Posted by: Dinesh Kapur | November 27, 2012

How to write a book review without reading the book?

A 20-step guide. To getting it wrong, and then getting it right! Or at least living under the illusion that you got it right!

  1. Overlook the crucial section about the ‘Classical literature review’ assignment while struggling to read through the laborious course handbook carefully.
  2. Decide to change your plans last minute, and come to the University of Cambridge one day before your flight to the Netherlands where you were going to start a Masters at TU Delft
  3. Avoid reading the assignment sheet with the list of books carefully because of the ridiculously SMALL font.
  4. Be dispirited and discontent about being in a ‘new college’ for the first month. Get annoyed at an Aussie class mate’s (Randy!) never-ending ‘formal evening’ pictures. To compensate, join more societies than the number of societies in Cambridge! Thereby, not thinking about assignments.
  5. Spend more time walking around the aisles at Sainbury’s dazed at the sheer futility of the options and the ridiculously early expiry dates while dodging baskets and undergraduates. DO NOT GO TO THE LIBRARY.
  6. Fall sick after eating lasagna at Robinson College. Realize later that it had beef, and feel sicker than you actually were. Not due to religious reasons, but because you can’t stomach bovine animals.
  7. Try to recall the list of books mentally, without getting out of your bed and reading the damn assignment brief.
  8. For 2 weeks, live under the impression that you read two of the books in the list in your last job, and had ‘things under control’. Articulate this to your classmates and reinforce your misconception.
  9. Realize later that you hated one of the two books that you ‘read’ in your previous job, and are incapable of reviewing the book without stopping yourself from writing – ‘Writing about this makes me feel like a fucking stark raving maniacal lunatic’!
  10. Go through a really bad matter of the heart. Like the ‘swallow the ground beneath your feet failure in love’ where nothing that D-Fen, or anybody else, says in class makes any sense. Make sure you feel totally screwed by listening to sad songs on Youtube thanks to the SUPER FUCKING FAST Internet connection that you never experienced in your country! Whoa, what a rush at 312 kbps/sec!
  11. Sick or not, lazy or not, depressed or not, finally convince yourself to pick yourself out of bed to get the last copy of the book that you read previously – from the course administrator because she found some copies while cleaning her office. Not because you like the book, but this way you won’t have to buy a new book – since all other books have been issued to your classmates! Feel awesome that you saved 10 pounds!
  12. Feel slightly surprised while flipping through the pages of the book three days before the submission deadline for the book review. Get distracted by the pretty Romanian/French/German girl, and forgot about why you were surprised.
  13. Have a conversation with one of those ‘very sincere-bright-good grades-smart’ kinda girls in your class and realize that she is on course to finishing her book review two days before the deadline. Wonder about the kind of progress others are making.
  14. Speak to a few others reading the same book and feel relieved that some of them are still reading the book, and that you read it before. Feel content and happy with yourself for a change. Beam a smile.
  15. Fail to organize a group discussion. Two days before final submission, pick up the book, flip through it again and realize that you did not actually read the second book in your previous job, but instead you read the predecessor to the book by the same author.
  16. Panic! 300 pages – 37 hours before the deadline! FUCKING PANIC!! And then realize that the book in the list is somewhat related to the previous book. Remember that you are in studying in the same University as the one that taught Douglas Adams.
  17. Don’t Panic.
  18. Struggle to speed read the damn book while piecing together a painfully slow book review at 1:00 AM UK time! In a moment of clarity, realize that some of your colleagues read the book! Exploit the RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP international phone call rates, and 5 and a half hour time difference (DAYLIGHT SAVING – YOU BEAUTY!) to call them, wake them, and take notes. Realize that you did actually read most of this book, in the last book, and other literature.
  19. Keep Calm and Carry On!
  20. Read a million other book reviews of that book. Get interested in the book around 3:30 AM. Stay up all night. In a stretch of immersed brilliance, finish the book by 9:00 AM, well at least the ‘beefy’ bovine parts. Finish your book review one hour before submission deadline with a reference to FOOTBALL (So cool!). Take a print out. Submit it exactly at the deadline. Feel like a boss. Come back and read the soft-copy and realize that you made 3 typos, and 2 grammatical mistakes!

So close to perfect. Bring on the next assignment. This is LR 11!!

(P.s. – The author of this post, did not cheat on his assignment. Albeit late, he did read the book. In reality he is so scared out of his pants of plagiarism, and false accusations after he got a misinformed legal notice, that he would never resort to such tom(marvolo-riddle) foolery in Hogwarts)



  1. Either I’ve gone blind or you didn’t mention the name of the book(s) even once in the entire post :/

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