How to Write a Book Review: Awesome Guide
A book review allows students to illustrate the author's intentions of writing the piece, as well as create a criticism of the book — as a whole. In other words, form an opinion of the author's presented ideas. Check out this guide from EssayPro — dissertation writing service to learn how to write a book review successfully.
What Is a Book Review?
You may prosper, “what is a book review?”. Book reviews are commonly assigned students to allow them to show a clear understanding of the novel. And to check if the students have actually read the book. The essay format is highly important for your consideration, take a look at the book review format below.
Book reviews are assigned to allow students to present their own opinion regarding the author’s ideas included in the book or passage. They are a form of literary criticism that analyzes the author’s ideas, writing techniques, and quality. A book analysis is entirely opinion-based, in relevance to the book. They are good practice for those who wish to become editors, due to the fact, editing requires a lot of criticism.
Book Review Template
The book review format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Describe the book cover and title.
- Include any subtitles at this stage.
- Include the Author’s Name.
- Write a brief description of the novel.
- Briefly introduce the main points of the body in your book review.
- Avoid mentioning any opinions at this time.
- Use about 3 quotations from the author’s novel.
- Summarize the quotations in your own words.
- Mention your own point-of-view of the quotation.
- Remember to keep every point included in its own paragraph.
- In brief, summarize the quotations.
- In brief, summarize the explanations.
- Finish with a concluding sentence.
- This can include your final opinion of the book.
- Star-Rating (Optional).
Get Your BOOK REVIEW WRITTEN!
Simply send us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll get it done.
How to Write a Book Review: Step-By-Step
Writing a book review is something that can be done with every novel. Book reviews can apply to all novels, no matter the genre. Some genres may be harder than others. On the other hand, the book review format remains the same. Take a look at these step-by-step instructions from our professional writers to learn how to write a book review in-depth.
Step 1: Planning
Create an essay outline which includes all of the main points you wish to summarise in your book analysis. Include information about the characters, details of the plot, and some other important parts of your chosen novel. Reserve a body paragraph for each point you wish to talk about.
Consider these points before writing:
- What is the plot of the book? Understanding the plot enables you to write an effective review.
- Is the plot gripping? Does the plot make you want to continue reading the novel? Did you enjoy the plot? Does it manage to grab a reader’s attention?
- Are the writing techniques used by the author effective? Does the writer imply factors in-between the lines? What are they?
- Are the characters believable? Are the characters logical? Does the book make the characters are real while reading?
- Would you recommend the book to anyone? The most important thing: would you tell others to read this book? Is it good enough? Is it bad?
- What could be better? Keep in mind the quotes that could have been presented better. Criticize the writer.
Step 2: Introduction
Presumably, you have chosen your book. To begin, mention the book title and author’s name. Talk about the cover of the book. Write a thesis statement regarding the fictitious story or non-fictional novel. Which briefly describes the quoted material in the book review.
Step 3: Body
Choose a specific chapter or scenario to summarise. Include about 3 quotes in the body. Create summaries of each quote in your own words. It is also encouraged to include your own point-of-view and the way you interpret the quote. It is highly important to have one quote per paragraph.
Step 4: Conclusion
Write a summary of the summarised quotations and explanations, included in the body paragraphs. After doing so, finish book analysis with a concluding sentence to show the bigger picture of the book. Think to yourself, “Is it worth reading?”, and answer the question in black and white. However, write in-between the lines. Avoid stating “I like/dislike this book.”
Step 5: Rate the Book (Optional)
After writing a book review, you may want to include a rating. Including a star-rating provides further insight into the quality of the book, to your readers. Book reviews with star-ratings can be more effective, compared to those which don’t. Though, this is entirely optional.
Count on the support of our cheap essay writing service . We process all your requests fast.
Here is the list of tips for the book review:
- A long introduction can certainly lower one’s grade: keep the beginning short. Readers don’t like to read the long introduction for any essay style.
- It is advisable to write book reviews about fiction: it is not a must. Though, reviewing fiction can be far more effective than writing about a piece of nonfiction
- Avoid Comparing: avoid comparing your chosen novel with other books you have previously read. Doing so can be confusing for the reader.
- Opinion Matters: including your own point-of-view is something that is often encouraged when writing book reviews.
- Refer to Templates: a book review template can help a student get a clearer understanding of the required writing style.
- Don’t be Afraid to Criticize: usually, your own opinion isn’t required for academic papers below Ph.D. level. On the other hand, for book reviews, there’s an exception.
- Use Positivity: include a fair amount of positive comments and criticism.
- Review The Chosen Novel: avoid making things up. Review only what is presented in the chosen book.
- Enjoyed the book? If you loved reading the book, state it. Doing so makes your book analysis more personalized.
Writing a book review is something worth thinking about. Professors commonly assign this form of an assignment to students to enable them to express a grasp of a novel. Following the book review format is highly useful for beginners, as well as reading step-by-step instructions. Writing tips is also useful for people who are new to this essay type. If you need a book review or essay, ask our book report writing services ' write paper for me ' and we'll give you a hand asap!
We also recommend that everyone read the article about essay topics . It will help broaden your horizons in writing a book review as well as other papers.
Book Review Examples
Referring to a book review example is highly useful to those who wish to get a clearer understanding of how to review a book. Take a look at our examples written by our professional writers. Click on the button to open the book review examples and feel free to use them as a reference.
Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’
Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a novel aimed at youngsters. The plot, itself, is not American humor, but that of Great Britain. In terms of sarcasm, and British-related jokes. The novel illustrates a fair mix of the relationships between the human-like animals, and wildlife. The narrative acts as an important milestone in post-Victorian children’s literature.
Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’
Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’ consists of 3 major parts. The first part is all about the polluted ocean. The second being about the pollution of the sky. The third part is an in-depth study of how humans can resolve these issues. The book is a piece of non-fiction that focuses on modern-day pollution ordeals faced by both animals and humans on Planet Earth. It also focuses on climate change, being the result of the global pollution ordeal.
We can do your coursework writing for you if you still find it difficult to write it yourself. Send to our custom term paper writing service your requirements, choose a writer and enjoy your time.
Need To Write a Book Review But DON’T HAVE THE TIME
We’re here to do it for you. Our professionals are ready to help 24/7
Wendy Laura Belcher
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 https://www.wendybelcher.com/writing-advice/how-to-write-book-review/ on [month year]. See also the best-selling book of advice on writing, now in its second edition: Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success.
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 Success by Wendy Laura Belcher (University of Chicago Press, 2019).
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
- Working with editors and the publication process
What this handout is about.
This handout will help you write a book review, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective on a text. It offers a process and suggests some strategies for writing book reviews.
What is a review?
A review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This handout will focus on book reviews. For a similar assignment, see our handout on literature reviews .
Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews need to be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:
- First, a review gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant description of the topic as well as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose.
- Second, and more importantly, a review offers a critical assessment of the content. This involves your reactions to the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand.
- Finally, in addition to analyzing the work, a review often suggests whether or not the audience would appreciate it.
Becoming an expert reviewer: three short examples
Reviewing can be a daunting task. Someone has asked for your opinion about something that you may feel unqualified to evaluate. Who are you to criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve never written a novel yourself, much less won a Nobel Prize? The point is that someone—a professor, a journal editor, peers in a study group—wants to know what you think about a particular work. You may not be (or feel like) an expert, but you need to pretend to be one for your particular audience. Nobody expects you to be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, but your careful observations can provide you with the raw material to make reasoned judgments. Tactfully voicing agreement and disagreement, praise and criticism, is a valuable, challenging skill, and like many forms of writing, reviews require you to provide concrete evidence for your assertions.
Consider the following brief book review written for a history course on medieval Europe by a student who is fascinated with beer:
Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600, investigates how women used to brew and sell the majority of ale drunk in England. Historically, ale and beer (not milk, wine, or water) were important elements of the English diet. Ale brewing was low-skill and low status labor that was complimentary to women’s domestic responsibilities. In the early fifteenth century, brewers began to make ale with hops, and they called this new drink “beer.” This technique allowed brewers to produce their beverages at a lower cost and to sell it more easily, although women generally stopped brewing once the business became more profitable.
The student describes the subject of the book and provides an accurate summary of its contents. But the reader does not learn some key information expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book and its argument, and whether or not the student would recommend the book. As a critical assessment, a book review should focus on opinions, not facts and details. Summary should be kept to a minimum, and specific details should serve to illustrate arguments.
Now consider a review of the same book written by a slightly more opinionated student:
Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 was a colossal disappointment. I wanted to know about the rituals surrounding drinking in medieval England: the songs, the games, the parties. Bennett provided none of that information. I liked how the book showed ale and beer brewing as an economic activity, but the reader gets lost in the details of prices and wages. I was more interested in the private lives of the women brewsters. The book was divided into eight long chapters, and I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to read it.
There’s no shortage of judgments in this review! But the student does not display a working knowledge of the book’s argument. The reader has a sense of what the student expected of the book, but no sense of what the author herself set out to prove. Although the student gives several reasons for the negative review, those examples do not clearly relate to each other as part of an overall evaluation—in other words, in support of a specific thesis. This review is indeed an assessment, but not a critical one.
Here is one final review of the same book:
One of feminism’s paradoxes—one that challenges many of its optimistic histories—is how patriarchy remains persistent over time. While Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 recognizes medieval women as historical actors through their ale brewing, it also shows that female agency had its limits with the advent of beer. I had assumed that those limits were religious and political, but Bennett shows how a “patriarchal equilibrium” shut women out of economic life as well. Her analysis of women’s wages in ale and beer production proves that a change in women’s work does not equate to a change in working women’s status. Contemporary feminists and historians alike should read Bennett’s book and think twice when they crack open their next brewsky.
This student’s review avoids the problems of the previous two examples. It combines balanced opinion and concrete example, a critical assessment based on an explicitly stated rationale, and a recommendation to a potential audience. The reader gets a sense of what the book’s author intended to demonstrate. Moreover, the student refers to an argument about feminist history in general that places the book in a specific genre and that reaches out to a general audience. The example of analyzing wages illustrates an argument, the analysis engages significant intellectual debates, and the reasons for the overall positive review are plainly visible. The review offers criteria, opinions, and support with which the reader can agree or disagree.
Developing an assessment: before you write
There is no definitive method to writing a review, although some critical thinking about the work at hand is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a review is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, and making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft. See our handout on argument .
What follows is a series of questions to focus your thinking as you dig into the work at hand. While the questions specifically consider book reviews, you can easily transpose them to an analysis of performances, exhibitions, and other review subjects. Don’t feel obligated to address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to the book in question.
- What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to the world you know? What has the book accomplished?
- What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately? Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? What is the approach to the subject (topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive)?
- How does the author support her argument? What evidence does she use to prove her point? Do you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author’s information (or conclusions) conflict with other books you’ve read, courses you’ve taken or just previous assumptions you had of the subject?
- How does the author structure her argument? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?
- How has this book helped you understand the subject? Would you recommend the book to your reader?
