How to Write a Book Review: Awesome Guide
A book review allows students to illustrate the author's intentions of writing the piece, as well as create a criticism of the book — as a whole. In other words, form an opinion of the author's presented ideas. Check out this guide from EssayPro — dissertation writing service to learn how to write a book review successfully.
What Is a Book Review?
You may prosper, “what is a book review?”. Book reviews are commonly assigned students to allow them to show a clear understanding of the novel. And to check if the students have actually read the book. The essay format is highly important for your consideration, take a look at the book review format below.
Book reviews are assigned to allow students to present their own opinion regarding the author’s ideas included in the book or passage. They are a form of literary criticism that analyzes the author’s ideas, writing techniques, and quality. A book analysis is entirely opinion-based, in relevance to the book. They are good practice for those who wish to become editors, due to the fact, editing requires a lot of criticism.
Book Review Template
The book review format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Describe the book cover and title.
- Include any subtitles at this stage.
- Include the Author’s Name.
- Write a brief description of the novel.
- Briefly introduce the main points of the body in your book review.
- Avoid mentioning any opinions at this time.
- Use about 3 quotations from the author’s novel.
- Summarize the quotations in your own words.
- Mention your own point-of-view of the quotation.
- Remember to keep every point included in its own paragraph.
- In brief, summarize the quotations.
- In brief, summarize the explanations.
- Finish with a concluding sentence.
- This can include your final opinion of the book.
- Star-Rating (Optional).
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How to Write a Book Review: Step-By-Step
Writing a book review is something that can be done with every novel. Book reviews can apply to all novels, no matter the genre. Some genres may be harder than others. On the other hand, the book review format remains the same. Take a look at these step-by-step instructions from our professional writers to learn how to write a book review in-depth.
Step 1: Planning
Create an essay outline which includes all of the main points you wish to summarise in your book analysis. Include information about the characters, details of the plot, and some other important parts of your chosen novel. Reserve a body paragraph for each point you wish to talk about.
Consider these points before writing:
- What is the plot of the book? Understanding the plot enables you to write an effective review.
- Is the plot gripping? Does the plot make you want to continue reading the novel? Did you enjoy the plot? Does it manage to grab a reader’s attention?
- Are the writing techniques used by the author effective? Does the writer imply factors in-between the lines? What are they?
- Are the characters believable? Are the characters logical? Does the book make the characters are real while reading?
- Would you recommend the book to anyone? The most important thing: would you tell others to read this book? Is it good enough? Is it bad?
- What could be better? Keep in mind the quotes that could have been presented better. Criticize the writer.
Step 2: Introduction
Presumably, you have chosen your book. To begin, mention the book title and author’s name. Talk about the cover of the book. Write a thesis statement regarding the fictitious story or non-fictional novel. Which briefly describes the quoted material in the book review.
Step 3: Body
Choose a specific chapter or scenario to summarise. Include about 3 quotes in the body. Create summaries of each quote in your own words. It is also encouraged to include your own point-of-view and the way you interpret the quote. It is highly important to have one quote per paragraph.
Step 4: Conclusion
Write a summary of the summarised quotations and explanations, included in the body paragraphs. After doing so, finish book analysis with a concluding sentence to show the bigger picture of the book. Think to yourself, “Is it worth reading?”, and answer the question in black and white. However, write in-between the lines. Avoid stating “I like/dislike this book.”
Step 5: Rate the Book (Optional)
After writing a book review, you may want to include a rating. Including a star-rating provides further insight into the quality of the book, to your readers. Book reviews with star-ratings can be more effective, compared to those which don’t. Though, this is entirely optional.
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Here is the list of tips for the book review:
- A long introduction can certainly lower one’s grade: keep the beginning short. Readers don’t like to read the long introduction for any essay style.
- It is advisable to write book reviews about fiction: it is not a must. Though, reviewing fiction can be far more effective than writing about a piece of nonfiction
- Avoid Comparing: avoid comparing your chosen novel with other books you have previously read. Doing so can be confusing for the reader.
- Opinion Matters: including your own point-of-view is something that is often encouraged when writing book reviews.
- Refer to Templates: a book review template can help a student get a clearer understanding of the required writing style.
- Don’t be Afraid to Criticize: usually, your own opinion isn’t required for academic papers below Ph.D. level. On the other hand, for book reviews, there’s an exception.
- Use Positivity: include a fair amount of positive comments and criticism.
- Review The Chosen Novel: avoid making things up. Review only what is presented in the chosen book.
- Enjoyed the book? If you loved reading the book, state it. Doing so makes your book analysis more personalized.
Writing a book review is something worth thinking about. Professors commonly assign this form of an assignment to students to enable them to express a grasp of a novel. Following the book review format is highly useful for beginners, as well as reading step-by-step instructions. Writing tips is also useful for people who are new to this essay type. If you need a book review or essay, ask our book report writing services ' write paper for me ' and we'll give you a hand asap!
We also recommend that everyone read the article about essay topics . It will help broaden your horizons in writing a book review as well as other papers.
Book Review Examples
Referring to a book review example is highly useful to those who wish to get a clearer understanding of how to review a book. Take a look at our examples written by our professional writers. Click on the button to open the book review examples and feel free to use them as a reference.
Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’
Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a novel aimed at youngsters. The plot, itself, is not American humor, but that of Great Britain. In terms of sarcasm, and British-related jokes. The novel illustrates a fair mix of the relationships between the human-like animals, and wildlife. The narrative acts as an important milestone in post-Victorian children’s literature.
Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’
Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’ consists of 3 major parts. The first part is all about the polluted ocean. The second being about the pollution of the sky. The third part is an in-depth study of how humans can resolve these issues. The book is a piece of non-fiction that focuses on modern-day pollution ordeals faced by both animals and humans on Planet Earth. It also focuses on climate change, being the result of the global pollution ordeal.
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What this handout is about.
This handout will help you write a book review, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective on a text. It offers a process and suggests some strategies for writing book reviews.
What is a review?
A review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This handout will focus on book reviews. For a similar assignment, see our handout on literature reviews .
Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews need to be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:
- First, a review gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant description of the topic as well as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose.
- Second, and more importantly, a review offers a critical assessment of the content. This involves your reactions to the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand.
- Finally, in addition to analyzing the work, a review often suggests whether or not the audience would appreciate it.
Becoming an expert reviewer: three short examples
Reviewing can be a daunting task. Someone has asked for your opinion about something that you may feel unqualified to evaluate. Who are you to criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve never written a novel yourself, much less won a Nobel Prize? The point is that someone—a professor, a journal editor, peers in a study group—wants to know what you think about a particular work. You may not be (or feel like) an expert, but you need to pretend to be one for your particular audience. Nobody expects you to be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, but your careful observations can provide you with the raw material to make reasoned judgments. Tactfully voicing agreement and disagreement, praise and criticism, is a valuable, challenging skill, and like many forms of writing, reviews require you to provide concrete evidence for your assertions.
Consider the following brief book review written for a history course on medieval Europe by a student who is fascinated with beer:
Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600, investigates how women used to brew and sell the majority of ale drunk in England. Historically, ale and beer (not milk, wine, or water) were important elements of the English diet. Ale brewing was low-skill and low status labor that was complimentary to women’s domestic responsibilities. In the early fifteenth century, brewers began to make ale with hops, and they called this new drink “beer.” This technique allowed brewers to produce their beverages at a lower cost and to sell it more easily, although women generally stopped brewing once the business became more profitable.
The student describes the subject of the book and provides an accurate summary of its contents. But the reader does not learn some key information expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book and its argument, and whether or not the student would recommend the book. As a critical assessment, a book review should focus on opinions, not facts and details. Summary should be kept to a minimum, and specific details should serve to illustrate arguments.
Now consider a review of the same book written by a slightly more opinionated student:
Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 was a colossal disappointment. I wanted to know about the rituals surrounding drinking in medieval England: the songs, the games, the parties. Bennett provided none of that information. I liked how the book showed ale and beer brewing as an economic activity, but the reader gets lost in the details of prices and wages. I was more interested in the private lives of the women brewsters. The book was divided into eight long chapters, and I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to read it.
There’s no shortage of judgments in this review! But the student does not display a working knowledge of the book’s argument. The reader has a sense of what the student expected of the book, but no sense of what the author herself set out to prove. Although the student gives several reasons for the negative review, those examples do not clearly relate to each other as part of an overall evaluation—in other words, in support of a specific thesis. This review is indeed an assessment, but not a critical one.
Here is one final review of the same book:
One of feminism’s paradoxes—one that challenges many of its optimistic histories—is how patriarchy remains persistent over time. While Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 recognizes medieval women as historical actors through their ale brewing, it also shows that female agency had its limits with the advent of beer. I had assumed that those limits were religious and political, but Bennett shows how a “patriarchal equilibrium” shut women out of economic life as well. Her analysis of women’s wages in ale and beer production proves that a change in women’s work does not equate to a change in working women’s status. Contemporary feminists and historians alike should read Bennett’s book and think twice when they crack open their next brewsky.
