The first thing you should do is to take a look at the book reviews in the Journal of American Folklore, taking note not only of the formatting of the entries but also their content and structure. As a kind of loose outline of what should be in your review, I offer the following:
* Nature and purpose of the book, including a statement of the main theme(s) or thesis (theses), its subject matter and principal points.
* A descriptive and analytical commentary—not a summary—of the book’s contents written for someone who has not read the book. You will have to exercise careful judgment here in your efforts to compress justly. Your reader needs to know what the book is about and what the author’s purpose was in writing the book. Some questions to help you in fulfilling this dimension of a review are:
1. Is the book important? Why or why not?
2. What questions does it answer or fail to answer? What questions does it raise or fail to raise? Is their a logical reason for such a failure?
3. Does the book offer new information, a fresh approach, or an innovative interpretation? What is its thesis?
4. Does the author advocate a particular point of view, demonstrate a bias for certain concerns over and above other? How so and does this affect the nature of the book’s project?
5. Does the author use available sources and does she use them well or poorly?
6. Is the book credible? What makes you think so?
7. How does the book compare with similar works, current paradigms in the field, etc.?
8. Does the author fulfill the expectations he raises?
* Conclusions: reiterate your main points and remember to leave your reader with what you want he or she to remember more than anything else about the book.
In general, a book review should be both descriptive and analytical. Your review should, of course, be typed, but since these reviews will become part of a class publication, please single-space. Please also use the common typeface Times, or something in its family, at a size of 12 points. This will make the overall document much more readable.