the subject of the biography generally write about? Did he or she return again and again to the same topics? Were there certain themes he or she explored throughout the body of his or her work?
- Did any particular geographical setting figure prominently in the subject’s writing? What time period is the subject associated with? Is this subject associated with a particular literary movement, such as romanticism, realism, naturalism, neoclassicism, transcendentalism, or anti-transcendentalism?
- Does the subject’s own life have a relationship to his or her writing? How much of the subject’s own life has a relationship to the writing? To what extent did the subject’s own experiences make their way into his or her work?
- Did the biographer create a living personality of the subject? Include in your review a revealing anecdote or two that capture the personality of the subject of the biography.
- Was recognition achieved during the subject’s lifetime? Did he or she struggle for success or did it come quickly—or not at all—during his or her lifetime? Was the subject a financial success?
- Which particular works by the subject does the biographer discuss and in how much detail? Does the biographer include the comments of other critics? Is the literary criticism in the biography authoritative, scholarly, and fair in content and context? Does the emphasis of this biography appear to be on the subject’s life, on his or her work, or are they generally balanced?
About this Document
A very detailed guide for a student to follow in writing a book review of a critical biography over an author of the student's choice.