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The most important thing to remember when writing a book review is that you are giving an opinion of what the book did well and not so well. You will want to address the book’s merits and shortcomings.
All book reviews should include some kind of summary. A good summary does not give away the book’s ending or surprises, but instead whets the reader’s appetite for the book. For example, here is a potential summary for To Kill a Mockingbird.
In 1930’s Alabama, a young girl named Scout learns about race, family, and growing up when her father is chosen to defend a black man for attacking a white woman in a trial that will shake up her small town forever.
A book review should also address the author’s style. If possible, include themes and quotations from the text. This gives the reader an idea of what reading the book will be like.
Scout learns that adults are not always fair to one another, and they discriminate against people because they are different and because of the color of their skin. Her father teaches her that all people should be treated based on who they are, not the color of their skin. The author’s simple and straightforward style makes us feel as if we are there, experiencing these events along with Scout.
Atticus sighed. "I'm simply defending a Negro- his name's Tom Robinson. He lives in that little settlement beyond the town dump. He's a member of Calpurnia's church, and Cal knows his family well. (ch 9)
Finally, a book review should always make some kind of recommendation. Good reviews will tell the reader who is most likely to enjoy this book, and why.
This book is most appropriate for young adults and adults who are able to appreciate the sophisticated concepts of racism and rape. Readers will appreciate the refreshing honesty of the young narrator, and the broad social implications of issues of race and class which are still relevant to our society today.
In the end, the best book reviews are those that are helpful. Be specific, but not too specific. Don’t give away the ending or the book’s surprises.
The leading publisher of book reviews in this country is the New York Times. Their book review section appears in every Sunday edition. You can access the New York Times Book Review online and read the latest reviews as well as older ones. I suggest that you refer to the shorter reviews that appear after the longer featured ones in the first few pages. These will be more appropriate as examples for your purposes. What you put into a book review will depend a lot on how long a review is required. The October 27, 2012 edition of the New York Times Book Review is already accessible online, featuring an article on a new novel by Tom Wolfe. The NYTBR is tremendously influential in the publishing trade.
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