How to Write an Academic Book Review
This article "Writing the Academic Book Review" was originally written by Belcher to aid participants in a workshop sponsored by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center in February 2003 and to encourage book review submissions to Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. Book reviews in the field of Chicano studies can be sent to the journal; for information, see the new submissions page. The article was updated in 2015. Cite as Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2003. "Writing the Academic Book Review." Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. Last Modified 2015. Retrieved from http://www.wendybelcher.com/writing-advice/how-to-write-book-review/ on [month year].
Why Write a Book Review?
Writing book reviews is not only the easiest and quickest route to publication, it is a good way to improve your writing skills, develop your analytical skills, learn how the journal publishing process works, and get to know editors. Since some libraries can’t buy books unless they have been reviewed and many individuals won’t buy books unless they have read a review, reviewing books can definitely advance your field. Indeed, scholars in smaller fields sometimes get together and assign books for review so that every book published in their field is reviewed somewhere. Just remember that book reviews do not “count” as much on a curriculum vitae as an academic essay. If you are doing more than two book reviews a year, you may be spending too much time on book reviews and not enough on your other writing.
Choosing a Book
Think about what kind of book would be most useful to you in writing your dissertation, finalizing a paper for publication, or passing your exams. Since book reviews do take time, like any writing, it is best to chose a book that will work for you twice, as a publication and as research. Alternatively, some recommend that graduate students focus on reviewing textbooks or anthologies, since such reviews take less background knowledge and editors can find it difficult to find people willing to do such reviews. Although the traditional book review is of one book, editors will often welcome book reviews that address two or more related books--called a review essay.
Choose a book that (1) is in your field, (2) is on a topic for which you have sound background knowledge, (3) has been published in the past two or three years, and (4) has been published by a reputable publisher (i.e., any press affiliated with a university or large commercial presses).
Books on hot topics are often of special interest to editors. It can also be rewarding to pick an obscure but useful book in order to bring attention to it. To avoid complications, it is best not to review books written by your advisor, spouse, or ex!
To identify a suitable book in your field:
- Look up the call number of the favorite book in your field and go to the stacks of your university library. Do a shelf search around the call number to see if anything similar or related has been published in the past couple of years.
- Go to any book database—your university library on-line, Worldcat, Amazon.com, the Library of Congress—and search using two or three keywords related to your field (e.g., Chicano fiction, Chicana politics, Latino demographics, Latina high school education) to find books in your area.
- Read magazines that review books before publication—such as Choice, Library Journal, or Kirkus Reviews—to get a sense for interesting books that will be coming out. You can get copies of books for review before they are published. Editors especially like reviews of just published books.
- Read those academic journals that list books recently received for review or recently published in their area.
- Ask faculty members in your department for recommendations.
Once you have identified several books, locate copies and skim them. Pick the book that seems the strongest. Do not pick a book that has major problems or with which you disagree violently. As a graduate student, you do not have the protection of tenure and may one day be evaluated by the person whose book you put to the ax. If you really feel strongly that you must write a negative review of a certain book, go ahead and write the review. Academia is, after all, quite oedipal and young scholars do sometimes make their reputations by deflating those who came before them. Just realize that going on record in such a public way may have consequences.
Choosing a Journal
Identify several leading journals in your field that publish book reviews. One way to do this is to search an on-line article database or something like Book Review Digest, if your library has access. Using several key words from your field, limit your search to book reviews and note the journals where the results were published.
Before starting to write your review, contact the book review editor of one of the journals. This is important standard practice; in particular because most journals do not accept unsolicited reviews. You do not want to write an entire review of a book and send it to a journal, only to be told that they don't accept unsolicited reviews or that a review of that very book is to appear in the next issue.
So, send a short e-mail to book review editors at prospective journals (most journals have websites with such information) identifying the book you would like to review and your qualifications for reviewing it. This e-mail need not be longer than two sentences: “I am writing to find out if you would welcome a review from me of [Book Title], edited by [editor] and published in 2012 by [pubisher]. I am currently writing my dissertation at Stanford on the history of the field of [name of a field related to book].”
Another reason why you want to contact the book review editor is that they often can get you the book for free. Publishers frequently send books for review straight to journals or, if the book editor directly contacts them, straight to you. Of course, you don’t need to wait for the book to start your review if you have access to a library copy. If you get a free book, make sure to write the review. A book review editor will never send you another book if you don’t deliver on the first.
