How to Write a Book Review: Tips That Actually Work
Students, especially those studying in the US, have to write numerous papers each week. At some point, they receive an assignment, which requires them to read and review a book. If you have never written reviews or simply want to receive better grades for them, you should ask yourself, ‘How to write a book review that reflects my own opinion and meets the professor’s requirements at the same time?’ A book review is a type of writing that does not only explain the formal qualities of a book, such as its genre, length, topic, and literary techniques used by the author, but also presents the writer’s analysis and evaluation in a convincing and clear way. Students should be prepared to review not only fiction but also nonfiction books in subjects like biology, finance, management, psychology, sociology, etc. The following book review writing tips will help you successfully cope with any genre.
Book reviews are important not only for the readers but also for authors. Positive critical response written by a professional in a magazine or any other media determines the success of the work and, consequently, its author. Books that earn critical acclaim stand higher chances of becoming popular. However, composing a professional review requires considerable skills and vast experience. If you want to write strong reviews, you should familiarize yourself with the rules and conventions and follow them. Many students do not know how to write a good book review but once they learn the basics, they realize that creating a book review might become enjoyable experience.
Different Types of Book Reviews
If you ask a professional writer how to write a book review, they will most probably inquire which type of review you mean. Typically, when we hear ‘book review’, we imagine reviews in popular magazines and newspapers, such as opinion reviews in The New York Times or The Guardian. Such reviews are easy to perceive and they help readers form an informed opinion about some recent book. Usually, they include a brief synopsis, authors’ background, etc.
Students, on the other hand, often have to deal with another type of reviews – scholarly review. These reviews are typically written by specialists in the areas. The authors of such reviews have to go beyond mere summarizing and sharing their opinions. Instead, they have to evaluate the author’s methodology, bias, relevance of the research, and so on. You will not find this kind of reviews in popular magazines for obvious reasons. They are usually published in scholarly journals or on the cover of the printed copy of a book.
Book Report vs. Book Review
The list of book review tips would be incomplete without the explanation of the differences between a book report and a book review as students have a tendency to mistake one for another. Below is a brief definition of each type:
- A book report is includes a more detailed book summary and has a simpler structure when compared to a book review. This paper type does not require much analysis as the writer has to include a brief description of the author’s background as well as summary of the plotline, settings, and character description.
- A book review is based on a close analysis of the assigned text. In other words, instead of describing the content, the writer has to analyze and evaluate it. Moreover, students are also expected to formulate their own recommendations. While book reviews present the writer’s opinion about the text they have read, such opinions have to be based on solid evidence. Book reviews might also include analysis of the author’s intention, interpretation of symbols, description of the main theme and literary elements used to convey them, etc.
Why Writing a Good Review Is Important
Here is one tip that will help you receive better feedback for your reviews: remember that what you have written is important not only for you but also for the reader. This is not only you who invests time in this review. Your readers are prepared to spend time on reading it for a reason - they want to find out if this book is worth reading and they trust you to help them make the decision. Besides, reviews provide honest feedback for book authors (yes, they read them, too) and help them improve their writing skills. Think about your audience next time you will be writing a book review.
- Be Attentive and Take Notes If you have (or want) to write a book review, be sure to pay more attention to details and note down the ideas that come to your mind as you read. This will help you collect enough evidence to support your claims as you will be writing your review as well as train your concentration and analytical thinking skills. This is not to mention the fact that by taking notes you spend more contemplating about some characters, scenes, etc. By taking notes at this initial stage, you save a lot of time that would be otherwise wasted on trying to find the passage you liked.
- Read the Book Instead of Its Synopsis Snowed under numerous assignments and engulfed by anxiety students might not resist the temptation of reading a plot synopsis instead of the book summary hoping that this will help them save time and receive good grade nonetheless. Unfortunately, a book summary does not let you understand the plot and the author’s intention well, so you will inevitably jump into conclusions. As if it were not enough, you will not be able to support your opinion with strong evidence. If you find yourself in a situation when you cannot finish the book, be honest about it and explain to your readers why you took the decision to give up reading it.
- Avoid Vagueness This tip is closely linked to the previous one. When making some claims about the book, remember to back them up with evidence, such as quotes, facts, or summary of plot. By making your review specific, you also make it sound eloquent, which means that readers will be more likely to enjoy reading your review. If you know what you would like to say about the book but you are not sure how to do a book review, start by collecting evidence.
- Express Your Opinion
When writing book reviews keep in mind the target audience and try to understand that they do not want to read mere facts and colorless descriptions of plot. They want to hear your own opinion about it. That is why they started looking for a review in the first place. If you do not know where to start, answer the following questions:
- What did you like / hate about the book? Why?
- What would you change about the book?
- Does the plot seem original / typical?
- What would you improve if you were the author?
- Which character do you relate to the most?
- Share Ideas
Apart from sharing your opinion about the book, it is recommended to express your original ideas or insight that you had while reading or doing the analysis. For instance, here is an insight I got while reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment: committing an act that you think is morally wrong will always make you feel miserable no matter your intentions. Guilt will cause enormous stress and anxiety that will be growing stronger day by day, thus your life will eventually become intolerable. These ideas were not directly expressed in the novel, yet including them in my review would make it more valuable and unique, especially for someone who seeks answers to related questions. In your attempt to find out how to make a book review that sounds professional, do not forget to include your own thought and let your personality shine through even in academic writing.
- Mind the Formatting
If you know how to write a book review and are ready to start writing one, there is something else to keep in mind – formatting. Some book sites do not allow too many formatting options, yet it is recommended to make use of all means possible to enhance comprehension of the text you publish. Here are some basic pieces of advice to always keep in mind:
- Break your review into sections and paragraphs. Blocks of text are difficult to comprehend
- DO NOT USE CAPS LOCK
- While punctuation matter a lot, try not to overuse it. For instance, multiple exclamation mark and question marks should be replaced with one.
- Be Honest in Your Rating
Rate the book based on your honest assessment and not on what you think the rating should be. For example, if you think that book was written fairly well but there were some issues, you could rate it at 3 instead of 4 or 5. Similarly, do not rate it at 1 only because you want to make its average rating lower. Near-excellent or perfect books deserve your 5 rating. The main goal of your review is not to please the author, publishers, or readers but to present your honest opinion about it and assess it as accurately as possible given your experience and knowledge.
- Proofread Your Review
Proofreading will take a few additional minutes of your time but it will also save you from embarrassment you are at risk of experiencing in case your review has some misspelled words and misplaced commas. You are welcome to use free online spell checking services, like Grammarly.
- Where Can You Post Your Review?
Well, ideally, this question should have been answered before you even knew how to start a book review essay. If it happens so that you have written a fascinating book review but do not know where to post it, consider Amazon, Goodreads, or any similar website that has something to do with books. In addition, post your review on your blog if you have it. If you do not, consider launching one. Posting well-written book reviews will help you improve your website profile.
Hopefully, this information helped you understand how to write a book review and you cannot wait till you get down to doing it ASAP. In case you still have some questions about this paper format or your assignment in particular, remember that you can always consult your professor during their office hours. Reading well-written reviews created by experts also helps a lot.
We also encourage you to chek our book review examples.
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