Beyond the internal workings of the book, you may also consider some information about the author and the circumstances of the text’s production:
- Who is the author? Nationality, political persuasion, training, intellectual interests, personal history, and historical context may provide crucial details about how a work takes shape. Does it matter, for example, that the biographer was the subject’s best friend? What difference would it make if the author participated in the events she writes about?
- What is the book’s genre? Out of what field does it emerge? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of its genre? These questions can provide a historical or literary standard on which to base your evaluations. If you are reviewing the first book ever written on the subject, it will be important for your readers to know. Keep in mind, though, that naming “firsts”—alongside naming “bests” and “onlys”—can be a risky business unless you’re absolutely certain.
Writing the review
Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Check out our handout on thesis statements . Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis.
Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review. What follows is just one of many ways to organize a review.
Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your review differently depending on the argument and audience. The Writing Center’s handout on introductions can help you find an approach that works. In general, you should include:
- The name of the author and the book title and the main theme.
- Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You could also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.
- The context of the book and/or your review. Placing your review in a framework that makes sense to your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. Perhaps you want to situate a book about the Cuban revolution in the context of Cold War rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union. Another reviewer might want to consider the book in the framework of Latin American social movements. Your choice of context informs your argument.
- The thesis of the book. If you are reviewing fiction, this may be difficult since novels, plays, and short stories rarely have explicit arguments. But identifying the book’s particular novelty, angle, or originality allows you to show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.
- Your thesis about the book.
Summary of content
This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.
The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book reviews for colleagues—to prepare for comprehensive exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as a class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty to explore more subtle points and to emphasize your own argument. See our handout on summary for more tips.
Analysis and evaluation of the book
Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly. You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book. If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review remains in the spotlight. Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.
Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis. This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do they all add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions can help you make a final assessment.
Finally, a few general considerations:
- Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can and should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be.
- With any luck, the author of the book worked hard to find the right words to express her ideas. You should attempt to do the same. Precise language allows you to control the tone of your review.
- Never hesitate to challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.
- Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—and sometimes obligated—to voice strong agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, and every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult to prove and can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.
- A great place to learn about book reviews is to look at examples. The New York Times Sunday Book Review and The New York Review of Books can show you how professional writers review books.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Drewry, John. 1974. Writing Book Reviews. Boston: Greenwood Press.
Hoge, James. 1987. Literary Reviewing. Charlottesville: University Virginia of Press.
Sova, Dawn, and Harry Teitelbaum. 2002. How to Write Book Reports , 4th ed. Lawrenceville, NY: Thomson/Arco.
Walford, A.J. 1986. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. Phoenix: Oryx Press.
Make a Gift
How To Write A Book Review: 6 Steps To Take
Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher. She resides in Dublin, Ireland and has an MA in postcolonial studies. She is currently working on her own postcolonial novel and hopes that someday it will see the light of day outside of her computer screen. Twitter: @adiba_j
View All posts by Adiba Jaigirdar
Whether you’re a student, a novice blogger, or just someone looking to become a more active user of Goodreads, writing a book review is an important skill to have! Here are six steps for how to write a book review for school and beyond.
1. Begin with a brief summary of the book
This is probably the best way to introduce any review because it gives context. But make sure to not go into too much detail. Keep it short and sweet since an official summary can be found through a quick google search!
2. Pick out the most important aspects of the book
I usually break this down with character, world-building, themes, and plot. But this might vary between books, genres, and your tastes!
Dedicate a paragraph to each of these important aspects, discussing how well the author dealt with it, along with what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy.
3. Include brief quotes as examples
Including quotes is always a great idea, because it gives examples for everything that you’re saying! If your review talks about a character being particularly witty, a witty line from the character lets your readers see exactly what kind of witty character you’re dealing with here.
But be careful: lengthy quotes can take up big chunks of space and overpower your review. Short quotes will usually get your points across while letting your work shine through.
4. Write a conclusion that summarises everything
Like your introduction, keep your conclusion short and sweet! It should bring up the main points of your review, along with your overall opinion of the book.
5. Find similar books
A great way to wrap up a review is to find similar books to the one you’re reviewing. So you can say, “if you were a fan of X book, I think you’ll definitely like this one!”
You can also be more specific, looking at the exact things that might make two books similar. So you can suggest something like…“if you liked that the main character in X book was a kick-ass superhero, then you’ll love the main character of this book!”
6. Give it a star rating
A star rating is obviously encouraged in a lot of review sites, but they’re not necessary! If you do want to give a star rating, you can go the conventional “out of five/ten” route. You could also try something slightly less conventional, and break down your star-rating into different categories for character/plot/world-building, etc.
Now go forth and review! And share any tips you have for how to write a book review in the comments.
You Might Also Like
- PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
- EDIT Edit this Article
- EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
- Browse Articles
- Learn Something New
- Quizzes Hot
- This Or That Game New
- Train Your Brain
- Explore More
- Support wikiHow
- About wikiHow
- Log in / Sign up
- Education and Communications
- Critical Reviews
How to Write a Book Review
Last Updated: August 6, 2023 Approved
This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 66 testimonials and 90% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,191,837 times.
Writing a book review is not just about summarizing; it's also an opportunity for you to present a critical discussion of the book so others get an idea of what to expect. Whether you’re writing a review as an assignment or as a publication opportunity, you should combine an accurate, analytical reading with a strong, personal touch. An effective book review describes what is on the page, analyzes how the book tried to achieve its purpose, and expresses any reactions and arguments from a unique perspective.
Preparing to Write Your Review
- Write down notes in a notebook or use a voice recorder to document any thoughts or impressions you have of the book as you are reading. They don't have to be organized or perfect, the idea is to brainstorm any impressions you may have of the book.
- Try summarizing the major sections of the book you’re reviewing to help understand how it’s structured.