If the book review editor says yes, they would like a review of the book from you, make sure to ask if the journal has any book review submission guidelines. In particular, you want to make sure you understand how long their book reviews tend to be.
If the book review editor says the book is already under review, move on to your next journal choice or ask the editor if they have any books on the topic that they would like reviewed. You are under no obligation to review a book they suggest, just make sure to get back to them with a decision. It is perfectly acceptable to say “Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve decided to focus on writing my prospectus/dissertation.”
Reading the Book
It is best, when writing a book review, to be an active reader of the book. Sit at a desk with pen and paper in hand. As you read, stop frequently to summarize the argument, to note particularly clear statements of the book’s argument or purpose, and to describe your own responses. If you have read in this active way, putting together the book review should be quick and straightforward. Some people prefer to read at the computer, but if you’re a good typist, you often start typing up long quotes from the book instead of analyzing it. Paper and pen provides a little friction to prevent such drifting.
Take particular note of the title (does the book deliver what the title suggests it is going to deliver?), the table of contents (does the book cover all the ground it says it will?), the preface (often the richest source of information about the book), and the index (is it accurate, broad, deep?).
Some questions to keep in mind as you are reading:
- What is the book’s argument?
- Does the book do what it says it is going to do?
- Is the book a contribution to the field or discipline?
- Does the book relate to a current debate or trend in the field and if so, how?
- What is the theoretical lineage or school of thought out of which the book rises?
- Is the book well-written?
- What are the books terms and are they defined?
- How accurate is the information (e.g., the footnotes, bibliography, dates)?
- Are the illustrations helpful? If there are no illustrations, should there have been?
- Who would benefit from reading this book?
- How does the book compare to other books in the field?
- If it is a textbook, what courses can it be used in and how clear is the book’s structure and examples?
It can be worthwhile to do an on-line search to get a sense for the author’s history, other books, university appointments, graduate advisor, and so on. This can provide you with useful context..
Making a Plan
Book reviews are usually 600 to 2,000 words in length. It is best to aim for about 1,000 words, as you can say a fair amount in 1,000 words without getting bogged down. There’s no point in making a book review into a 20-page masterpiece since the time would have been better spent on an academic essay that would count for more on your c.v.
Some say a review should be written in a month: two weeks reading the book, one week planning your review, and one week writing it.
Although many don’t write an outline for an essay, you should really try to outline your book review before you write it. This will keep you on task and stop you from straying into writing an academic essay.
Classic book review structure is as follows:
- Title including complete bibliographic citation for the work (i.e., title in full, author, place, publisher, date of publication, edition statement, pages, special features [maps, color plates, etc.], price, and ISBN.
- One paragraph identifying the thesis, and whether the author achieves the stated purpose of the book.
- One or two paragraphs summarizing the book.
- One paragraph on the book’s strengths.
- One paragraph on the book’s weaknesses.
- One paragraph on your assessment of the book’s strengths and weaknesses.
Writing the Review
Once you’ve read the book, try to spend no more than one or two weeks writing the review. Allowing a great deal of time to fall between reading the book and writing about it is unfair to you and the author. The point of writing something short like a book review is to do it quickly. Sending a publication to a journal is always scary, sitting on the review won’t make it less so.
Avoiding Five Common Pitfalls
- Evaluate the text, don’t just summarize it. While a succinct restatement of the text’s points is important, part of writing a book review is making a judgment. Is the book a contribution to the field? Does it add to our knowledge? Should this book be read and by whom? One needn’t be negative to evaluate; for instance, explaining how a text relates to current debates in the field is a form of evaluation.
- Do not cover everything in the book. In other words, don’t use the table of contents as a structuring principle for your review. Try to organize your review around the book’s argument or your argument about the book.
- Judge the book by its intentions not yours. Don’t criticize the author for failing to write the book you think that he or she should have written. As John Updike puts it, “Do not imagine yourself the caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in any ideological battle, a corrections officer of any kind.”
- Likewise, don’t spend too much time focusing on gaps. Since a book is only 200 to 500 pages, it cannot possibly address the richness of any topic. For this reason, the most common criticism in any review is that the book doesn’t address some part of the topic. If the book purports to be about ethnicity and film and yet lacks a chapter on Latinos, by all means, mention it. Just don’t belabor the point. Another tic of reviewers is to focus too much on books the author did not cite. If you are using their bibliography just to display your own knowledge it will be obvious to the reader. Keep such criticisms brief.