This student’s review avoids the problems of the previous two examples. It combines balanced opinion and concrete example, a critical assessment based on an explicitly stated rationale, and a recommendation to a potential audience. The reader gets a sense of what the book’s author intended to demonstrate. Moreover, the student refers to an argument about feminist history in general that places the book in a specific genre and that reaches out to a general audience. The example of analyzing wages illustrates an argument, the analysis engages significant intellectual debates, and the reasons for the overall positive review are plainly visible. The review offers criteria, opinions, and support with which the reader can agree or disagree.
Developing an assessment: before you write
There is no definitive method to writing a review, although some critical thinking about the work at hand is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a review is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, and making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft. See our handout on argument .
What follows is a series of questions to focus your thinking as you dig into the work at hand. While the questions specifically consider book reviews, you can easily transpose them to an analysis of performances, exhibitions, and other review subjects. Don’t feel obligated to address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to the book in question.
- What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to the world you know? What has the book accomplished?
- What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately? Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? What is the approach to the subject (topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive)?
- How does the author support her argument? What evidence does she use to prove her point? Do you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author’s information (or conclusions) conflict with other books you’ve read, courses you’ve taken or just previous assumptions you had of the subject?
- How does the author structure her argument? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?
- How has this book helped you understand the subject? Would you recommend the book to your reader?
Beyond the internal workings of the book, you may also consider some information about the author and the circumstances of the text’s production:
- Who is the author? Nationality, political persuasion, training, intellectual interests, personal history, and historical context may provide crucial details about how a work takes shape. Does it matter, for example, that the biographer was the subject’s best friend? What difference would it make if the author participated in the events she writes about?
- What is the book’s genre? Out of what field does it emerge? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of its genre? These questions can provide a historical or literary standard on which to base your evaluations. If you are reviewing the first book ever written on the subject, it will be important for your readers to know. Keep in mind, though, that naming “firsts”—alongside naming “bests” and “onlys”—can be a risky business unless you’re absolutely certain.
Writing the review
Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Check out our handout on thesis statements . Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis.
Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review. What follows is just one of many ways to organize a review.
Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your review differently depending on the argument and audience. The Writing Center’s handout on introductions can help you find an approach that works. In general, you should include:
- The name of the author and the book title and the main theme.
- Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You could also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.
- The context of the book and/or your review. Placing your review in a framework that makes sense to your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. Perhaps you want to situate a book about the Cuban revolution in the context of Cold War rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union. Another reviewer might want to consider the book in the framework of Latin American social movements. Your choice of context informs your argument.
- The thesis of the book. If you are reviewing fiction, this may be difficult since novels, plays, and short stories rarely have explicit arguments. But identifying the book’s particular novelty, angle, or originality allows you to show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.
- Your thesis about the book.
Summary of content
This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.
The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book reviews for colleagues—to prepare for comprehensive exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as a class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty to explore more subtle points and to emphasize your own argument. See our handout on summary for more tips.
Analysis and evaluation of the book
Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly. You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book. If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review remains in the spotlight. Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.
Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis. This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do they all add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions can help you make a final assessment.
Finally, a few general considerations:
- Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can and should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be.
- With any luck, the author of the book worked hard to find the right words to express her ideas. You should attempt to do the same. Precise language allows you to control the tone of your review.
- Never hesitate to challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.
- Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—and sometimes obligated—to voice strong agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, and every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult to prove and can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.
- A great place to learn about book reviews is to look at examples. The New York Times Sunday Book Review and The New York Review of Books can show you how professional writers review books.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Drewry, John. 1974. Writing Book Reviews. Boston: Greenwood Press.
Hoge, James. 1987. Literary Reviewing. Charlottesville: University Virginia of Press.
Sova, Dawn, and Harry Teitelbaum. 2002. How to Write Book Reports , 4th ed. Lawrenceville, NY: Thomson/Arco.
Walford, A.J. 1986. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. Phoenix: Oryx Press.
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Book Review Writing
Writing a Book Review - A Step By Step Guide
Published on: May 21, 2019
Last updated on: Jan 23, 2023
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If your teacher has asked you to write a book review, you need to analyze a book and provide your opinion on it. However, this is not the only information you need for a good book review. You will also have to include a brief summary of the book and address the book’s main points and explain why they matter.
You might also be asked to cover the information about the author to help the reader understand the text, especially if it is a non-fiction book.
If you are searching for how to write a book review, here is a step-by-step guide to help you write an impressive book review in no time.
What is a Book Review?
A review of a book is literary criticism, and it mainly consists of three things; a summary, analysis, and evaluation of the book.
These are the keys to constructing a perfect book evaluation and review.
A book review can vary from person to person, as everyone has a different take on what they read. You might have a positive opinion of a book but your friend can have a negative take on it.
However, both of you can be right in your own way, depending on how you criticize and draw an opinion of the book and defend them.
Keep on reading and learn how to write a book review for school and beyond.
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How to Write a Book Review?
Regardless of liking or disliking a book, a detailed and honest review will help people know about different kinds of books and find those that interest them.
For some, book reviews and book reports are the same. However, writing a book report is different from writing a book review. A book review is simpler in structure and does not require in-depth analysis as compared to a book report.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to write a book review.
Write a few lines to describe the book. However, be careful when you are giving the description of the book, do not give away any plot twists and spoil the book for the readers. A better way is to refer to similar books. Mention them so the reader can get an idea of what the book is all about.
It is essential that you talk about what you liked in the book. You can talk about a certain chapter or quote. Some other things include; your favorite character, event, quote, and scene.
Mention how the book made you feel and if it kept you engaged and curious till the end.
In the case of non-fiction works, explain if it was informative or if the theories and concepts were explained perfectly and if it helped your work.
All these questions will help you write a book review that will impress your teachers, boss, or peers.
After talking about all the things that you like in the book, it is time you talk about the parts of the book that you disliked. However, make sure that you explain everything and the reasons behind your dislike.
Conclude the review by summarizing some of your thoughts on the book and suggestions about what kind of readers will like the book the most.
For instance: older or younger readers or people who are fans of drama, mystery, or comedy.
When it comes to more facts and science-related books, you can talk about how the book is more suitable for readers who are doing or have done an M.Phil. in any science-related subject.
This is an optional part. You can give the book a rating out of 10. At times there is an audience who are in a rush, and all they want is to know the ratings. So, this is perfect for your peers or the layman who just want to know if the book is worth it or not.
Once you are done with writing, proofread it and make sure your grammar and spellings are on point. Keep in mind that a review with language mistakes may not be taken seriously.
Book Review Format
There are certain formatting guidelines that you need to follow for a perfect book review. Keep in mind that following the correct format is as important as writing about the main theme and idea of the book.
Here are the basic book review formatting guidelines that you can follow for your ease.
- Start with the main characteristics of the book, such as the name of the book, the author’s name, etc.
- Definition of the book and bibliographical information
- Discuss the main theme of the book
- Introduce the main characters
- Discuss the plot of the story
- The message, the author tried to convey
- Your point of view on the text
These are the basic book review format guidelines that you need to follow for an impressive review.
Book Review Template
Here is a free book review template that you can use to come up with the best format for your book review.
Book Review Examples
Examples are a great source to learn something new. That’s why below we have provided some book review examples that you can read to understand what it takes to write a great book review.
Fictional Book Review
The Invisible Man Book Review:
“An extremely powerful story of a young Southern Negro, from his late high school days through three years of college to his life in Harlem.
His early training prepared him for a life of humility before white men, but through injustices- large and small, he came to realize that he was an "invisible man." People saw in him only a reflection of their preconceived ideas of what he was, denied his individuality, and ultimately did not see him at all. This theme, which has implications far beyond the obvious racial parallel, is skillfully handled.
The incidents of the story are wholly absorbing. The boy's dismissal from college because of an innocent mistake, his shocked reaction to the anonymity of the North and to Harlem, his nightmare experiences on a one-day job in a paint factory and in the hospital, his lightning success as the Harlem leader of a communistic organization known as the Brotherhood, his involvement in black versus white and black versus black clashes and his disillusion and understanding of his invisibility- all climax naturally in scenes of violence and riot, followed by a retreat which is both literal and figurative.
Parts of this experience may have been told before, but never with such freshness, intensity, and power.
This is Ellison's first novel, but he has complete control of his story and his style. Read it.”
Non-Fiction Book Review
Becoming Book Review:
“Look, I'm not a happy crier. I might cry at songs about leaving and missing someone; I might cry at books where things don't work out; I might cry at movies where someone dies.
I've just never really understood why people get all choked up over happy, inspirational things. But Michelle Obama's kindness and empathy changed that. This book had me in tears for all the right reasons.
This is not really a book about politics, though political experiences obviously do come into it. It's a shame that some will dismiss this book because of a difference in political opinion when it is really about a woman's life. About growing up poor and black on the South Side of Chicago, about getting married and struggling to maintain that marriage, about motherhood, about being thrown into an amazing and terrifying position.
I hate words like "inspirational" because they've become so overdone and cheesy, but I just have to say it-- Michelle Obama is an inspiration. I had the privilege of seeing her speak at The Forum in Inglewood, and she is one of the warmest, funniest, smartest, down-to-earth people I have ever seen in this world.
She's obviously intelligent, but she also doesn't gussy up her words. She talks straight, with an openness and honesty rarely seen. She's been one of the most powerful women in the world. She's been a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, She's had her own successful career, and yet she has remained throughout that same girl - Michelle Robinson - from a working-class family in Chicago.