- For example, if you are reviewing a non-fiction book about the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s, consider reading other books that also examine the same scientific issue and/or period of scientific development. Or if you are reviewing a work of fiction like Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, consider how Hawthorne's book relates to other 19th-century works of romanticism and historical fiction set in the same time period (the 17th century) as points of comparison.
- Pay attention to the preface, any quotes, and /or references in the book's introduction, as this content will likely shed light on the book's major themes and viewpoint.
- A simple way to determine one of the major themes of a book is to sum up the book in one word or sentence.  X Research source So, for example, the major theme of The Scarlet Letter could be "sin". Once you have your one-word summary, stretch the single word into a message or lesson, such as "sin can lead to knowledge, but it can also lead to suffering."
- For example, in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne attempts to combine the writing style of the Romantic Period (1800-1855) with the common, everyday language of the American Puritans of the 1600s. Hawthorne does this with long, descriptive sentences that are strung together with commas and semicolons.  X Research source
- In the Scarlet Letter, for example, Hawthorne begins the book with an introduction to the text, narrated by an individual who has many autobiographical details in common with the author. In the introduction, the nameless narrator tells the story of finding the manuscript bundled in a scarlet letter "A". Hawthorne uses this narrative framing to create a story within a story, an important detail when discussing the book as a whole.
- If we were to use the Scarlett Letter again, it would be significant to note that Hawthorne chose the adulterer and sinner Hester Prynne as his protagonist, and placed the religious, anti-sin Reverend Wilson in the role of antagonist. In writing a review of The Scarlet Letter, it would be useful to consider why Hawthorne did this, and how it relates back to the book's overall theme of sin.
Creating a First Draft of the Review
- Ensure your introduction contains relevant details like the author's background, and if applicable, their previous work in the genre.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source You can also indicate the main themes you will be discussing in your review to situate the reader and give them an indication of your "take" on the book.
- Several possible openings include: a historical moment, an anecdote, a surprising or intriguing statement, and declarative statements. Regardless of your opening sentences, make sure they directly relate to your critical response to the book and keep them short and to the point.
- If you're unsure on how to begin the review, try writing your introduction last. It may be easier to organize all of your supporting points and your critical position, and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the review.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
- Keep the summary short, to the point, and informative. Use quotes or paraphrasing from the book to support your summary.  X Research source Make sure you properly cite all quotes and paraphrasing in your review to avoid plagiarism.  X Research source
- Be wary of summaries that begin with phrases like “[This essay] is about…” “[This book] is the story of…” “[This author] writes about…”.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Focus on weaving a description of the book's setting, narrative voice, and plot within a critical analysis. Avoid simply regurgitating the book's premise.
- Don't give away important details or reveal the ending of the book in your summary, and don't go into detail about what happens from the middle of the book onwards.  X Research source As well, if the book is part of a series, you can mention this to potential readers and situate the book within the series.  X Research source
- Use the answers you brainstormed during your preparation for the review to formulate your critique. Address how well the book has achieved its goal, how the book compares to other books on the subject, specific points that were not convincing or lacked development, and what personal experiences, if any, you've had related to the subject of the book.
- Always use (properly cited) supporting quotes and passages from the book to back up your critical discussion. This not only reinforces your viewpoint with a trustworthy source, it also gives the reader a sense of the writing style and narrative voice of the book.  X Research source
- The general rule of thumb is that the first one-half to two-thirds of the review should summarize the author’s main ideas, and at least one-third should evaluate the book.
- Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the book, and discuss whether you would recommend the book to others. If so, who do you think is the ideal audience for the book?  X Research source Do not introduce new material in your conclusion or discuss a new idea or impression that was not examined in your introduction and body paragraphs.  X Research source
- You can also give the book a numerical score, a thumbs up or thumbs down, or a starred rating.  X Research source
Polishing the Review
- Always use spell check and adjust any grammar or spelling. Nothing undermines a quality review more than bad spelling and grammar.
- Double check that all quotes and references are properly cited in your review.
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- As you're writing, try thinking of your reader as a friend to whom you're telling a story. How would you relay the book's themes and main points to a friend in a casual conversation? This will help you balance formal and informal language and simplify your critical assessment.  X Research source Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. Being critical means pointing out shortcomings or failures, but avoid focusing your criticism of the book on what the book is not. Be fair in your discussion and always consider the value of the book for its audience.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- Make sure, after you've finished your review, to reread it and check any grammar or spelling mistakes so that it makes sense. Try reading your review from numerous perspectives, or asking a friend to proofread it for you. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 1
Make sure to read the book thoroughly. If you don't, it will be bad.
You Might Also Like
- ↑ http://homeworktips.about.com/od/writingabookreport/a/theme.htm
- ↑ http://www.thedramateacher.com/genre-or-style-a-dramatic-problem/
- ↑ http://www.penguin.com/static/pdf/teachersguides/scarletletter.pdf
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/book-reviews/
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/introductions/
- ↑ https://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Book-Summary
- ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QPA_quoting.html
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/summary-using-it-wisely/
- ↑ http://www.booktrust.org.uk/books/teenagers/writing-tips/tips-for-writing-book-reviews/
- ↑ http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/bookrev/tips.htm
- ↑ http://www.infoplease.com/homework/wsbookreporths.html
- ↑ http://guides.library.queensu.ca/bookreviews/writing
About This Article
To write a book review, start with a heading that includes the book's title, author, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, and number of pages. Then, open your review with an introduction that includes the author's background as well as the main points you'll be making. Next, split up the body of your review so the first half of the review is a summary of the author's main ideas and the rest is your critique of the book. Finally, close your review with a concluding paragraph that briefly summarizes your analysis. To learn how to read a book critically so it's easier to write a review, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
- Send fan mail to authors
Reader Success Stories
Ayman Al Fateh
May 31, 2017
Did this article help you?
