How to Write a Book Review

Read the latest mind-bending, gut-busting, tear-jerking novel? Have a lot to say and want to get it all down? Writing a book review may sound easy enough – just jotting down a couple lines on how you felt. In actuality, even if reviews are generally shorter than reports, more goes into a good review. Keep the following in mind so you can get your message out clearly to your readers.

1.  Read the book! While this may be obvious to many, this step does get short-changed. In this fast-paced, Internet-obsessed age filled with obligations and lures bidding for our attention, it may be hard to get the time to sit down and read a whole book. Find the time. Space out reading for a bit each day to make it easier.  Make little notes about the things that have caught your eye. These can later help guide the formatting of the review. If parts of the book are skipped, then something important (that changes the whole purpose), could be missed, making the review unreliable.

2.  Start with the basics. What’s the title of the book? Is it the first of the series?  When was it written, or when does it come out? Who is the author? Why did he or she write this? Start off a review with the basics. It is likely that the reader doesn’t know a single thing about this book. Also, some of this information can be crucial for the reader to know, like if the author has a political bias.

3.  Summarize what the book is about. What can the reader expect? What is her or she in for? This part is usually brief, although the length can depend on what kind of book is covered. For example, some more detail may be needed on Dr.Jefferson’s theory on particle acceleration, inside dark matter, at galaxy G-42.

4.  Review the book. After the summary, go on into your review. State what you feel and why. This is will be the core argument. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • Organize it point by point. This makes it easier for the reader to follow. A chucky block of text will turn off readers.
  • Avoid or give advance warning of spoilers. Don’t assume others have read the book. The reader of the review may just want the general word to see if the book’s worth investing in.
  • Avoid using excessive quotations. Try to state something in your own words. Use snips of key wording and phasing.
  • Give examples and explain them. Both the author and the reader will appreciate it. In the author’s case, if the reason is well explained, he or she can take the point with him or her in future writings. At the very least, if someone disagrees, he or she will understand why the review was written that way.
  • Remember to be polite. Someone worked hard on the book.Don’t insult the person if you hated it. If the format allows, give the writer some advice.

5.  Sum it all up. Restate the main points.  Try to balance the pros and cons if possible. Give your general impression of the book.

These are just the basic layouts for a review. I found that the Los Angeles Valley College Library goes even more into the finer details. The type of review written will have an impact on whoever reads it. Keep that in mind when expressing your feelings, and happy writing.


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