Book Essay 1: Edward G. Lengel, Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2011)
First things first, my first advice is as you read, do not take excessively detailed notes; rather, jot down the arguments and events you anticipate will make it into your essay. When I read a book I am about to review, I actually begin writing several paragraphs, which I later copy and paste into my book essay. Remember, don’t expect to be able to review all of the content in detail. Each book is about two hundred pages and your book essay is only 1000 words (four pages). This exercise will help you develop the skill of sifting through a lot of information, conveying to others the broad take-away points of the book, and selecting that which is most important to analyze in further detail in your essay. This is not an easy task but a vital part of the discipline of history.
Pay careful attention to format and to your writing. It is vital that you carefully proofread your essays for sense, grammar, and spelling. Give yourself enough time so you can reread your essay with a fresh eye. English Standard Format, Times New Roman, 12-pt. font, 1-inch margins, double-spaced, MLA, 1,000 words, or about four pages, no headings necessary, just your name, the word count of the essay, and the citation of the book. Points will be deducted from essays that are 50+/- words away from 1,000.
Your essay must follow all of the rules of English Standard Format formal writing.
*The Introduction must set the historical and historiographical scene (What relevant events occurred at the time? and how have historians traditionally interpreted this period in history?) and then explain what Lengel argues and why you think his argument is important for historians and students alike to understand.
*In particular, you will notice that most of book essay prompts ask you to make several analytical judgments: you need to decide which arguments and evidence are most important to know.
*Here’s how you do that: You begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence stating which argument or interpretation of Lengel’s you argue is most important and why. Defend this claim as thoroughly as you possibly can, using evidence, facts, drawing connections, and providing a strong and rigorous analysis throughout the paragraph. Repeat in each paragraph. To successfully answer the question, you should present three to five well-defended points from the book, which has contributed in significant ways to our understanding of U.S. History.
*This essay is only four pages; thus, there is no need to waste time simply restating the claims you just made in the preceding paragraphs once again in the conclusion. Rather, conclude with a projection into later years beyond the scope of the book. You are not allowed to use any outside sources to write your book essays. All you will need is the book and supplementary material available in the course.
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