How the Nazi Past is Bei ng Normalized in Contemporary Culture by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Assignment Requirements

A book review assignment expects you to offer a critical evaluation of a piece of writing with

respect to both structure and content. A review should contain three main elements. It should provide a

brief summary of the book and the author’s main argument(s). So, the review should answer the basic

question: what is this book about? You do not want to linger here, as the point is not to provide so much

detail that the reader of your review does not need to read the book. You want enough detail to provide

the gist of the book. Like in the perhaps more familiar movie review, you want to tell the reader what the

movie is about without spoiling the experience of seeing it. A book review should also comment on how

well the author made their argument. Was their argument organized in a clear, logical way? Was the

author’s argument easy to follow and reinforced throughout the piece? Was it well written and easy to

understand? You should provide evidence from the book for your answers to these questions; examples of

good or bad writing – depending on your conclusions. Again, a comparison to a movie review is helpful

here (“good plot, but the filming and editing were so poor it made the plot harder to understand. For

example, in the scene where…”). The third element in a book review is your evaluation of the book’s

content and argument. You’ve discussed what the author argued, you discussed how well they made that

argument; now you must engage with the argument itself. In an academic book review, this element is

probably the most important. For our specific purposes, consider what the author’s arguments say about

ideas of the past and how those ideas alter over time. What does the author say about how our relationship

with the past is informed by our present? Finally, this is your review. Say whether you were or were not

convinced by the author’s argument and why. Ultimately: did you like the book? Why or why not?

Although a book review is different from an “essay” in which you do your own research, it should

follow roughly the same pattern. You are making an argument, insofar as you are going to make assertions

about this book one way or the other. Those should be stated, briefly, near the beginning of your review

and elaborated with evidence in the body of the work – just like in an essay. In this way, a book review is

similar to an essay even though you are asked to perform a slightly different task.


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