Bello Mohammed Magaji
Sep 7, 2018
Jun 20, 2017
Jun 30, 2017
May 26, 2017
- Do Not Sell or Share My Info
- Not Selling Info
Get all the best how-tos!
Sign up for wikiHow's weekly email newsletter
Get 50% OFF Yearly and Lifetime Subscriptions this Black Friday
- Features for Creative Writers
- Features for Work
- Features for Higher Education
- Features for Teachers
- Features for Non-Native Speakers
- Learn Blog Grammar Guide Community Academy FAQ
- Grammar Guide
How to Write a Book Review in 5 Steps
If you love to read books, you might be looking for ways to share your opinions about your recent reads.
Writing book reviews is a great way to engage with the book-loving community. If your reviews gain a large enough following, you might even get paid to read books—every reader’s dream come true!
So how exactly do you write book reviews?
This article will explain what a book review is and give you a step-by-step guide for writing a good one.
What Is a Book Review?
How to review a book in 5 steps, best book review examples, how to be a book reviewer.
A book review is a critical assessment of a recently published book. Looking at book reviews helps readers figure out which books to read next and which books to avoid.
The average book review is around 300–750 words. It includes a quick summary of the book, the reviewer’s evaluation of the book, and a recommendation about who should read this book.
It’s important not to confuse book reviews with book reports. A book report is a summary that proves you understood the book, often assigned to elementary school or middle school students.
Book reviews, on the other hand, should offer a unique perspective on a book. They’re often assigned to undergraduate or graduate students.
Professional book reviews can be published in academic journals, on the reviewer’s personal blog, or on platforms like Goodreads.
Here are five steps you can follow to write your own book review.
1. Briefly Summarize the Book
If you’re wondering how to start a book review, the answer is simple—start by summarizing the story!
A quick and objective summary, similar to the one you might find on the book jacket, gives your readers a sense of what the book is about. That way, they have enough context to understand the rest of your review.
If the book is nonfiction, you should include the major questions the book examines, the ways the book tries to answer those questions, and any relevant details about the author’s credentials.
If the book is a novel, you should include the genre, the main character, and the events that launch the main character into the story.
However, it’s important not to spoil the story for people who haven’t read it yet. A good rule is not to mention anything that happens after the midpoint of the story. Leave the rest for the readers to discover on their own.
2. Evaluate the Book’s Qualities
Once you’ve explained the premise of the book, it’s time to provide a more subjective evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the book. What do you want other readers to know about this book?
Here are some different aspects of a nonfiction book you can evaluate:
- Key takeaways (e.g. What did you learn? What’s the book’s argument?)
- Readability (e.g. What background knowledge do readers need to understand this?)
- Prose (e.g. How are the points communicated? What’s the author’s writing style?)
Here are some different aspects of a novel you can evaluate:
- Characters (e.g. How well-developed is the protagonist? The villain? The love interest?)
- Plot (e.g. Are there surprising twists? Subverted tropes? Plot holes?)
- Worldbuilding (e.g. Is the world of the story immersive? Unique? Original?)
- Theme (e.g. What questions does the story examine? How does it answer those questions?)
- Prose (e.g. Is the writing lyrical or plain? Funny or serious? Dense or digestible?)
Many reviewers focus on one aspect for each of the paragraphs in their review.
As much as possible, try to balance the good with the bad. If the entire review is glowing, or if the entire review is critical, it won’t feel as objective as one that mentions both positive and negative qualities.
Also, make sure you include spoiler warnings if you’re going to mention anything that happens after the midpoint of the story. Some book review platforms let you hide those passages of your review until readers click on them.
3. Include Quotes from the Book
Quotes from the book can serve as useful supporting evidence for your key points. If you say the book includes lyrical prose, make sure to include a passage that represents the lyrical style of the book, so your readers can see what you mean.
You can include well-written passages that showcase the author’s talent. If you disliked the book, you can also choose quotes that showcase what you disliked most.
4. Rate the Book
Many book review platforms, such as Goodreads, let you give a star rating to each book you review.
You can develop your own rating system if you’d like. For example, you could rate books on a scale of 1–5, 1–10, or even 1–100.
Some reviewers break down their ratings into multiple categories. For example, you might give a book five stars for its characters, but only two stars for its plot.
5. Give Your Recommendation
Finish your book review by stating whether or not you would recommend this book to others. That’s the main purpose of a book review, after all—to convince readers either to read the book or to skip it.
It can be helpful to say exactly what kinds of readers you’d recommend it to.
For example, you might write, “This book is perfect for anyone who loves swing dancing and slow-burn romance,” or “Don’t read this if you don’t like slow, atmospheric books that focus more on vibes than on plot.”
You can also recommend other books in the same genre that you think fellow readers will enjoy if they liked this one. “If you liked A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, we recommend The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.”
One way to learn how to write great book reviews is by reading them. Let’s look at a few examples of great book reviews you can use as inspiration.
Kirkus Reviews is a well-known American book review magazine. Here’s the beginning of their review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo , a historical fiction novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
An aging starlet with seven marriages behind her generously offers the rights to her memoir to an inexperienced writer—at a heartbreaking cost. Monique Grant is stunned when Hollywood legend Evelyn Hugo grants an exclusive interview to her over more seasoned journalists, but when she’s also chosen to publish Evelyn’s final confessions after her death, she learns that the 79-year-old actress has enough life experience for them both. Growing up poor in Hell’s Kitchen, young Evelyn Herrera trades her virginity for a ride to Hollywood, changes her name, and climbs the rungs of the entertainment-industry ladder one husband at a time until she hits Oscar gold. To write her off as being calculating and fickle would leave out the difficulty of being a woman, especially a woman of color, trying to get by in the late 1950s without a man’s blessing.