I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.
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Book Review Sample
If you are looking for more book reviews, we have compiled an interesting book review sample for you to read the following reviews.
- The alchemist book review
- Sapiens book review
- The secret book review
- Book review of forty rules of love
- Book review of matilda
- Book review treasure island
- Educated book review
If you want to read a book review of any book mentioned above, refer to this sample and see what a professional book review looks like.
New York Times Book Review
The NY times book reviews are a great resource to help you understand how to write a book review that is impressive and moving.
They will help you get a clear idea of how to write a book review. If you have not read one, now is the time to do so. Reading book reviews of authors like Margaret Atwood and Jacqueline Woodson is a good way to get started with your own assignment.
The NYT book reviews have pretty much an overview of every other book out there. Go through some of them for better clarity.
Hopefully, now you know what it takes to write a good book review. Refer to the above guide and learn how to write a great book review every time.
Lastly, never write a review of a book based on what you wanted it to be. Present facts and your opinion based on them.
Further, there are going to be times when you will be given the task of reviewing a book from a genre that you do not like. This will be your test, as the book review will help you learn to appreciate readings from all genres.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 4 stages of a book review.
The 4 stages of reviewing a book are:
- Introduction the book
- Drafting an outline of its major chapters
- Highlighting the significant details of the book
- Writing a detailed evaluation
What are the parts of a book review?
The main parts of a book review are as following:
- Summary of the book
- Background details of the book
- Credits: author, publisher, etc.
- Plot and setting
What is the goal of a book review?
The purpose of the book review is to convey information about a particular book in an understandable way. It can be used as a tool by other people who want to know what your review about the book is or how it compares to their own expectations.
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Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.
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This resource discusses book reviews and how to write them.
Book reviews typically evaluate recently-written works. They offer a brief description of the text’s key points and often provide a short appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the work.
Readers sometimes confuse book reviews with book reports, but the two are not identical. Book reports commonly describe what happens in a work; their focus is primarily on giving an account of the major plot, characters, and/or main idea of the work. Most often, book reports are a K-12 assignment and range from 250 to 500 words. If you are looking to write a book report, please see the OWL resource, Writing a Book Report.
By contrast, book reviews are most often a college assignment, but they also appear in many professional works: magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. They typically range from 500-750 words, but may be longer or shorter. A book review gives readers a sneak peek at what a book is like, whether or not the reviewer enjoyed it, and details on purchasing the book.
Before You Read
Before you begin to read, consider the elements you will need to included in your review. The following items may help:
- Author: Who is the author? What else has s/he written? Has this author won any awards? What is the author’s typical style?
- Genre: What type of book is this: fiction, nonfiction, romance, poetry, youth fiction, etc.? Who is the intended audience for this work? What is the purpose of the work?
- Title: Where does the title fit in? How is it applied in the work? Does it adequately encapsulate the message of the text? Is it interesting? Uninteresting?
- Preface/Introduction/Table of Contents: Does the author provide any revealing information about the text in the preface/introduction? Does a “guest author” provide the introduction? What judgments or preconceptions do the author and/or “guest author” provide? How is the book arranged: sections, chapters?
- Book Jacket/Cover/Printing: Book jackets are like mini-reviews. Does the book jacket provide any interesting details or spark your interest in some way? Are there pictures, maps, or graphs? Do the binding, page cut, or typescript contribute or take away from the work?
As You Read
As you read, determine how you will structure the summary portion or background structure of your review. Be ready to take notes on the book’s key points, characters, and/or themes.
- Characters: Are there characters in the work? Who are the principal characters? How do they affect the story? Do you empathize with them?
- Themes/Motifs/Style: What themes or motifs stand out? How do they contribute to the work? Are they effective or not? How would you describe this author’s particular style? Is it accessible to all readers or just some?
- Argument: How is the work’s argument set up? What support does the author give for her/findings? Does the work fulfill its purpose/support its argument?
- Key Ideas: What is the main idea of the work? What makes it good, different, or groundbreaking?
- Quotes: What quotes stand out? How can you demonstrate the author’s talent or the feel of the book through a quote?
When You Are Ready to Write
Begin with a short summary or background of the work, but do not give too much away. Many reviews limit themselves only to the first couple of chapters or lead the reader up to the rising action of the work. Reviewers of nonfiction texts will provide the basic idea of the book’s argument without too much detailed.
The final portion of your review will detail your opinion of the work. When you are ready to begin your review, consider the following:
- Establish a Background, Remember your Audience: Remember that your audience has not read the work; with this in mind, be sure to introduce characters and principles carefully and deliberately. What kind of summary can you provide of the main points or main characters that will help your readers gauge their interest? Does the author’s text adequately reach the intended audience? Will some readers be lost or find the text too easy?
- Minor principles/characters: Deal only with the most pressing issues in the book. You will not be able to cover every character or idea. What principles/characters did you agree or disagree with? What other things might the author have researched or considered?
- Organize: The purpose of the review is to critically evaluate the text, not just inform the readers about it. Leave plenty room for your evaluation by ensuring that your summary is brief. Determine what kind of balance to strike between your summary information and your evaluation. If you are writing your review for a class, ask your instructor. Often the ratio is half and half.
- Your Evaluation: Choose one or a few points to discuss about the book. What worked well for you? How does this work compare with others by the same author or other books in the same genre? What major themes, motifs, or terms does the book introduce, and how effective are they? Did the book appeal to you on an emotional or logical way?
- Publisher/Price: Most book reviews include the publisher and price of the book at the end of the article. Some reviews also include the year published and ISBN.
When making the final touches to your review, carefully verify the following:
- Double-check the spelling of the author name(s), character names, special terms, and publisher.
- Try to read from the vantage point of your audience. Is there too much/enough summary? Does your argument about the text make sense?
- Should you include direct quotes from the reading? Do they help support your arguments? Double-check your quotes for accuracy.
25+ Book Review Templates and Ideas to Organize Your Thoughts
Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis
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When I was a kid I loved reading, but I hated book reports. It felt impossible to boil a book down to a few lines or even a page of writing. Besides, by the time I had to write the report, I had already forgotten a lot. It never ceases to be painful to try to pull my thoughts and opinions out of my head and put them on the page, especially in a coherent way.
As an adult, I continue to usually find writing book reviews painful . And yet, I maintain a book blog with reviews of all the (bi and lesbian) books I read. Why? For one thing, I want to raise the visibility of these books — or, in the case of a book I loathed, warn other readers of what to expect. It helps me to build community with other book lovers. It’s also a great way to force myself pay attention to how I’m feeling while I’m reading a book and what my thoughts are afterwards. I have learned to take notes as I go, so I have something to refer to by the time I write a review, and it has me notice what a book is doing well (and what it isn’t). The review at the end helps me to organize my thoughts. I also find that I remember more once I’ve written a review.
Once you’ve decided it’s worthwhile to write a review, though, how do you get started? It can be a daunting task. The good news is, book reviews can adapt to whatever you want them to be. A book review can be a tweet with a thumbs up or thumbs down emoji, maybe with a sentence or two of your thoughts; it can also be an in-depth essay on the themes of the book and its influence on literature. Most are going to fall somewhere between those two! Let go of the idea of trying to create the One True Book Review. Everyone is looking for something different, and there is space for GIF-filled squee fests about a book and thoughtful, meditative explorations of a work.
This post offers a variety of book reviews elements that you can mix and match to create a book review template that works for you. Before you get started, though, there are some questions worth addressing.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Book Review Template
Where will you be posting your book reviews.
An Instagram book review will likely look different from a blog book review. Consider which platform you will be using for your book review. You can adapt it for different platforms, or link to your original review, but it’s a good starting point. Instagram reviews tend to be a lot shorter than blog reviews, for instance.
Will you be using the same template every time?
Some book reviewers have a go-to book review template. Others have a different one for each genre, while another group doesn’t use a template at all and just reacts to whatever each book brings up.
Heading or no headings?
When choosing which book review elements to mix and match, you can also decide whether to include a header for each section (like Plot, Characterization, Writing, etc). Headers make reviews easier to browse, but they may not have the professional, essay-style look that you’re going for.
Why are you writing a review?
When selecting which elements to include in your review, consider what the purpose is. Do you want to better remember the plot by writing about it? You probably want to include a plot summary, then. Do you want to help readers decide whether they should read this book? A pros and cons list might be helpful. Are you trying to track something about your reading, like an attempt to read more books in translation or more books by authors of color? Are you trying to buy fewer books and read off your TBR shelf instead? These are all things you can note in a review, usually in a point-form basic information block at the beginning.
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Book Review Templates and Formats
This is a multi-paragraph review, usually with no headers. It’s the same format most newspapers and academics use for book reviews. Many essay-style reviews use informal categories in their writing, often discussing setting, writing, characters, and plot in their own paragraphs. They usually also discuss the big themes/messages of a story. Here are some questions to consider when writing an essay-style review:
What is the author trying to do? Don’t evaluate a romance novel based on a mystery novel’s criteria. First try to think about what the book was attempting to do, then try to evaluate if they achieved it. You can still note if you didn’t like it, but it’s good to know what it was aiming for first.