- Don’t use too many quotes from the book. It is best to paraphrase or use short telling quotes within sentences.
For further advice about writing for publication, see Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Successby Wendy Laura Belcher (Sage, 2009).
Writing the Academic Book Review
I no longer teach this course , but you might want to think about teaching it, so I provide the information here.
This workshop aids students in actually writing and publishing a book review for a peer-reviewed journal. At the first session, students receive instruction on why graduate students should (or should not) write book reviews, how to choose a book for review, how to chose a journal for submission, how to read a book for review, how to plan and structure a book review, and five common pitfalls of reviewing. Students also form small groups to discuss the book each plans to review.At the second meeting, students bring a draft of their book review for exchange and feedback. At the third meeting, students arrive with a final version of their essay to submit to an editor for publication.
This workshop is sometimes offered by a particular journal with the editors serving on a panel the first night to provide students with specific advice for submitting reviews to their journal. I did such a workshop for Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, with the editors Chon A. Noriega and Alicia Gaspar de Alba.
Session 1, Week 1
- Introduction to book reviewing
- Selecting an appropriate book to review
- Five essential elements of any book review
- Typical errors graduate student reviewers make
Session 2, Week 10
- Assignment: First draft due
- Discussion of the writing process and challenges
- Exchanging and critiquing first drafts
- Some instructions on revising
Session 3, Week 16
- Assignment: Final draft due
- Discussion of the writing process and challenges
- Working with editors and the publication process
Printable version (doc./pdf.)
Three Sample Book Reviews
1) Everything on this handout compiled from http://jat.unomaha.edu/samplebookreview.html
Millbrooke, A.M. (1999). Aviation History. Englewood, CO: Jeppensen Sanderson.
Reviewed by Nanette Scarpellini, University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Aviation History delivers an entertaining account and perspective on international aviation history. This book is an excellent resource to students, educators, and aviation enthusiasts. In reviewing this book, the principal criteria included content, organization, and reference sources. While editing errors and organizational incongruities plague some of the latter chapters, many of the shortcomings of this first edition will likely be alleviated by later editions. These problems are only a minor distraction to the story being told.
Starting with the first unmanned hot air balloon flight in 1783 through the announcement of the X Prize that will be awarded to the first non-government sponsored manned spacecraft, the author shows the detailed progression of international aviation and aerospace technology. The reader is taken on a journey through the world of aviation and receives first-hand accounts from the inventors and dreamers who made it possible. The tone of the book reflects a learned appreciation for the marvel of aviation as illustrated by a quote from the 1759 aviation-related novel Rasselas by Samuel Johnson, which explains flight in this fashion: "So fishes have water, in which yet beasts can swim by nature, and men by art. He that can swim needs not despair to fly: to swim is to fly in a grosser fluid, and to fly is to swim in a subtler" (2-5).
The author, Anne Marie Millbrooke, is a proven historian and author specializing in science and technology with an emphasis on aviation history. In addition to acting as a historian for such organizations as the National Park Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), she has also managed the Archive and Historical Center at United Technologies Corporation and served as a Research Collaborator with the National Air and Space Museum. Her educational accomplishments include earning her doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania as well as her pilot certificate. Millbrooke’s multifaceted background establishes her in a strategic position to gather and assemble key pieces of aviation history that span the globe.
The organization of Aviation History allows the reader to easily follow the evolution of aviation. The book is divided into ten chapters. Opening with early aviation of the 18th century, the book progresses through the Wright Brothers, early flight, World War I, peacetime aviation, the Golden Age of Charles Lindbergh and aviation firsts, World War II, the Cold War, space-age aviation, and finally modern aerospace through 1999 with glimpses of the 21st century and beyond. The appendices conclude with a listing of aviation firsts and space flights, as well as a copy of the Wright U.S. Patent. While it is impossible to thoroughly explore all topics, the detailed bibliography provides sources for obtaining more information. This format spotlights the key phases of aviation development.