Emily May is a UK-based book reviewer who’s one of the top-ranked reviewers on Goodreads. Here are the first few paragraphs of her Goodreads review of The Poppy War , a fantasy novel by R.F. Kuang.
“But I warn you, little warrior. The price of power is pain.” Holy hell, what did I just read?? A fantasy military school A rich world based on modern Chinese history Shamans and gods Detailed characterization leading to unforgettable characters Adorable, opium-smoking mentors That’s a basic list, but this book is all of that and SO MUCH MORE. I know 100% that The Poppy War will be one of my best reads of 2018.
Finally, Book Geeks is a website that describes itself as “India’s best book blog.” Here’s the beginning of their review of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5 SUBJECT: 4/5 CANDIDNESS: 4.5/5 RELEVANCE: 3.5/5 ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5 Eat Pray Love is so popular that it is almost impossible to not read it. Having felt ashamed many times on my not having read this book, I quietly ordered the book (before I saw the movie) from Amazon and sat down to read it. I don’t remember what I expected it to be—maybe more like a chick-lit but it turned out quite different. The book is a real story and is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things—Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name—EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India), and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia).
There are many benefits to becoming a consistent book reviewer.
After you establish a following, many publishing houses will send you books for free in exchange for a review, which can be a huge perk. In some cases, you can even get paid for your reviews.
So how do you become a book reviewer? Here are a few tips:
Develop your own book reviewing style to give your reviews a more personal touch. Do you want to leave funny reviews that make readers laugh? Personal reviews that include anecdotes from your own life? Serious reviews that readers can trust for an objective opinion?
Start taking notes every time you read a book you’re planning to review. Recording your initial reactions can help you develop more insightful critiques.
Finally, set book reviewing goals and stick to them. For example, you might decide to start by reviewing one book a month. That way, you can turn reviewing into a consistent practice.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be confident about grammar
Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.
Hannah Yang is a speculative fiction writer who writes about all things strange and surreal. Her work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, The Dark, and elsewhere, and two of her stories have been finalists for the Locus Award. Her favorite hobbies include watercolor painting, playing guitar, and rock climbing. You can follow her work on hannahyang.com, or subscribe to her newsletter for publication updates.
Get started with ProWritingAid
Drop us a line or let's stay in touch via :
How to Write a Book Review in 10 Easy Steps.
- By Moushumi Ghosh
- June 5, 2020
It doesn’t matter who you are—a blogger, a student or a corporate employee—having the skills to review a book is a valuable one. If you read books, learning how to write a review is essential. Today, with the mushrooming of book websites, anyone can write a book review and post it. But not many people know how to write a book review.
Let’s begin at the beginning. You already know what a book review is. Just to recap, book reviews are articles or write-ups that give a brief overview of a book along with the book reviewer’s impressions of the same. Sometimes they are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars where 1 is the lowest and 5 the highest.
They appear on newspapers, magazines, blogs and book reading websites. Usually the book under review is a new one that has hit the market. But there are also book reviews of classics and other older books. The book review could be a few lines to a few thousand words long. It depends on the space available in the newspaper, website, blog and book reading websites.
You might as well ask—who reviews books? Well, since the internet exploded, almost anyone can review a book. Before that and even now, there are paid book reviewers who write for one or many publications. Some book reviewers have become so famous that their word can make or break the sales of a book.
Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic for the New York Times is one of them. Not all of us can aim that high as a book reviewer. However, you can certainly learn to write a decent book review. And perhaps even earn some money on the way. Let’s find out how to do that.
The Importance of Book Reviews
Book reviews are the best way to promote the book for both publishers and authors. They spread the word about the book. Book reviewers are also readers in a sense so book reviews let other readers know about a book. Many people don’t buy books unless they have read a few honest book reviews .
If you are a writer or have a profession that has something to do with books, you will already know why book reviews are important. If you are a reader, you know that by reading book reviews, you decide if the book under review is a book you’d like to invest your time and money in.
Book reviews are so important that there is an underground practice of paid reviews on a leading e-commerce website. This is certainly extremely unfair and should not be tolerated.
So now that you know a bit about what book reviews are, let’s dive into how to write them.
1. Choose a Book
Unless you have been commissioned to write a book review, you will have to find a book first to review. Usually book reviewers either love a book or hate a book so much that they are moved to review it. If you want to choose a book solely for the purpose of reviewing, then any book will do. You can write a book review of a book on any subject under the sun.
If you have been commissioned to write a book review, you’d still need to know which genre it fits in. A nodding acquaintance with genres will help you at this point. This is because in order to review a book, you’ll need to know which genre it belongs to. The book cover also gives you a clue about the genre. Sometimes, publishers mention the genre near the barcode of the book on the back cover. Look closely for it.
Broadly there are two types of books— fiction and non-fiction . There are several genres in each types.
The following genres come under fiction.
- Action and adventure
- Comic and graphic novel
- Crime and detective
- Historical fiction
- Magical Realism
- Realistic fiction
- Science fiction (Sci-fi)
- Short story
The following genres come under non-fiction:
- Creative nonfiction
- Narrative nonfiction
Note : poetry can come under fiction and non-fiction as well.