What are some of the themes of the story? What big message should the reader take away? Did you agree with what the book seemed to be saying? Why or why not?
How is this story relevant to the world? What is it saying about the time it was written in? About human nature? About society or current issues? Depending on the book, there may be more or less to dig into here.
What did this book make you think about? It may be that the themes in the book were just a launching off point. How did they inspire your own thinking? How did this book change you?
A Classic Book Review
This is probably the most common kind of book review template. It uses a few criteria, usually including Setting, Writing, Characters, and Plot (for a novel). The review then goes into some detail about each element, describing what the book did well, and where it fell short.
The advantage of this format is that it’s very straightforward and applies to almost any fiction read. It can also be adapted–you will likely have more to say about the plot in a mystery/thriller than a character study of a novel. A drawback, though, is that it can feel limiting. You might have thoughts that don’t neatly fit into these categories, or you could feel like you don’t have enough to say about some of the categories.
Pros and Cons
A common format for a Goodreads review is some variation of pros and cons. This might be “What I Liked/What I Didn’t Like” or “Reasons to Bump This Up Your TBR/Reasons to Bump This Down On Your TBR.” This is a very flexible system that can accommodate anything from a few bullet points each to paragraphs each. It gives a good at-a-glance impression of your thoughts (more cons than pros is a pretty good indication you didn’t like it). It also is broad enough that almost all your thoughts can likely be organized into those headings.
This is also a format that is easily mix and matched with the elements listed below. A brief review might give the title, author, genre, some brief selling points of the novel, and then a pros and cons list. Some reviews also include a “verdict” at the end. An example of this format:
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
🌟 Fantasy All-Ages Comic 💫 Adorable pet dragons ✨ A diverse cast
Pros: This book has beautiful artwork. It is a soothing read, and all the character are supportive of each other. This is a story about friendship and kindness.
Cons: Don’t expect a fast-moving plot or a lot of conflict. This is a very gentle read.
Another approach to the review is not, strictly speaking, a book review template at all. Instead, it’s something like “5 Reasons to Read TITLE by Author” or “The # Most Shocking Plot Twists in X Series.” An advantage of this format is that it can be very to-the-point: if you want to convince people to read a book, it makes sense to just write a list of reasons they should read the book. It may also be more likely to get clicked on–traditional book reviews often get less views than more general posts.
On the other hand, listicles can come off as gimmicky or click-bait. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the book matches this format, and whether you are writing this out of genuine enthusiasm or are just trying to bend a review to be more clickable.
Your Own Original Rating System
Lots of reviewers decide to make their own review format based on what matters to them. This is often accompanied by a ratings system. For instance, the BookTube channel Book Roast uses the CAWPILE system:
CAWPILE is an acronym for the criteria she rates: Characters, Atmosphere, Writing, Plot, Intrigue, Logic, Enjoyment. Each of those are rated 1–10, and the average given is the overall rating. By making your own ratings/review system, you can prioritize what matters to you.
My favorite rating system is Njeri’s from Onyx Pages , because it shows exactly what she’s looking for from books, and it helps her to think about and speak about the things she values:
A “Live Tweet” or Chronological Review
Another format possibility is live tweeting (or updating as you go on Goodreads, or whatever your platform of choice is). This has you document your initial thoughts as you read, and it’s usually informal and often silly. You can add what you’re loving, what you’re hating, and what questions you have as you go.
This is a fun format for when you’re reading a popular book for the first time. That way, other people can cackle at how unprepared you are as you read it. This requires you to remember to always have your phone on you as you read, to get your authentic thoughts as they happen, but it saves on having to write a more in-depth review. Alternately, some people include both a “first impressions” section and a more in-depth analysis section in their final review.
There are plenty of book review templates to choose from and elements to mix-and-match, but you can also respond in a completely original way. You could create a work of art in response to the book! Here are some options:
- Writing a song , a short story, or a poem
- Writing a letter to the author or the main character (you don’t have to send it to the author!)
- Writing an “interview” of a character from the book, talk show style
- Making a visual response, like a collage or painting
- Making a book diorama, like your elementary school days!
Mix-and-Match Elements of a Book Review
Most book reviews are made up of a few different parts, which can be combined in lots of different ways. Here is a selection to choose from! These might also give you ideas for your own elements. Don’t take on too much, though! It can easily become an overwhelming amount of information for readers.
Usually a book review starts with some basic information about the book. What you consider basic information, though, is up for interpretation! Consider what you and your audience will think is important. Here are some ideas:
- The title and author (pretty important)
- The book’s cover
- Format (audiobook, comic, poetry, etc)
- Genre (this can be broad, like SFF, or narrow, like Silkpunk or Dark Academia)
- Content warnings
- Source (where did you get the book? Was is borrowed from the library, bought, or were you sent an ARC?)
- Synopsis/plot summary (your own or the publisher’s)
- What kind of representation there is in the novel (including race, disability, LGBTQ characters, etc)
- Anything you’re tracking in your reading, including: authors of color, authors’ country, if a book is in translation, etc
Once you’ve established your basic information, you’re into the review itself! Some of these are small additions to a review, while others are a little more time-intensive.
Bullet point elements:
- Rating (star rating, thumbs up/down, recommend/wouldn’t recommend, or your own scale)
- Who would like it/Who wouldn’t like it
- Read-alikes (or movies and TV shows like the book)
- Describe the book using an emoji or emojis
- Describe the book using a gif or gifs
- Favorite line(s) from the book
- New vocabulary/the most beautiful words in the novel
- How it made you feel (in a sentence or two)
- One word or one sentence review
- Bullet points listing the selling points of a book
- BooksandLala’s Scary, Unsettling, and Intrigue ratings, for horror
- World-building, for fantasy and science fiction titles
- Art, for comics
- Narration, for audiobooks
- Romance, for…romance
- Heat level, for erotica
- Design a graphic (usually incorporating the cover, your star rating, and some other basic info)
- Take a selfie of yourself holding the book, with your expression as the review
- Make a mood board
- Design your own book cover
- Make fan art
Elements to incorporate into a review:
- Quick/initial thoughts (often while reading or immediately after reading), then a more in-depth review (common on Goodreads)
- A list of facts about the book or a character from the book
- Book club questions about the book
- Spoiler/non-spoiler sections
- Research: look up interviews with the author and critique of the book, incorporate it (cited!) into your review
- Links to other resources, such as interviews or other reviews — especially #OwnVoices reviews
- A story of your own, whether it’s your experience reading the book, or something it reminded you of
This is not a complete list! There are so many ways to write a book review, and it should reflect your own relationship with books, as well as your audience. If you’re looking for more ways to keep track of your reading, you’ll also like 50+ Beautiful Bujo Spread Ideas to Track Your Reading .
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How to Write a Book Review
Last Updated: August 6, 2023 Approved
This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 66 testimonials and 90% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,190,791 times.
Writing a book review is not just about summarizing; it's also an opportunity for you to present a critical discussion of the book so others get an idea of what to expect. Whether you’re writing a review as an assignment or as a publication opportunity, you should combine an accurate, analytical reading with a strong, personal touch. An effective book review describes what is on the page, analyzes how the book tried to achieve its purpose, and expresses any reactions and arguments from a unique perspective.
Preparing to Write Your Review
- Write down notes in a notebook or use a voice recorder to document any thoughts or impressions you have of the book as you are reading. They don't have to be organized or perfect, the idea is to brainstorm any impressions you may have of the book.
- Try summarizing the major sections of the book you’re reviewing to help understand how it’s structured.
- For example, if you are reviewing a non-fiction book about the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s, consider reading other books that also examine the same scientific issue and/or period of scientific development. Or if you are reviewing a work of fiction like Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, consider how Hawthorne's book relates to other 19th-century works of romanticism and historical fiction set in the same time period (the 17th century) as points of comparison.
- Pay attention to the preface, any quotes, and /or references in the book's introduction, as this content will likely shed light on the book's major themes and viewpoint.
- A simple way to determine one of the major themes of a book is to sum up the book in one word or sentence.  X Research source So, for example, the major theme of The Scarlet Letter could be "sin". Once you have your one-word summary, stretch the single word into a message or lesson, such as "sin can lead to knowledge, but it can also lead to suffering."
- For example, in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne attempts to combine the writing style of the Romantic Period (1800-1855) with the common, everyday language of the American Puritans of the 1600s. Hawthorne does this with long, descriptive sentences that are strung together with commas and semicolons.  X Research source
- In the Scarlet Letter, for example, Hawthorne begins the book with an introduction to the text, narrated by an individual who has many autobiographical details in common with the author. In the introduction, the nameless narrator tells the story of finding the manuscript bundled in a scarlet letter "A". Hawthorne uses this narrative framing to create a story within a story, an important detail when discussing the book as a whole.
- If we were to use the Scarlett Letter again, it would be significant to note that Hawthorne chose the adulterer and sinner Hester Prynne as his protagonist, and placed the religious, anti-sin Reverend Wilson in the role of antagonist. In writing a review of The Scarlet Letter, it would be useful to consider why Hawthorne did this, and how it relates back to the book's overall theme of sin.
Creating a First Draft of the Review
- Ensure your introduction contains relevant details like the author's background, and if applicable, their previous work in the genre.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source You can also indicate the main themes you will be discussing in your review to situate the reader and give them an indication of your "take" on the book.