The construction of the book meshes well with its organization and lends itself successfully to the study of different time periods in history. Each chapter is broken down into four sections, which typically fit logically into the topic of the chapter. All chapters are composed of several defining parts that maintain a sense of continuity throughout the volume. A Summary of Events for the time period under review leads into the introduction and the chapter goals. Within the text of the chapter, there are an assortment of breakout boxes that either describes an historic event, provides historical evidence to support aviation theories, or relates bibliographical information about individuals who were propitious in shaping aviation history. Unfortunately, the intriguing stories may also confuse readers when they are so numerous as to distort the flow of the text. The chapter is completed by a thorough bibliography, study questions reviewing the material covered, and a timeline augmented by providing events not directly associated with aviation. The book is well-referenced, making skillful use of first-person sources.
The orderliness of the book conforms to an academic curriculum. While the chapters create neatly parceled packages, certain areas seem forced to conform to the ten-chapter plan. For instance, Chapter 9: Space Age Aviation seems oddly burdened by the last third of the chapter which focuses on fighter aircraft and various wars, from Vietnam to the U.S. invasion of Granada, as well as a final section completely on private and general aviation. These subjects can be better covered by creating another chapter or by parceling them into both earlier and later sections. In this situation, the author provides good material and content, which is hampered by poor organization. Overall, a detailed story of the advancement of aviation is shown in readable and entertaining style.
Millbrooke presents a broad analysis of aviation history that focuses on developments worldwide, as opposed to the many history books that single out achievements of the United States. Aviation History offers an objective view of aviation developments and illustrates the interactive nature of the industry. War spurred many of aviation’s most significant advances, with countries openly borrowing new procedures and operations from enemy progress in the field creating the most effective fighting fleets. "Nationalistic pride in aviation went beyond the romance and fads of aviation, to national identity and claims of distinctiveness and superiority . . . Legends grew around the British S.E. (scout experimental made by the Royal Aircraft Factory), the French Spad, and the German Fokker" (4-4).
Each chapter is filled with pictures and colorful quotes from people of that era. These firsthand accounts provide deeper insight into what, in some history books, is just a listing of factual information. When the "Red Baron" Manfred von Richthofen describes his victory over British ace Lanoe Hawker on November 23, 1916, the day comes alive. "I was on patrol that day and observed three Englishmen who had nothing else in mind than to hunt. I noticed how they ogled me, and since I felt ready for battle, I let them come . . ." (in Richthofen’s The Red Baron, 4-29).
The author supplies an in-depth analysis of various aspects of aviation often glossed over in aviation books. Some of the areas explored include the development of aerial photography, air-to-ground communication with early wireless radio equipment, and airmail expansion beyond the United States. Antoine de Saint-Exupery flew a la Ligne mail route between France and Spain that sometimes crossed hostile territory. On a flight in February 1927 he recounts the following in a letter to his mother. "The trip went well, aside from a breakdown and the plane crashing into the desert" (Schiff. 1994 in 5-41). As evidenced by the stories recounted throughout the volume, early pilots were part mechanic, part inventor, and part adventurer in order to survive.
Aviation History is a collection of significant events in aviation accented by the people who made it happen and correlated with world affairs. The book’s use of color and vivid stories helps to make the advancements come to life as something more than significant events on a timeline. While at times the stories may clutter the page, they also breathe life into what is considered by many to be a dull subject. The author’s enthusiasm for the topic is obvious throughout the book. More thorough proofreading could help alleviate some of the confusion that is caused by typos and a few mislabeled illustrations. The credibility of the content does not suffer due to these obvious errors which will likely be corrected in the next edition.
Author description: Nanette Scarpellini is a graduate research assistant in the NASA Space Grant College and Fellowship program for the University of Nebraska at Omaha Aviation Institute and the assistant editor for the Journal of Air Transportation World Wide. Ms. Scarpellini is pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree with an Aviation Administration concentration. In addition, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Psychology with an Advertising concentration from The Ohio State University, a Certificate of Organizational Development and Training from New York University, and is a licensed private pilot.
Return to Book Review
2. A Sample Book Review from http://faculty.sanjuancollege.edu/krobison/resources/portilla.htm
Leòn-Portilla, Miguel. Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl ......Mind. Translated by Jack Emory Davis. Norman: University of Oklahoma ......Press, 1963.