2. Read the Book
This might seem like an obvious next step but you’d be surprised to know how many people falter here. Having an opinion is easy: everyone seems to have one. But reading a book whether you like it or not till the end without skipping any pages, isn’t. After you have chosen a book or have been given one as a commission, you need to read it thoroughly. There will be bits that will not be your liking (take note of this) or some that are outright boring (make note again) as well as bits that you will love (make note of this too), but it has to be read completely. That is the commitment that you as a book reviewer makes when you pick up a book to review. To be an honest book reviewer, you need to read the whole book.
Remember that someone somewhere will read your book review and will buy the book and perhaps that might change that reader’s life.
3. Make Notes
While you are reading the book, you’ll need to make notes. These notes will help you when you start writing the book review.
You have several ways to do that. You could keep a notebook alongside and note down the page number, its corresponding lines (if any) and your comment about the same. Some people write on the margins of the books as well. If the book is not your own copy, you should avoid writing on it. Besides, how much can be fit into the margins anyway? Some others use post-it notes. Some even use online notetaking apps. As you begin to review books regularly, you will discover your favourite method of notetaking and will stick to it.
Now, you might ask—what should go into the notes? Lines that resonate with you, any quotations that appeal universally and ideas that you think stand out. In addition, if you have any particular theories in your head, you can note them down for the book review later.
4. Follow the Format
A complete book review does the following:
- Lists the strengths and weaknesses of the book.
- Observes what the author intended to do and if he/she was able to do it.
- Fits into 50 to 1500 words.
After you have finished reading the book and collected all your notes, now you can start writing the book review. Do keep in mind the format of a book review.
- Book details
- Your analysis/opinion
- Your recommendation
These sections don’t have to fall into neat paragraphs. You can take as many paragraphs as you want per point.
Before you start writing, you need to make notes of the book details: title, author, place, publisher, publication date, edition, pages and price.
5. Start with a Brief Summary
You are on your way to writing your book review now. Start with a brief summary. No matter the genre try not to give out too many details. Your review should make people want to read the book not come away with feeling that they don’t need to read it! So try not to give out any plot spoilers. This is especially true for fiction genres. If however you cannot help it, add a ‘Spoiler Alert’ note to the book review.
6. Frame Your Opinion
Now you are more than halfway into writing the book review. If you are sure you won’t be influenced by other reviewers, you can go ahead and read some other reviews of the book that you are reviewing. But if you think that will influence you, please avoid them.
If you are reviewing a book in a fictional genre, you’ll need to comment on the title, story, plot, character, action, tone, pace and genre. Some books break the rules of genre so be alert to that as well. This could be an interesting facet to talk about in the review. For example, Junot Diaz’s short story collection Drown relies on his own life heavily making it almost a semi-autographical collection of short stories where the narrator Yunior is the author’s fictional alter-ego.
If you are reviewing a book from a non-fiction genre, you’ll need to comment on the title, subject, the author’s qualification to tackle that subject, how well the author covers the subject, the tone, the pace and any omissions.
Certainly this is the time to add all those notes that you have meticulously made. Round up the review by mentioning the parts of the book that worked for you. Any criticisms of the book can be pointed out too as diplomatically as possible.
A few points to keep in mind:
- Avoid being intimidated by famous authors or their earlier works.
- Try not to review books of people you love or hate.
- Find a genre you love and become an expert in it.
7. Include Quotes
Do include quotes because they are illustrations of all the points that are you are making. For example, you might say that the book showed a character as being quick-witted. Then if you can add a quote from the book that illustrates this, it makes your review stronger.
Avoid adding chunks of text as an example since they can slow the pace of the review and might overwhelm the reader. KISS—keeping it short and simple—always works!
8. Refer to Other Books
To add weight to your review, you can refer to other books either in the same genre, connected to the same subject, or written by the same author in the body of your book review. There many ways of making connections. So feel free to link ideas across diverse books. This will show that you are knowledgeable and well read.
It’s better to refer to books that fall within your reading orbit rather than reading up summaries on the internet and making superficial connections based on them. Once the review is in print or posted online, you don’t want to be called out for it.
If you are writing your first book review, don’t worry. Everyone starts somewhere. You can always build up a repertoire of read books as you go along. The more authentic you are, the better your book review will be.
As you come to the end of your book review, you’d want to recommend to the reader if the book is worth their time. This recommendation works very well when you connect it to similar books. You might have come across lines like ‘If you liked The Game of Thrones books, you will like this book as well.’ which are nothing but a recommendation connected to a similar book.
9. Rate the Book
Now that you have almost come to the end of the book review, you might have to decide on a rating for the book. This is not a compulsory feature but a nice-to-have one.
If there is a rating system already in place, go ahead and follow it. Usually all established newspapers and websites have a system in place.
If however are blogging or have the freedom to make your own rating system, feel free inject a bit of humour. It gives the reader something to smile about as he/she reads your book review. You might even become something of a trendsetter as a result. Here’s an example:
* * * * * Outstanding
* * * * Standing
* * * Leaning
* * Falling
While rating the book, think of the book’s merits and drawbacks. Do not let personal feelings for the author or the publisher colour your opinion. Even though the book review is a subject piece of writing, try to be as objective as you can. Your reputation as book review will be enhanced by it.
10. Write a Conclusion
Give yourself a pat on the back if you have come to this part of the book review. Your hard work is soon going to pay off.
Summarise all the points you have covered in the conclusion and rephrase them in a short and sweet manner. Restate your overall opinion once before wrapping up the review.
So now you have learnt how to write a book review. All you need to do is find that book and start reading. Good luck and happy reviewing!
Related Blogs you Might be Interested in
- Best Book Review Blogs you Must Know More About
- How to Use Goodreads to Promote your Book
- Popular Book Promotion Websites to Widen your Audience
- What are the best strategies for a Book Launch?