- Several possible openings include: a historical moment, an anecdote, a surprising or intriguing statement, and declarative statements. Regardless of your opening sentences, make sure they directly relate to your critical response to the book and keep them short and to the point.
- If you're unsure on how to begin the review, try writing your introduction last. It may be easier to organize all of your supporting points and your critical position, and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the review.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
- Keep the summary short, to the point, and informative. Use quotes or paraphrasing from the book to support your summary.  X Research source Make sure you properly cite all quotes and paraphrasing in your review to avoid plagiarism.  X Research source
- Be wary of summaries that begin with phrases like “[This essay] is about…” “[This book] is the story of…” “[This author] writes about…”.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Focus on weaving a description of the book's setting, narrative voice, and plot within a critical analysis. Avoid simply regurgitating the book's premise.
- Don't give away important details or reveal the ending of the book in your summary, and don't go into detail about what happens from the middle of the book onwards.  X Research source As well, if the book is part of a series, you can mention this to potential readers and situate the book within the series.  X Research source
- Use the answers you brainstormed during your preparation for the review to formulate your critique. Address how well the book has achieved its goal, how the book compares to other books on the subject, specific points that were not convincing or lacked development, and what personal experiences, if any, you've had related to the subject of the book.
- Always use (properly cited) supporting quotes and passages from the book to back up your critical discussion. This not only reinforces your viewpoint with a trustworthy source, it also gives the reader a sense of the writing style and narrative voice of the book.  X Research source
- The general rule of thumb is that the first one-half to two-thirds of the review should summarize the author’s main ideas, and at least one-third should evaluate the book.
- Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the book, and discuss whether you would recommend the book to others. If so, who do you think is the ideal audience for the book?  X Research source Do not introduce new material in your conclusion or discuss a new idea or impression that was not examined in your introduction and body paragraphs.  X Research source
- You can also give the book a numerical score, a thumbs up or thumbs down, or a starred rating.  X Research source
Polishing the Review
- Always use spell check and adjust any grammar or spelling. Nothing undermines a quality review more than bad spelling and grammar.
- Double check that all quotes and references are properly cited in your review.
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- As you're writing, try thinking of your reader as a friend to whom you're telling a story. How would you relay the book's themes and main points to a friend in a casual conversation? This will help you balance formal and informal language and simplify your critical assessment.  X Research source Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. Being critical means pointing out shortcomings or failures, but avoid focusing your criticism of the book on what the book is not. Be fair in your discussion and always consider the value of the book for its audience.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- Make sure, after you've finished your review, to reread it and check any grammar or spelling mistakes so that it makes sense. Try reading your review from numerous perspectives, or asking a friend to proofread it for you. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 1
Make sure to read the book thoroughly. If you don't, it will be bad.
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- ↑ http://homeworktips.about.com/od/writingabookreport/a/theme.htm
- ↑ http://www.thedramateacher.com/genre-or-style-a-dramatic-problem/
- ↑ http://www.penguin.com/static/pdf/teachersguides/scarletletter.pdf
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/book-reviews/
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/introductions/
- ↑ https://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Book-Summary
- ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QPA_quoting.html
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/summary-using-it-wisely/
- ↑ http://www.booktrust.org.uk/books/teenagers/writing-tips/tips-for-writing-book-reviews/
- ↑ http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/bookrev/tips.htm
- ↑ http://www.infoplease.com/homework/wsbookreporths.html
- ↑ http://guides.library.queensu.ca/bookreviews/writing
About This Article
To write a book review, start with a heading that includes the book's title, author, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, and number of pages. Then, open your review with an introduction that includes the author's background as well as the main points you'll be making. Next, split up the body of your review so the first half of the review is a summary of the author's main ideas and the rest is your critique of the book. Finally, close your review with a concluding paragraph that briefly summarizes your analysis. To learn how to read a book critically so it's easier to write a review, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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👀 Book Review Example
🔗 references, ❓ what is a book review.
A book review is a form of literary criticism. There are several important elements to consider when writing one, such as the author’s style and themes of interest. The two most popular types are short summary reviews and critical reviews, which are longer.
Summary Book Review
The format of a book review depends on the purpose of your writing. A short summary review will not include any in-depth analysis. It’s merely a descriptive piece of writing that overviews key information about the book and its author. An effective summary review consists of:
- Reference to a chosen book in the form of a citation.
- A few words on the book’s purpose.
- Description of the main themes, ideas, and issues highlighted by the author.
- Brief information about other works on this topic, if applicable.
- A note about the author and visual materials of the book, along with its structure.
Critical Book Review
A critical book review is much longer than its summary counterpart and looks more like an analytical essay. You may be asked to write one as a college student. It includes:
- Book citation and a hook in the introduction.
- A few words about the author’s intentions.
- An academic description of the main ideas and themes.
- Mention of errors in the text, if you found any.
- Discussion of the chosen book’s significance and how it has influenced the field.
- Some information about the author and the physical content of the book.
- Description of the audience and whether the writer’s style and ideas are engaging.
✍️ How to Write a Book Review?
The structure of a book review is like any other essay. That said, the process of writing one has its own idiosyncrasies. So, before moving to the three parts of the review (introduction, main body, and conclusion), you should study the chosen piece and make enough notes to work with.
Step #1: Choose a Book and Read It
Being interested in a book you’re about to analyze is one thing. Reading it deeply is quite another.
Before you even dive into the text proper, think about what you already know about the book. Then, study the table of contents and make some predictions. What’s your first impression?
Now, it’s time to read it! Don’t take this step lightly. Keep a note log throughout the reading process and stop after each chapter to jot down a quick summary. If you find any particular point of interest along the way and feel you might want to discuss it in the review, highlight it to make it easier to find when you go back through the text. If you happen to have a digital copy, you can even use a shorten essay generator and save yourself some time.
Answering the following questions can also help you with this process.
Receive a plagiarism-free paper tailored to your instructions.
Step #2: Create Your Book Review Outline
A solid outline should be the foundation of any worthy book review. It includes the key points you want to address and gives you a place to start from (and refer back to) throughout the writing process.
You are expected to produce at least five paragraphs if you want your review to look professional, including an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion .
While analyzing your notes , consider the questions below.
Step #3: Write Your Book Review Introduction
With a layout firmly in place, it’s time to start writing your introduction. This process should be straightforward: mention the name of the book and its author and specify your first impression. The last sentence should always be your thesis statement, which summarizes your review’s thrust and critical findings.
Step #4: Write Your Book Review Body
Include at least three main ideas you wish to highlight. These can be about the writing style, themes, character, or plot. Be sure to support your arguments with evidence in the form of direct quotes (at least one per paragraph). Don’t be afraid to paraphrase the sentences that feel off. It’s better to aknowledge the mistakes yourself than have someone else point them out.
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Step #5: Write Your Book Review Conclusion
Compose a brief summary of everything you wrote about in the main body. You should also paraphrase your thesis statement . For your closing sentence, comment on the value of the book. Perhaps it served as a source of useful insight, or you just appreciate the author’s intention to shed light on a particular issue.
Now you know how to write a book review. But if you need some more inspiration, check out the following sample review, which follows the basic outline described above.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Book Review Example
If you want more examples, check out the list below!
- “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”: Book Review
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- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Book Review
- Book Review: “They Say I Say”
- The Advancement by L. Russ Bush: Book Review
- Book Review “Religious, Feminist, Activist ” by Laurel Zwissler
- “Tell My Horse” by Zora Neale Hurston Book Review
- “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman Book Review
- “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Bradberry and Greaves Book Review
- “Military Rule in America” by Karen L. Remmer: Book Review
Book Review Essay Topics
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen : book review.
- The symbolic nature of the Canadian consumption culture in The Donut: A Canadian History by S. Penfold.
- The key lessons of the book Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
- Big Talk, Small Talk by Shola Kaye : a guide to effective communication.
- Review of the book The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
- The main ideas promoted in Thinking About Crime: Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture by M. Tonry.
- Exposition of young boys’ problems in Nikkah’s Our Boys Speak .
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf : book review.
- Discuss the message to future entrepreneurs in Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog .
- The main ideas of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
- Magical realism in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Juno Diaz.
- Book review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer .
- Psychological struggles of identity and isolation in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley .
- The principle of negotiation in the book Getting to Yes .
- Analyze the symbolism in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 .
- The role of family in Montana 1948 .
- Weaving the Web by Tim Berners-Lee : book review.
- Discuss the main topic of the book Death of a Salesman .
- Tragedy of the family in A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor.
- Realistic features of Afghanistan in The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
- Review of the book Montley Fool Money Guide .
- Description of the gap between two cultures in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
- The effect of Puritan beliefs in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown .
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as a prominent example of symbolism.
- The philosophical value of Oedipus the King by Sophocles .
- Discuss the description of gradual personality changes in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat .
- Review of the play Much Ado About Nothing by W. Shakespeare .
- Analyze the core theme of Sherman Alexie’s book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian .
- Family values and culture preservation issues in J.D. Vance Book Hillbilly Elegy .
- Problems of teenagers’ behavior in Nothing but the Truth by Avi .
- The role of women in society in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar .
