When writing a book review, you want to identify, summarize, and evaluate the ideas and information the author has presented. The goal of a book review is to share your opinion of the work while supporting your judgement with evidence from the text.
Let’s take a look at 7 steps to help you write a reliable book review:
1) Read the book. There is no getting around this: It’s crucial to read the entire book before writing a book review. This is the only way you can immerse yourself in the full reading experience. Be attentive to your reading experience and take note of what captured or lost your attention. Strive to immerse yourself in the work.
2) Take notes. Once you’ve finished reading the book, go back and take brief, purposeful notes. Review the sections that captured or lost your attention. In reviewing your notes, try to decide what the major events of the book are and what their effect on you as a reader were? Here are some guidelines that can help lay the foundation for your review:
- Explain how the book as a whole affected you.
- Explain how the author achieved the effects he or she did.
- Explain the relationship between form and content.
- Explain the function of each character in the novel.
- Explain the characters' relationships to one another.
3) Summarize the book. Before you start sharing your personal opinions on the book, write a short overview of the book. Dedicate two or three sentences in the introduction to provide a brief synopsis of the plot. You’ll want to inform readers of what the book is about without giving too much away. To accomplish this, here are some things to include in your summary:
- What genre is it?
- How is the book structured?
- Who is the target audience?
4) Form an opinion. Be specific! Don’t just say if the book was good or bad, but explain why. Support your opinion with specific examples from the text and move from passing simple judgement to a subjective, well-reasoned evaluation. You want to find a balance between sharing your opinion without insulting other readers who may have enjoyed it. Ultimately, you’re striving to help potential readers determine whether or not this book is worth reading. Some tips to consider:
- If you don't like the book, try and understand why others might like it, and vice versa.
- Be specific in your choice of words to convey your opinion. Avoid using nondescriptive, judgmental words like “good,” “bad,” “positive,” or “negative.”
5) Contextualize the book. You can often obtain this information the book’s cover and introduction. If not, you may need to do a little research. Spend some time relating this book to similar works by the author or from the same genre to further your explanation and judgement of it. Some important questions to consider:
- What genre does the book fall into?
- Is it the first of its kind or an imitation?
- Is this the author's first book or fifteenth?
6) Avoid spoilers. While spoilers may be tempting to share, doing so can deter readers from picking up the book. You want to provide readers with enough information to pique their interest but still give them the opportunity to read the story and formulate their own opinions. If you feel inclined to include a spoiler in your review, at least mention it in the beginning of your evaluation.
7) Review your review. Once you’ve written your review, step back and revisit your work. Consult this checklist and ensure all of the information and details you’ve provided in your review are...
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accurate. You may also want to pass it along for another set of eyes to check for grammatical or spelling mistakes. If you have time for more in-depth peer review, have a peer look at your evidence and rationale to see if it is logically sound. Some final questions to ask during your final review:
- Did you explain every major aspect of the book?
- What was your target audience?
- Did you write this for a class with specific criteria—or for a fan magazine whose audience already knows this type of book well?
- Do you make a clear claim about your opinion of the book? Do you support your claim with evidence?