Review by Kelly Robison
In this ambitious work, Leòn-Portilla endeavors to ascertain the existence of a class of philosophers in Aztec society. If philosophy, and not merely religion, was present in Nahuatl culture, what did these philosophers attempt to accomplish? Through a study of Nahuatl texts and post-Conquest records, Leòn-Portilla examines the manifestations of rational thought and inquiry in Mexico prior to the Conquest.
The Nahuatls developed a philosopher class that differed in purpose from the more rigidly religious objectives of the priestly class. These men, akin in style and intentions to the early poet-philosophers of Greece, probed the most profound questions of the human existence. The tlamatinime, as they were called, recognized no difference between "the formal objectives of philosophy,"(xxiii) religion, scientific knowledge, or art. These men thought more deeply about life and the universe than the common people and questioned what was for the commoner truth handed down from generation through generation by the priests in the form of myths and legends.
Leòn-Portilla bases his investigations and conclusions on detailed examinations of the records left by the early missionaries to the newly conquered territories of Mexico and on an in-depth analysis of the surviving Nahuatl texts, including poetry. In these accounts, he finds evidence of a deeply philosophical people. But these men, the tlamatinime, differed from the warrior class or the common people in that they sought to "discover the meaning of life on an intellectual plane."(177) The warriors were content to accept traditional religious dogma and use it as the basis for expansion, while the commoners simply accepted it.
The tlamatinime, or wise men, first studied the codices and legends and attempted to interpret them. But their studies produced questions as to the meaning of life and the universe. The wise men first perceived that life was fleeting and fragile, dream-like. If this was so, then the question arose of whether anything was worth doing. A second question arose as well, can there be Truth if life is dream-life? The reason for man's existence or purpose deeply troubled the tlamatinime.
The wise men recognized the differences between concepts based on magic and superstition and those based on observation and experience. But, if everything on earth was temporary, then truth cannot be found here. Truth must be found somewhere beyond the earthly domain, in those regions where the gods live. But how to get to these regions remained a problem.
Some of the wise men declared that since higher truth cannot be found, one must live life to the fullest and enjoy the time one has one earth. Others did not despair so easily. Intuition became the key to truth for these men. Occasionally, one will pronounce the Truth through the medium of poetry and the arts. This inspiration could allow men to glimpse the truth, reveal the universe, however briefly, and let him express that truth through the arts and, especially, poetry.
Ometèotl, the dual god, was the "supreme metaphor." He was the supreme creator, the cause and effect, and gave men the ability to see beyond the natural world. Along the path of the arts, given to men by Ometèotl, men could find truth. The wise men meditated, thought. They contemplated the heavens and the earth seeking knowledge. They admired and wrought paintings, sculpture and poetry. Each of these endeavors was a meaning and an end. Through the arts the wise men could find truth and they expressed truth through the arts.
Thus "Nahuatl philosophic thought...revolved about an aesthetic conception of the universe and life, for art 'made things divine,' and only the divine was true."(182) The wise men based their way of life upon this world view thay they could still not precisely explain. The tlamatinime contemplated, wrote, wrought and observed, unlike their brethren who thought little about the deeper meanings of life.
Leòn-Portilla reveals a deep knowledge and understanding of the pre-Conquest Nahuatl mind and philosophical thought in this book. His work is ambitious in that it seeks to explain some of the most intangible elements of the human existence using only sources provided by the conquerors of the Aztecs and the remaining poems of the conquered people. From these few fragments, the author pieces together the world view of a segment of a vanished civilization.
The author's writing is eloquent yet understandable. He uses translations of the original texts liberally to illustrate his contentions, thereby providing a balanced, well-documented work whose thesis could be arrived at by others through the use of the texts supplied.
Organization is the one problem with the work. However, this weakness is outweighed by the work's strengths. Although Leòn-Portilla does divide the work into chapters based, for the most part, on the theoretical constructions of the tlamatinime, he could have done a better job of it.