- Satire on the Victorian society customs in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde .
- Danger of obsession with new technologies in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark .
- Describe the controversial messages of Why Don’t You Dance by Raymond Carver .
- Examine the central problem of the novel Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility by Patricia Santana .
- Review of the book Billy Budd by Herman Melville .
- The fundamental philosophical problems of perception and consciousness in The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares.
- Discuss the role of the illusory world Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie .
- Gender roles in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen.
- Analyze the main topic of Death by Landscape by Margaret Atwood.
- Book Review – The New York Times
- Book Reviews – UNC Writing Center
- Writing a Book Review – USC Writing Center
- Books | The Guardian
- Book Reviews : NPR – NPR
- Book Reviews // Purdue Writing Lab
- Book Reviews | Nature
- The New York Review of Books: Home
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I need a seven page Book report on Booker T. Washington. Instructions below from instructor title, your name, and then seven paragraphs and seven pages – no more no less.
get rid of the outline format.
They combine your ideas into seven paragraphs.
Each paragraph that has quotes should have a topic sentence followed by the five sentences with quotes and endnotes, followed by the concluding sentence.
You do not need any quotes in the introduction or in the summary.
So seven paragraphs total.
Each paragraph needs to be 13 – 17 lines, lines on a page and not sentences.
So, delete the outline format.
Combine your ideas into seven paragraphs.
Make sure that each paragraph has between 13–17 lines.
And make sure your overall length is in seven pages, no more no less.
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How to Write a Great Book Review: 6 Templates and Ideas
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Whether you’ve loved or hated your recent reads, writing book reviews can be a fun and satisfying process. It’s a great way to unpack messages and information from a story, and it also helps you remember key elements of a book for much longer than you usually would. Plus, book reviews open up some interesting and exciting debates between readers with different opinions, and they also help others decide which books to read next .
Table of Contents
Where Can You Post Book Reviews?
Back in the old days, book reviews were reserved for leading publications and journals, but now, anyone can create their own book reviews, and they’re popping up almost everywhere.
Bookworms have taken over social media, with hashtags like # bookstagram drawing in millions of readers from around the internet to share thoughts, ideas, inspiration, and of course, reviews.
Book blogs are also blowing up right now, and plenty of avid readers are making a solid income by writing and sharing their book reviews this way. You can either create your own from scratch or write guest posts and reviews for already established blogs.
Goodreads is the undisputed online home of books. It’s a great place to find inspiration for your next reads, browse other people’s book reviews, and of course, add your own reviews, too.
If you post a review of a popular book on Goodreads, it’s bound to be seen by a huge audience. Plus, it’s a great way to advertise your blog if you have one, as the Goodreads guidelines allow you to insert a link within the body of your review.
The world’s largest bookstore gets an incredible amount of traffic, so it’s one of the best places to get your reviews seen by the masses. But bear in mind that there are more rules and regulations for Amazon book reviews than on some of the other platforms listed here. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the guidelines first, or your submission could be rejected.
Booktube is a Youtube community dedicated to reviewing, discussing, and recommending books. If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, vlogging your book reviews on Booktube is an excellent alternative to the more traditional written book reviews above. It’s also a great way to get noticed by viewers around the world.
Some Booktube reviewers make their entire income from their channel, so if you’re passionate about reviewing and want to turn it into a living, this is a great avenue to explore.
Get Paid for Your Book Reviews
Some of the platforms I’ve listed above, like Booktube, Instagram, and blogging , allow you to get paid for your book reviews if you generate enough traffic, but getting to that level takes a lot of dedication, time, and patience.
Thankfully, there are plenty of websites that pay reviewers on a freelance basis. Here are three of the most popular:
Remember, each site has strict submission guidelines and requirements that you’ll need to check carefully before writing and submitting a review.
The Kirkus Reviews magazine, founded in 1933, is one of America’s oldest, most respected book reviewing companies.
They accept reviews around 350 words in length, and once you’re assigned the gig, you have a two-week submission deadline.
Kirkus is always on the lookout for new book reviewers, but you’ll need to prove you have experience and talent before they’ll accept your submissions. The best way to do this is to create a professional-looking portfolio that showcases your previous reviews, both paid and unpaid.
Booklist is a subgroup of the American Library Association. They feature all kinds of book reviews, both fiction and non-fiction, and publish them online and in print.
They pay their reviewers on a freelance, book-by-book basis. Their rates aren’t going to make you rich (around $12- $15 per review), but it’s a great way to gain some professional experience and build your book review portfolio without having to work for free.
Booklist has various publication outlets, such as their quarterly in-print magazine, a reader’s blog, and top book lists. Plus, they also accept pitches for book-related news and author interviews.
Online Book Club
This free-to-access community of bibliophiles has been going for over ten years, with a million active members and counting.
To join their professional freelance team, you’ll first have to submit an unpaid review to help them to determine if you’re worth hiring. If your review makes the cut, then your next submission is paid at a rate varying between $5 and $60, depending on the book’s length, the quality of the review, etc.
One of the major stipulations of Online Book Club is that your reviews are in-depth and honest. If you don’t like the book, never put a positive spin on it for the sake of it. ( The same goes for any book review platform you post on. )
It’s also worth noting that with Online Book Club, you’ll never pay for the books you review. So even if they reject your submission, you’ll still get a free book out of it.
How to Write a Book Review?
Book reviews can range from a simple tweet to a full-length essay or long-form blog post and anything in between.
As I mentioned above, some book review sites and platforms have strict guidelines and parameters to follow. But if you’re writing a book review for social media, your own blog, or any other purpose that lets you take the reins, then the following ideas will give you some help and inspiration to get started.
But before we dive in, let’s take a look at four key elements that a comprehensive book review should contain.
1. Information about the author and the name of the book
You might want to include any accolades that the author has received in the past and mention some of their previous notable works.
Also, consider the publication date; is the book a brand-new release, a few years old, or a classic from another century?
2. A summary of the plot
Writing about the plot takes skill and consideration; if your description is too thorough, you risk ruining the book for your audience with spoilers. But on the other hand, if you’re too vague on the details, your review can lack depth.
Consider your audience carefully, and if you feel like your book review contains even the slightest hint of spoilers, always add a warning at the beginning so people can decide for themselves whether to read on.
3. Your evaluation
This is the part where you get to describe what you feel about the book as a whole and give your opinion on the different elements within it. But, again, don’t be tempted to fall into the trap of positively evaluating books you didn’t actually like; no one wants to read a false review, so if you didn’t like it, explain why.
4. Your reader recommendation
Who might the book appeal to? Is it suitable for all audiences? In your opinion, is it a universal must-read, or should people avoid it?
Keep in mind that the purpose of most book reviews is to help the reader decide whether or not they would like to read it themselves. What works for you might not work for others, so consider this when writing your recommendations.
6 Book Review Templates and Ideas
1. the traditional approach.
Most traditional fiction reviews, like the ones found in newspapers and other popular publications, are based on the following format…
The introduction is a paragraph or two which includes:
- Key information that the reader needs to know. For example, the book’s title, the author’s name, the publication date, and any relevant background information about the author and their work.
- A brief one-sentence summary of the plot. This sets the general scene of what the book is about.
- Your overall opinion of the book. Again, keep it brief. (you can delve deeper into what you liked and disliked later in the review).
This is the main body of your book review, where you break down and analyze the work. Some of the key elements you might want to examine are listed below. Approach each element one at a time to help your analysis flow.
- The characters
- The setting
- The structure of the story
- The quality of the writing
What did you notice about each one, what did you enjoy, and what did you dislike? Why?
The conclusion is usually the shortest part of a traditional book review, which usually contains:
- A summary of your thoughts about the book as a whole
- Your reader recommendation
Remember that unless you’re writing a book review for a pre-existing publication, there are no rules that you need to follow. This traditional format can be adapted to suit your own style, the book you are reviewing, and your audience.
Also Read : BEST FICTION BOOK REVIEWS
2. Social Media Book Reviews
Book reviews posted on social media tend to have a more relaxed tone than a traditional book review. Again, there are no set rules, but here are a few guidelines and suggestions for posting reviews on platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
- Include an eye-catching image
This is essential on Instagram, but whatever social media platform you’re posting on, including a great photo will draw people in to read your review.
In the Instagram world, photos of books taken directly from above are called ‘flat lays.’ You can keep it simple and just snap the front cover, or you can get creative and shoot your book flat lay against an interesting backdrop or include items related to the story.
- Break up your review into short, bite-sized paragraphs
This rule applies to most web content, but it’s even more important on social media, where everyone competes for your reader’s attention.
Big blocks of text are much harder to follow and a sure-fire way to lose your reader’s attention before they even get started. Instead, stick to short paragraphs of one, two, or three sentences, and include spaces between each one.
- Know your character limit
At just 280 characters, Twitter is by far the stingiest of the major social media platforms when it comes to the length of posts. That’s why most people choose platforms like Instagram or Facebook for book reviews. That being said, you can still use Twitter as a way of linking to them once they go live.
Instagram is considerably more generous with its 2,200-character limit, but if you have a lot to say about the book you’re reviewing, it can still be limiting.
If you want to post a more comprehensive review on social media, Facebook is your best bet; they have an upper limit of 63,206 characters.
