Pedagogy: The purpose of this assignment is to practice writing an academic book review, using The Coddling of the American Mind as the object of your review

Book Review Prompt

Pedagogy: The purpose of this assignment is to practice writing an academic book review, using The Coddling of the American Mind as the object of your review.

Background notes: If you pursue the career path of a PhD academic research sociologist, you will have a much easier time finding a job after graduation if you have publications under your belt. This can be very hard to do if you have not yet established a name for yourself. A common means for budding academics to get a first publication is submitting a book review to a disciplinary journal in which they review a recent book publication by an established researcher. An academic book review has several important components, and is not at all the same as high school book report. Your goal is to critically review the book, giving serious consideration to its arguments, strengths, and weaknesses.

Book reviews are, by nature, short. However, short does not necessarily translate to easy. Like any piece of writing with space constraints (think op-ed pieces, letters to the editor, employment cover letters, and college admissions essays), you have a limited number of words to use in getting across to your reader a number of key ideas. This kind of writing is incredibly tight; every word counts, so you must choose your words very judiciously. Expect to spend as much time on this assignment as you would on a much longer research paper or on your college admissions essay.

How to prepare for the assignment: Read the entire book first (obviously), and read it early enough that you have time to marinate on it for a few days prior to plotting your review. Assuming that you have never written an academic book review before, you will be best off if you study the basic components before you begin to write. No need for me to reinvent the wheel, as there are abundant sources already written on the topic. Listed next are some of the sites that I recommend as places to get started; I have also included at the top of the prompt a PDF of an original review of our Hochschild book The Commercialization of Intimate Life. You may find this to be a useful sample review since you have read most of the book yourself and will thus be able to more accurately map into your head the conventional format of a book review.

Recommended Sources:

Assignment parameters:

  • Your book review should be between 800 and 1200 words. Sometimes there is wiggle room in word counts; this is not one of those times. Please include your word count at the bottom.
  • Please use 11 or 12-point font, and choose a standard font such as Times.
  • Please edit beautifully for spelling, punctuation, organization, and writing mechanics.
  • The tone of this paper should be formal and appropriate for publication in an academic journal.
  • Make sure to include all of the major components of a book review: an introduction with thesis, summary of argument, about the author, summary of contents, strengths, weaknesses, and conclusion.
  • Please include a citation of The Coddling of the American Mind at the bottom in ASA format (not included in your word count). For guidance on ASA, see http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/documents/teaching/pdfs/Quick_Tips_for_ASA_Style.pdf
  • Please submit on Canvas no later than midnight on Sunday, March 10. It is worth 100 points.
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