3. A Sample Book Review
Bolland, O. Nigel. Struggles for Freedom: Essays on Slavery, Colonialism and Culture ........in the Caribbean and Central America. O. New York: Bantam, 1997.
by A Sample Author
One of the most common problems with the literature on the Caribbean is that it is limited to islands and, despite a common history, does not include the West Indian communities on the mainland of Central and South America. Moreover, on those occasions when the entire region receives the attention of a scholar, the product is often from the perspective of the British Caribbean and makes no attempt to understand Hispanic influences. The results of such scholarship are often disappointing because it fails to recognize the significance of the circum-Caribbean region as a frontier between for the British West Indies and Hispanic America. The coastal plains of the region are an historic meeting place where empires clashed, cultures fused and new economies were created. With the arrival of the Europeans came the destruction of aboriginal society, the introduction of African labour and the incorporation of the region into the North Atlantic world economy. The post-contact history of this stretch of coastline is intertwined with stories of buccaneers, escaped slaves, indigenous monarchies and international political intrigue. Moreover, it is the scene of one of the most spectacular intra-regional migrations in the modern history of Latin America because as many as 500,000 West Indian migrants passed through or settled in the region between 1850 and 1950. Hundreds of years of interaction between the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking cultures, with the added dimension of the African and Amerindian peoples has produced a very different Caribbean society in this isolated region.
Over the years O. Nigel Bolland's research has offered a different perspective on Caribbean society and history because his work often touches on the frontiers between the English and Spanish-speaking Western Caribbean. Struggles for Freedom, at first glance, appears to be a book that attempts to come to terms with the histories of these two solitudes. The book is a collection of articles by a sociologist who has made a career of the study Caribbean society and he makes an effort to expand his research beyond Belize to the Miskito Coast, Central America and the British West Indies. Bolland's approach is valid because his starting point is on the shores of Western Caribbean and, as a result, he is in a position to take the reader to the places where Hispanic America and the British Caribbean meet.
Struggles for Freedomis divided into four parts that reflect Bolland's interest in the social construction and the history of Caribbean society. The first section establishes the author's approach to the region's history by examining the concept of Creole society as it is understood in the West Indies. Bolland argues that in addition to understanding Caribbean cultures as being a blend of African and other influences, they must also be viewed in dialectical terms. As a consequence, Bolland's subsequent analysis in the following three sections is framed within a model of class antagonisms in the period between 1492 and the present. Part II, "Colonization and Slavery," is comprised of three chapters. One offers an overview of colonization and slavery in Central America and the other two concentrate on Belize. The chapter on Central America is a survey which is based on secondary sources published in English. The chapters on Belize are much stronger and informative. The third part, "From Slavery to Freedom," is divided into two chapters that examine the problems and politics of freedom in the 19th century. Here, Bolland takes a more general approach by looking at the transition to wage labour in the post-emancipation societies of the Americas, and at the politics of control and freedom in the free societies of the Caribbean. Once again, the first chapter in this section offers a general overview which is based exclusively on secondary sources printed in English. The two chapters that follow are more focused and offer well-researched insights into British Caribbean society during the transitional period after emancipation. The final section of the book offers an analysis of politics, society and the role of ethnicity at the end of the colonial period in the British West Indies. Here Bolland's scholarship is focused on the topics he is most comfortable with. The final chapters also happen to be among the few in the collection that appear for the first time and, therefore, reflect the author's most recent views on Caribbean society.
Although O. Nigel Bolland offers readers a solid analysis of the political and social history of creole society, and his insights are applicable to a broad spectrum of Caribbean societies, his book falls short of exploring the frontier between the Hispanic and English-speaking communities that inhabit the region. Such an omission might be expected, but the book's title does promise to include Central America and the expectation is that Bolland would venture beyond the confines of the only English-speaking country in the region. The author looks out from Belize, but fails to take account of the West Indian communities in neighbouring countries. Bolland's dialectical analysis of Creole society would be put to test if the antagonisms he identifies were examined in the context of an Hispanic environment. For example, are there situations among West Indians in Central America where ethnicity takes precedence over class, and if so, what does this tell us about Creole society in general? Moreover, in his surveys of Central America and the Americas the author did not explore Spanish language sources despite the obvious depth that such material would provide to his analysis. The result is, once again, a study of the history and society of the region from the perspective of someone who does not consider the relationship of Creole society with Hispanic society. Though better than other publications that look across the Caribbean to Latin America, or that look at the region's Atlantic coast from the Hispanic highlands, Struggles for Freedom is often as frustrating because it does not see the Western Caribbean as a transcultural region where notions of Creole society can be challenged. Nevertheless, O. Nigel Bolland offers readers some of the best scholarship on the history of Belize and his insights into Caribbean society are a valuable contribution to the field.