Whichever platform you post on, remember to factor any hashtags into your character limit too.
- Keep it succinct
Book reviews on social media perform better when sentences are concise. This helps to combat the character limit issue I mentioned above and gets your point across quickly, without the fluff.
Readers on platforms like Instagram and Facebook flit from post to post, so if you don’t say what you mean in as few words as possible, you’ll risk losing your audience altogether.
- Don’t be afraid of emojis.
Love them or hate them, emojis convey mood and emotion where words can sometimes fail us. They also add an extra visual element to a post, help to break up blocks of text and keep the tone informal.
Of course, there’s no rule that you have to include emojis in your social media book reviews, but if you’re already comfortable using them elsewhere, consider incorporating them here too.
- Add a star rating
Star ratings instantly tell your audience whether you loved the book or not before they read a single word of your post. It’s also another visual element to help draw your audience in to find out more.
- Avoid spoilers
I’ve already touched on spoilers above, but it’s essential to avoid them on social media book reviews. That’s because unsuspecting users are scrolling from post to post on these platforms with no way of knowing what’s coming next. As a result, it’s very easy to read something you can’t unread.
- Consider tagging the author and publisher.
But ONLY do this if you enjoyed the book and your review is favorable. It’s not good online etiquette to tag in the creators if you’re posting a scathing critique; it’s mean-spirited, and it could lead to a social media squabble, which the internet has enough of already.
3. Goodreads and Amazon Book Reviews
Both Goodreads and Amazon allow anyone to upload a review of any book, so they’re great places to get started if you’re new to the reviewing world. Plus, you can post more in-depth and lengthy reviews than you can on social media platforms.
There are endless ways to write reviews for sites like these, but if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, here’s a good template that will help you to flesh out your ideas.
- Star Rating
Sites like Goodreads and Amazon usually ask for a 1-5 star rating before writing your review. 3 is your baseline which translates to “pretty good.” It can be tempting to rush straight in for a 5 star if you loved a book, but where possible, try to reserve this rating for books that really blow you away.
- A Brief Synopsis
Reviews on these sites appear directly under the book listing, so generally, there’s no need to mention the author, title, or publishing details. Instead, you can dive straight into a quick overview of the plot, using the official publisher’s summary to help you if needed.
Avoid revealing any significant details or spoilers, but include enough to outline the story and give context to the rest of your review.
Talking about how the book made you feel is a good place to start. Did you learn something you didn’t know before? Was it a page-turner or a hard slog? Were there any twists you did or didn’t see coming? Mentioning the existence of a plot twist is usually deemed ok, as long as you don’t reveal what it is.
Next, examine the book’s various elements, including the characters, setting, and plot, using examples. You might even want to include some direct quotes from the book, as long as they don’t give too much away.
Just like the traditional book review format, conclude it with a summary. Are you glad you read it? Who might enjoy this book, and who should avoid it?
4. Listicle Book Reviews
Listicles are articles and blog posts structured like a numbered list. An example from the book review world is “10 reasons why you need to read X by X”.
These types of reviews are particularly well suited to blog posts, as they’re an excellent way to encourage people to click on your link compared with a less attention-grabbing traditional format.
That being said, listicle book reviews tend only to work if your feedback is positive. Using this format to review a book you hated risks alienating your audience and coming across as harsh and judgemental. Less favorable reviews are better presented in a more traditional format that explores a book’s different aspects one by one.
5. An Essay Style Analysis
An essay-style review isn’t technically a review, as it delves much deeper into the work and examines it from multiple angles.
If you’re not limited to a word count and want to dissect an author’s work, then an in-depth essay-style analysis can be a great addition to your blog. Plus, they’re generally written for people who have already read the book, so there’s no need to worry about spoilers.
But when you’re writing more than 500 words about a book, it can be easy to ramble or go off on a tangent. Here’s an example format to keep you on track:
- Include the author’s name, the title of the book, and the date of publication.
- Is the book a standalone novel or part of a series?
- What made you choose this book in the first place? Have you read any of the author’s previous work?
- Describe the cover. Does it draw you in? Is it an appropriate representation of the book as a whole?
Set the Scene
- Include an overview of the plot.
- Did you have any expectations or preconceived ideas about the book before you read it?
Discuss the following elements one at a time. Use quotes or direct examples when talking about each one.
- Describe the geographical location, the period in time, and the environment.
- Is the setting based on reality or imagination?
- How does the setting help to add mood and tone to the story?
- Give an overview of the main characters and their backgrounds.
- Discuss the significant plot points in the story in chronological order.
- What are the conflicts, the climaxes, and the resolutions?
- How does the author use literary devices to bring meaning and life to book?
- For example, discuss any elements of foreshadowing, metaphors, symbolism, irony, or imagery.
- What are the overall themes and big ideas in the story? For example, love, death, friendship , war, and coming of age.
- What, if any, are the morals within the story?
- Are there any underlying or less prominent themes that the author is trying to portray?
- Which elements were successful, and which weren’t?
- Were the characters believable? Did you want them to succeed?
- In the case of plot twists, did you see them coming?
- Are there any memorable scenes or quotes that particularly stood out to you? If so, why?
- How did the book make you feel? Did it evoke any strong emotions?
- Did the book meet your preconceived expectations?
- Were you satisfied by the ending, or did you find it frustrating?
- Summarise the plot and theme in a couple of sentences.
- Give your overall opinion. Was the book a success, a failure, or something in between?
- Include a reader recommendation, for example, “this book is a must-read for anyone with a love of dystopian science fiction.”
- Include a star rating if you wish.
6. Create Your Own Book Review Template
If you plan on becoming a regular book reviewer, it’s a good idea to create your own unique template that you can use for every book you review, whether you’re posting on a blog, website, or social media account.
You can mix and match the various elements of the review styles above to suit your preferences and the types of books you’ll be reviewing.
Creating a template unique to you helps build your authority as an independent reviewer and makes writing future reviews a lot easier.
Writing book reviews is a great way to get even more out of your reading journey. Whether you loved or hated a title, reviewing it will help you remember and process the story, and you’ll also be helping others to decide whether or not it’s worth their time, too.
And who knows, you might fall in love with writing book reviews and decide to pursue it as an additional source of income or even a new career!
Whatever your book reviewing plans and goals are, I hope the templates, tips, and ideas above will help you get started.
Do you have any advice for writing a great book review? Let me know in the comments below!
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Blog – Posted on Friday, Mar 29
17 book review examples to help you write the perfect review.
It’s an exciting time to be a book reviewer. Once confined to print newspapers and journals, reviews now dot many corridors of the Internet — forever helping others discover their next great read. That said, every book reviewer will face a familiar panic: how can you do justice to a great book in just a thousand words?
As you know, the best way to learn how to do something is by immersing yourself in it. Luckily, the Internet (i.e. Goodreads and other review sites , in particular) has made book reviews more accessible than ever — which means that there are a lot of book reviews examples out there for you to view!
In this post, we compiled 17 prototypical book review examples in multiple genres to help you figure out how to write the perfect review . If you want to jump straight to the examples, you can skip the next section. Otherwise, let’s first check out what makes up a good review.
Are you interested in becoming a book reviewer? We recommend you check out Reedsy Discovery , where you can earn money for writing reviews — and are guaranteed people will read your reviews! To register as a book reviewer, sign up here.
Pro-tip : But wait! How are you sure if you should become a book reviewer in the first place? If you're on the fence, or curious about your match with a book reviewing career, take our quick quiz:
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What must a book review contain?
Like all works of art, no two book reviews will be identical. But fear not: there are a few guidelines for any aspiring book reviewer to follow. Most book reviews, for instance, are less than 1,500 words long, with the sweet spot hitting somewhere around the 1,000-word mark. (However, this may vary depending on the platform on which you’re writing, as we’ll see later.)
In addition, all reviews share some universal elements, as shown in our book review templates . These include:
- A review will offer a concise plot summary of the book.
- A book review will offer an evaluation of the work.
- A book review will offer a recommendation for the audience.
If these are the basic ingredients that make up a book review, it’s the tone and style with which the book reviewer writes that brings the extra panache. This will differ from platform to platform, of course. A book review on Goodreads, for instance, will be much more informal and personal than a book review on Kirkus Reviews, as it is catering to a different audience. However, at the end of the day, the goal of all book reviews is to give the audience the tools to determine whether or not they’d like to read the book themselves.
Keeping that in mind, let’s proceed to some book review examples to put all of this in action.
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Book review examples for fiction books
Since story is king in the world of fiction, it probably won’t come as any surprise to learn that a book review for a novel will concentrate on how well the story was told .
That said, book reviews in all genres follow the same basic formula that we discussed earlier. In these examples, you’ll be able to see how book reviewers on different platforms expertly intertwine the plot summary and their personal opinions of the book to produce a clear, informative, and concise review.
Note: Some of the book review examples run very long. If a book review is truncated in this post, we’ve indicated by including a […] at the end, but you can always read the entire review if you click on the link provided.
Examples of literary fiction book reviews
Kirkus Reviews reviews Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man :
An extremely powerful story of a young Southern Negro, from his late high school days through three years of college to his life in Harlem.
