How to write book reviews
Writing a review is not about retelling the plot of a book. However, this is the most common mistake inexperienced writers do. Writing a review is more than that. It is about providing information on the appropriateness of a book among other works of the same theme, style, and genre, its compliance with the style guidance and presence or absence of a challenge to undertake after reading this book. However, let us look into the art of writing book reviews more closely.
Tips that will help create an interesting book review
What to start with?
- Read the book you are about to review. This might sound ridiculous, but still, some people do that. Just going through the reviews of other people that read it before is not helpful, even though it feels as if it is. Keep in mind that reading the book will equip you with an essential knowledge. Otherwise, you will not be able to see the plot from an outside perspective.
- Take a pencil and underline those ideas you really enjoyed while reading.
If you hate it when people make notes on the margins, then take notes somewhere else. However, this part is crucial: taking notes will help you keep critical moments, ideas and maybe even contradictions in focus. On top of that, you can underline specific characteristics of the author’s style that will come in handy once you start your analysis of the text. However, do not take this note-taking process too seriously. Consider it as a draft that will still be processed later. OS write down all the thoughts or associations that pop up in your head while you are reading the book. (That is when reading paper books can be beneficial: there are no margins in an e-book!)
- Consider if the author complies with the genre requirements. If you are reading professional literature, find out whether the writer provides reliable information. In case you are reading a work of fiction see how this particular book correlates with the other works of the same genre. If you are not sure about this, search for more information on what features a book of a certain genre should have. Otherwise, your book review will not be comprehensive in the long run.
- The next point to take into account is the way this author expresses his ideas.His style is what should be of great interest to you as well as to your readers. Sometimes an author has a brilliant idea but the way he describes it kills all the enthusiasm about going through the whole book. Or on the contrary, the author might be explaining rocket science (a complicated and rather a tedious subject); however, the way he is telling it might be truly outstanding. So underline parts where his style is vividly expressed.
- While reading the book, remember to analyze the plot development. This point concerns only fiction, but in case you are going to review a work of fiction makes notes on how well the author managed to develop each of the characters present in the book. Point out the character he gave most of his time and attention and those he did not develop at all or developed but not well enough. These notes should be included in your review, as this is one of the key points of the whole writing art.
- Finally, before you actually start writing, get more information on how popular this book is.
If it is a highly specialized literature consider finding out how many other scholars took this book as a reference when working on their texts. However, if it is a work of fiction figure out on how many languages it was translated, how many copies were sold, as well as what famous people or fellow writers gave positive recommendations to this book.
Now as you have already done the research on the book, it is time to start working on the review itself.
Writing your review
- Start with giving your review an outstanding title that will draw the attention of the readers to it. It must be something intriguing and smart. Try avoiding being too obvious and think “out of the box.” Your title is at least half of your success. You can also use a phrase or a keyword that you found interesting from the book.
- After having a great title done, start working on the introductory part. This one can be tricky, as the success of the whole review depends on whether you will make readers interested in this part or not. Do not blow it: use quotes, statistics, recommendations of famous people about this book or other ways of whetting readers’ appetite. You can also think of particular details from the author’s background that, in your opinion, could make him be what he was. In a word, make your introduction memorable and intriguing.
- Proceed to writing an interesting review.
This is when you can share a bit more about book’s plot and how things developed in it. Make this part very short but informative. And, of course, stay away from “spoilers”: give a reader an idea of what the book is about, what central questions it raises, and how the author solves or answers these questions. In case you want to add particular quotes from the book, make sure you used correct formatting. This part should have a narrative style unlike the other critical parts of your review.
- Finally, in the following part, you get to giving your personal opinion about the book of your choice. This when all the notes you took while reading will come in handy. Use them as your supportive notes that will help you describe author’s style, his ability to work with the characters in the story and raise important questions, often connected to the moral side of our lives.
Analyze all the little details of the book, including:
- how well the author described the period the story took place in;
- how original the ideas and texts of the author were;
- whether the writer managed to maintain the same style throughout the book;
- how good this book is compared to the other works of this author;
- whether there were hidden themes that were not adequately developed in the text;
- how the writer could be seen in his characters;
- what influence the book made at its own time, etc.
Use these questions to help you evaluate the book, its motives, themes, characters, and the author’s personality, too.
- Finally, finish with a comprehensive but short conclusion.
Add here what you liked the most and what you hated. You can also share what this book taught you or how you got inspired or even discouraged with writer’s values and solutions to the crucial issues of his time. You can mention both strengths and weaknesses of the book. Remember that your primary goal is to help the readers realize whether it is something worth a read or just a waste of their time. So, an important part of your conclusion is whether you would read it again ever or recommend it to your friends. Be wise, as if your words count some people won’t even touch the book you did not recommend reading.
These are the steps you should take when getting ready to write a book review that will catch eyes and be interesting enough to draw attention. Of course, if you are not experienced enough in writing review ask your friends or tutors for a piece of advice here. As an option, you can also give them your review to proofread
and give you fair feedback. Take their advice into consideration to make your review stand out and be a success.
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