- eBook Formatting Services
- Book Cover Design Service
- Print Book Formatting Services
- eBook Conversion Services
- Study resources
- Calendar - Graduate
- Calendar - Undergraduate
- Class schedules
- Class cancellations
- Course registration
- Important academic dates
- More academic resources
- Campus services
- IT services
- Job opportunities
- Mental health support
- Student Service Centre (Birks)
- Calendar of events
- Latest news
- Media Relations
- Faculties, Schools & Colleges
- Arts and Science
- Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science
- John Molson School of Business
- School of Graduate Studies
- All Schools, Colleges & Departments
- My Library Account (Sofia) View checkouts, fees, place requests and more
- Interlibrary Loans Request books from external libraries
- Zotero Manage your citations and create bibliographies
- E-journals via BrowZine Browse & read journals through a friendly interface
- Article/Chapter Scan & Deliver Request a PDF of an article/chapter we have in our physical collection
- Course Reserves Online course readings
- Spectrum Deposit a thesis or article
- WebPrint Upload documents to print with DPrint
- Sofia Discovery tool
- Databases by subject
- Course Reserves
- E-journals via BrowZine
- E-journals via Sofia
- Article/Chapter Scan & Deliver
- Intercampus Delivery of Bound Periodicals/Microforms
- Interlibrary Loans
- Spectrum Research Repository
- Special Collections
- Additional resources & services
- Loans & Returns (Circulation)
- Subject & course guides
- Open Educational Resources Guide
- General guides for users
- Ask a librarian
- Research Skills Tutorial
- Quick Things for Digital Knowledge
- Bibliometrics & research impact guide
- Concordia University Press
- Copyright Guide
- Copyright Guide for Thesis Preparation
- Digital Scholarship
- Digital Preservation
- Open Access
- ORCID at Concordia
- Research data management guide
- Scholarship of Teaching & Learning
- Systematic Reviews
- How to get published speaker series
- Borrow (laptops, tablets, equipment)
- Connect (netname, Wi-Fi, guest accounts)
- Desktop computers, software & availability maps
- Group study, presentation practice & classrooms
- Printers, copiers & scanners
- Technology Sandbox
- Visualization Studio
- Webster Library
- Vanier Library
- Grey Nuns Reading Room
- Book a group study room/scanner
- Study spaces
- Floor plans
- Room booking for academic events
- Librarians & staff
- University Librarian
- Memberships & collaborations
- Indigenous Student Librarian program
- Wikipedian in residence
- Feedback & improvement
- Annual reports & fast facts
- Annual Plan
- Library Services Fund
- Giving to the Library
- Webster Transformation blog
- Policies & Code of Conduct
The Campaign for Concordia
Library Research Skills Tutorial
- My Library account (Sofia)
- Interlibrary loans
- Article/chapter scan
- Course reserves
How to write a book review and a book report
A book review is a descriptive and critical/evaluative account of a book. It provides a summary of the content, assesses the value of the book, and recommends it (or not) to other potential readers.
A book report is an objective summary of the main ideas and arguments that the book's author has presented. The purpose of the report is to give enough information to help decide whether the book will be of use or interest to any potential readers.
Common points that both book reviews and book reports share are presented below. The last point, Critical Comments, is intended only for those writing book reviews.
Give the author's name; full title of book including subtitle; editor, if any; place, publisher and date of publication; edition, if necessary; and the number of pages - all this in the appropriate bibliographical style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) under the title of the review or report.
Supply any information about the author which shows their credentials for writing in this field or which reveals any influences which may have affected the author's point of view. Note any interesting circumstances that led to the writing of the book.
The author's intention may be apparent by the way the subject of the book is treated. Is the material meant for specialists, students, or the general public? Is it focused on a specific subject or is it a general survey of a wider subject? Several areas may provide clues: appendices, bibliographies and general indexes usually accompany scholarly works; prefaces and introductions often contain an author's explicit statement of intention; the content and style of expression will be a good indication of the intended audience.
Subject and thesis statement
What is the book about? Tell your reader not only the main concern of the book in its entirety (subject) but also what the author's particular point of view is on that subject (thesis statement). If you cannot find an adequate statement in the author's own words or if you feel that the stated thesis statement is not that which the book actually develops (make sure you check for yourself), then you will have to compose a thesis statement that does cover all the material. This statement must be brief (a sentence or a paragraph), accurate and comprehensive.
Summary of content
The summary is based on your reading notes, follows the author's order, and consists solely of the main ideas which advance the author's argument. It may be presented with the analysis of structure or discussed separately.
Critical comments (book reviews)
Critical comments should form the bulk of the book review. State whether or not you feel the author's treatment of the subject matter is appropriate for the intended audience. Ask yourself:
- Has the purpose of the book been achieved?
- What contribution does the book make to the field?
- Is the treatment of the subject matter objective?
- Are there facts and evidence that have been omitted?
- What kinds of data, if any, are used to support the author's thesis statement?
- Can the same data be interpreted to alternate ends?
- Is the writing style clear and effective?
- Does the book raise issues or topics for discussion?
Support your evaluation with evidence from the text. In conclusion, you may want to state whether you liked or disliked the book.
Sources on writing book reviews
Concordia Library sources:
- Buckley, J. (2013). Fit to print: the Canadian student's guide to essay writing . (see pages 180-185).
- Drewry, J. E. (1974). Writing book reviews .
Sources on writing book reports
- Northey, M. & McKibbin, J. (2010). Making sense: A student's guide to research and writing .
- Teitelbaum, H. (1982). How to write book reports .
- Purdue Online Writing Lab. (2011). Writing a Book Report
For more information, ask a librarian