Book Reflection Guide

Assignment Goals

This assignment shows that you’re able to apply the course to a critical description of a food-related text (like our required books) that you might read even outside of this course.

Assignment Logistics

Your essay must be ~800 words. This restrictive format is deliberate, to force you to think about quality over quantity. The challenge is NOT to meet the word count, but to pack as much analysis and synthesis into that space as you can.


Your audience is NOT ME as your professor who is grading your paper. For one, I’m actually not grading it; you are assessing your effort in reading and reflecting on it. Two, you want to imagine you’re writing for someone who likes food and/or food history and might be interested in this book, and is therefore reading a concise review/reflection to get a sense of what it’s about and to decide if it’s worth their time.

Organizational advice

Although you don’t need to have distinct section headings, you should have three main sections to your paper. You should have multiple paragraphs in each section. Paragraphs are for ideas, not sections. The word counts for each are APPROXIMATE. Do not spend time trying to stay super close to the suggested length.

Summary (~250 words)

You should begin your paper with a relatively quick summary of the main takeaway points of the book so that your readers have an idea of not only what it is about in broad terms, but also what the general themes are. DO NOT GIVE A CHAPTER BY CHAPTER SUMMARY. You want to provide a bird’s eye view.

Importance and Relevance (~250 words)

  • What besides historical knowledge should readers take away from the book?
  • Who could benefit from reading this? Who might be excluded?
  • What are the implications of the book for the modern consumer?

Don’t simply say that knowing the history of X is important. Everyone knows that (not true, but let’s pretend). Make a specific case how the book is useful beyond the historical “facts” it presents.

Personal Reflections (~300 words)

Typical book reviews aren’t very personal, but our book reflections are. You should describe YOUR EXPERIENCE (not that of some hypothetical reader) reading the book. Again, thinking big picture, write about:

  • What was most interesting for you?
  • How was the book most successful or impactful?
  • To what extent did it change your thinking on the topic?
  • What did you find problematic? Where did you get confused?
  • Are there key issues or topics that were not addressed?
  • Did you find the general point of the book interesting/effective/persuasive?
  • How did the stuff we’ve already read influence how you read this book?

References and Citations

Anything in your text that refers to a specific quote or idea should a have parenthetical page reference. These show the reader how you are using the book in your review.

For example: The author claims that food is no longer good for us (13). The author of the book is implied since we only have one source. If you are citing other texts from class, use author/date format (Gibbs, 75).

Don’t forget your learning assessment (1-8 scale)

At the end of your cookbook analysis, evaluate your own effort. Use half points if you’d like.

  • 1-2: Marginal. Skimmed the book quickly and your review provides a coherent but rather simplistic description of the content.
  • 3-4: Fine. Read the book reasonably carefully, and your review shows that you’re thinking critically about the ideas, arguments, and evidence presented.
  • 5-6: Very good. Read the book carefully, and your review shows a legitimate effort to engage with the suggested questions above.
  • 7-8: Excellent. Read the book closely, and your review shows an original, expressive, and sophisticated answers to the suggested questions above.


You are ALWAYS welcome to use email or better yet Slack for questions or clarifications. Writing is hard enough, and virtually impossible when you’re not sure what you’re trying to do. Please get in touch!