(Worth 20% of your grade; due on March 24)

Overview

In addition to the three edited collections we will be reading as a class, each of you will read one additional book on a topic in digital rhetoric that piques your interest, helps you connect this course with your other coursework, advances your research agenda, or improves your teaching. After reading the book, you’ll write a scholarly review of it, intended for (and, ideally, submitted to) a journal in your field, and you’ll deliver a substantive in-class presentation to introduce the book’s key ideas and arguments to your classmates.

Completing the Assignment

The genre of academic book review is fairly well established, but if this is your first time writing a review, it might be helpful to follow a few general steps:

  1. Select a venue. It may seem counterintuitive to choose a journal in which you’d like to publish your review before you select the book you’re reviewing, but putting this step first will help you (a) get a sense of the length and tone of reviews being published by a specific journal, and (b) find out which books have already been reviewed in that journal. Please note that you are not required to submit your review for publication, but even if you don’t, you should write it as if you were going to. This means following the journal’s style guide, length requirements, etc… If you are serious about getting your review published (and I hope you are!), I would recommend contacting the journal’s book review editor before you begin writing your review in order to find out if the journal would be interested in a review of the book you want to read. (Alternately, you might ask if the journal has a list of books it would like to be reviewed.) If you need help finding a publication venue, check out the CWPA’s list of journals in rhetoric and composition or Berkeley’s list of digital humanities publications.

  2. Select a book. You only need to read one book for this assignment, but I suggest considering several options before finalizing your choice. Use Google Books or Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to review the table of contents, read the first few pages, etc., and talk with your classmates about the books they’re considering to avoid duplication. The list at the bottom of this page contains many “pre-approved” books (essentially, titles that I considered requiring for this course), but you don’t need to limit yourself to books on this list. When you are ready to choose a book, reserve it in our document in Google Drive.

  3. Write the review. Take copious notes as you read your book, marking specific passages that may be useful as you write your review. Effective book reviews do more than summarize a book’s main points; they help readers understand how the book fits into larger, ongoing conversations in our field and decide whether they should invest the time required to read the book themselves. Your book review might be highly favorable or highly critical, but it should “play fair” — that is, it should take the author and the book’s subject matter seriously, avoiding rhetorical cheap shots and relentless, fawning praise. On a practical note, your review should be formatted according to the journal’s specifications and free from grammatical errors, typos, etc…

  4. Present your book to the class. At the conclusion of this assignment, you will have 1/3 of a class period (roughly 20 minutes) to introduce your book to everyone else in our class. There is no strict format for these presentations, so be creative. Do more than just march us through your written review; help us engage with the text in some way. As part of your presentation, create a brief handout (no more than a single page, front and back) for your classmates that will help them understand the book you’ve read and help them determine its potential value for their own research.

Evaluation Criteria

I will evaluate your review using the following criteria:

  • Does your review strike an appropriate balance between summarizing the key points of the book and analyzing its arguments?
  • Does your review situate itself within the journal’s ongoing conversations about the topics addressed in your chosen book?
  • Does your review “play fair”? In other words, does it treat the book’s author like a colleague you might meet at an upcoming conference?
  • Does your in-class presentation make good use of our class time by quickly summarizing the book, then helping us engage with some aspect of the text?
  • Does your review follow the editorial guidelines issued by the publication you are targeting?
  • Does your review adhere to the conventions of standard written English (i.e., spelling, punctuation, grammar)?

Potential Titles for Review

Every book on the following list is “pre-approved” for review. However, this list is far from comprehensive, so if you would like to review another title, just [let me know](/contact “Email Quinn).