AH576_876_First Assignment: Critical Book Review

An essential feature of a good book review is the reviewer’s ability to write concisely so that a comprehensive evaluation of the book can be obtained from a brief reading. So, do not write more, write more concisely — find creative ways to communicate your critical evaluation of the book in a short essay.

The point of a scholarly book review is not to summarize the content of the book, but to situate the historical merit of the book and to evaluate critically the author’s purpose, thesis, contentions, and methods of analysis. Hence, the bulk of the body of one’s review essay will be an evaluation of how convincing was the author’s presentation of his/her thesis, and a commentary on the book’s contribution to one’s understanding of important issues in the history of Chinese theater, literature and art history.

Among the features you will want to include in a strong review are:

  • A discussion of the author’s main contentions.
  • An explanation of the type of sources the author utilizes, and the methods the author employs in choosing and organizing those sources.
  • An assessment of the strong points or shortcomings of the book.
  • How does this book change the way one should think about the subject (or about debated issues in the history of Chinese theater, literature and art).

Finally, you will want to make references to specific portions of the book to illustrate your evaluation. The challenge will be to do as much of this as possible and yet not let it interfere with the restricted length of the essay. In other words, find creative ways to give examples from the book in a limited space. Obviously, quotations should be kept to a minimum, and should rarely exceed one sentence.


5-page, Times New Roman, 12 point font, double- spaced, paginated.

Review book:


Watt, James and Anne E. Wardwell. When Silk was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in cooperation with the Cleveland Museum of Art: Distributed by H.N. Abrams, 1997.

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