Critical Book Review on Henrietta Lacks 

The merits of academic work are being evaluated here. Its purpose is not to prove that you read the book —which is understood as a given —but to show that you can think critically about what you’ve read.  A book review requires a lot of thought and effort. The process can be broken down into three main stages: reading, writing, and writing. There are many questions and factors to consider with each stage as you work on your review. Many of these issues are interrelated, but they are broken up to make them easier to understand in this guide.

Procedure: You should consider the following issues while reading the book to help you better evaluate it. Make notes as you read, so you won’t forget your observations or have to go back and hunt for references.

1.Purpose/Thesis: What was the author’s purpose in writing the book? Did they state their purpose explicitly, or did you have to infer it? The purpose for writing is usually the thesis or argument of the work. (Although academics often write books to refute another scholar’s work or because something is en vogue, the underlying purpose for writing is always to present an argument). Does the book have a clear central thesis/argument? How effectively (i.e., with what kinds of evidence) are these theses developed? Does the author convince you of the validity of her thesis/argument?

2.Sources: What types of sources does the author utilize in presenting the thesis? Are they mainly published documents, or do they include archival records? Does the author draw on other material such as novels, artwork, or interviews? How are the author’s sources incorporated into the narrative? Do you think they tapped all the major sources available, or are there omissions?

3.Contextualization: How well does the author explain the wider context of the events or developments he discusses? Is the book narrowly focused, or does the author try to connect to wider developments?


4.Style: is the book well written? Is it easy to understand? Does it flow well? Is the writing dense and heavy with jargon, making it hard to grasp? Does the author show a flair for effective writing that goes beyond simple communication? Does the writing make the book more interesting?

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