His early training prepared him for a life of humility before white men, but through injustices- large and small, he came to realize that he was an "invisible man". People saw in him only a reflection of their preconceived ideas of what he was, denied his individuality, and ultimately did not see him at all. This theme, which has implications far beyond the obvious racial parallel, is skillfully handled. The incidents of the story are wholly absorbing. The boy's dismissal from college because of an innocent mistake, his shocked reaction to the anonymity of the North and to Harlem, his nightmare experiences on a one-day job in a paint factory and in the hospital, his lightning success as the Harlem leader of a communistic organization known as the Brotherhood, his involvement in black versus white and black versus black clashes and his disillusion and understanding of his invisibility- all climax naturally in scenes of violence and riot, followed by a retreat which is both literal and figurative. Parts of this experience may have been told before, but never with such freshness, intensity and power.
This is Ellison's first novel, but he has complete control of his story and his style. Watch it.
Lyndsey reviews George Orwell’s 1984 on Goodreads:
YOU. ARE. THE. DEAD. Oh my God. I got the chills so many times toward the end of this book. It completely blew my mind. It managed to surpass my high expectations AND be nothing at all like I expected. Or in Newspeak "Double Plus Good." Let me preface this with an apology. If I sound stunningly inarticulate at times in this review, I can't help it. My mind is completely fried.
This book is like the dystopian Lord of the Rings, with its richly developed culture and economics, not to mention a fully developed language called Newspeak, or rather more of the anti-language, whose purpose is to limit speech and understanding instead of to enhance and expand it. The world-building is so fully fleshed out and spine-tinglingly terrifying that it's almost as if George travelled to such a place, escaped from it, and then just wrote it all down.
I read Fahrenheit 451 over ten years ago in my early teens. At the time, I remember really wanting to read 1984, although I never managed to get my hands on it. I'm almost glad I didn't. Though I would not have admitted it at the time, it would have gone over my head. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate it fully. […]
The New York Times reviews Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry :
Three-quarters of the way through Lisa Halliday’s debut novel, “Asymmetry,” a British foreign correspondent named Alistair is spending Christmas on a compound outside of Baghdad. His fellow revelers include cameramen, defense contractors, United Nations employees and aid workers. Someone’s mother has FedExed a HoneyBaked ham from Maine; people are smoking by the swimming pool. It is 2003, just days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, and though the mood is optimistic, Alistair is worrying aloud about the ethics of his chosen profession, wondering if reporting on violence doesn’t indirectly abet violence and questioning why he’d rather be in a combat zone than reading a picture book to his son. But every time he returns to London, he begins to “spin out.” He can’t go home. “You observe what people do with their freedom — what they don’t do — and it’s impossible not to judge them for it,” he says.
The line, embedded unceremoniously in the middle of a page-long paragraph, doubles, like so many others in “Asymmetry,” as literary criticism. Halliday’s novel is so strange and startlingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction. One finishes “Asymmetry” for the first or second (or like this reader, third) time and is left wondering what other writers are not doing with their freedom — and, like Alistair, judging them for it.
Despite its title, “Asymmetry” comprises two seemingly unrelated sections of equal length, appended by a slim and quietly shocking coda. Halliday’s prose is clean and lean, almost reportorial in the style of W. G. Sebald, and like the murmurings of a shy person at a cocktail party, often comic only in single clauses. It’s a first novel that reads like the work of an author who has published many books over many years. […]
Emily W. Thompson reviews Michael Doane's The Crossing on Reedsy Discovery :
In Doane’s debut novel, a young man embarks on a journey of self-discovery with surprising results.
An unnamed protagonist (The Narrator) is dealing with heartbreak. His love, determined to see the world, sets out for Portland, Oregon. But he’s a small-town boy who hasn’t traveled much. So, the Narrator mourns her loss and hides from life, throwing himself into rehabbing an old motorcycle. Until one day, he takes a leap; he packs his bike and a few belongings and heads out to find the Girl.
Following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and William Least Heat-Moon, Doane offers a coming of age story about a man finding himself on the backroads of America. Doane’s a gifted writer with fluid prose and insightful observations, using The Narrator’s personal interactions to illuminate the diversity of the United States.
The Narrator initially sticks to the highways, trying to make it to the West Coast as quickly as possible. But a hitchhiker named Duke convinces him to get off the beaten path and enjoy the ride. “There’s not a place that’s like any other,”  Dukes contends, and The Narrator realizes he’s right. Suddenly, the trip is about the journey, not just the destination. The Narrator ditches his truck and traverses the deserts and mountains on his bike. He destroys his phone, cutting off ties with his past and living only in the moment.
As he crosses the country, The Narrator connects with several unique personalities whose experiences and views deeply impact his own. Duke, the complicated cowboy and drifter, who opens The Narrator’s eyes to a larger world. Zooey, the waitress in Colorado who opens his heart and reminds him that love can be found in this big world. And Rosie, The Narrator’s sweet landlady in Portland, who helps piece him back together both physically and emotionally.
This supporting cast of characters is excellent. Duke, in particular, is wonderfully nuanced and complicated. He’s a throwback to another time, a man without a cell phone who reads Sartre and sleeps under the stars. Yet he’s also a grifter with a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude that harms those around him. It’s fascinating to watch The Narrator wrestle with Duke’s behavior, trying to determine which to model and which to discard.
Doane creates a relatable protagonist in The Narrator, whose personal growth doesn’t erase his faults. His willingness to hit the road with few resources is admirable, and he’s prescient enough to recognize the jealousy of those who cannot or will not take the leap. His encounters with new foods, places, and people broaden his horizons. Yet his immaturity and selfishness persist. He tells Rosie she’s been a good mother to him but chooses to ignore the continuing concern from his own parents as he effectively disappears from his old life.
Despite his flaws, it’s a pleasure to accompany The Narrator on his physical and emotional journey. The unexpected ending is a fitting denouement to an epic and memorable road trip.
The Book Smugglers review Anissa Gray’s The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls :
I am still dipping my toes into the literally fiction pool, finding what works for me and what doesn’t. Books like The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray are definitely my cup of tea.
Althea and Proctor Cochran had been pillars of their economically disadvantaged community for years – with their local restaurant/small market and their charity drives. Until they are found guilty of fraud for stealing and keeping most of the money they raised and sent to jail. Now disgraced, their entire family is suffering the consequences, specially their twin teenage daughters Baby Vi and Kim. To complicate matters even more: Kim was actually the one to call the police on her parents after yet another fight with her mother. […]
Examples of children’s and YA fiction book reviews
The Book Hookup reviews Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give :
♥ Quick Thoughts and Rating: 5 stars! I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to tackle the voice of a movement like Black Lives Matter, but I do know that Thomas did it with a finesse only a talented author like herself possibly could. With an unapologetically realistic delivery packed with emotion, The Hate U Give is a crucially important portrayal of the difficulties minorities face in our country every single day. I have no doubt that this book will be met with resistance by some (possibly many) and slapped with a “controversial” label, but if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk in a POC’s shoes, then I feel like this is an unflinchingly honest place to start.
In Angie Thomas’s debut novel, Starr Carter bursts on to the YA scene with both heart-wrecking and heartwarming sincerity. This author is definitely one to watch.
♥ Review: The hype around this book has been unquestionable and, admittedly, that made me both eager to get my hands on it and terrified to read it. I mean, what if I was to be the one person that didn’t love it as much as others? (That seems silly now because of how truly mesmerizing THUG was in the most heartbreakingly realistic way.) However, with the relevancy of its summary in regards to the unjust predicaments POC currently face in the US, I knew this one was a must-read, so I was ready to set my fears aside and dive in. That said, I had an altogether more personal, ulterior motive for wanting to read this book. […]
The New York Times reviews Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood :
Alice Crewe (a last name she’s chosen for herself) is a fairy tale legacy: the granddaughter of Althea Proserpine, author of a collection of dark-as-night fairy tales called “Tales From the Hinterland.” The book has a cult following, and though Alice has never met her grandmother, she’s learned a little about her through internet research. She hasn’t read the stories, because her mother, Ella Proserpine, forbids it.
Alice and Ella have moved from place to place in an attempt to avoid the “bad luck” that seems to follow them. Weird things have happened. As a child, Alice was kidnapped by a man who took her on a road trip to find her grandmother; he was stopped by the police before they did so. When at 17 she sees that man again, unchanged despite the years, Alice panics. Then Ella goes missing, and Alice turns to Ellery Finch, a schoolmate who’s an Althea Proserpine superfan, for help in tracking down her mother. Not only has Finch read every fairy tale in the collection, but handily, he remembers them, sharing them with Alice as they journey to the mysterious Hazel Wood, the estate of her now-dead grandmother, where they hope to find Ella.
“The Hazel Wood” starts out strange and gets stranger, in the best way possible. (The fairy stories Finch relays, which Albert includes as their own chapters, are as creepy and evocative as you’d hope.) Albert seamlessly combines contemporary realism with fantasy, blurring the edges in a way that highlights that place where stories and real life convene, where magic contains truth and the world as it appears is false, where just about anything can happen, particularly in the pages of a very good book. It’s a captivating debut. […]
James reviews Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon on Goodreads:
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is one of the books that followers of my blog voted as a must-read for our Children's Book August 2018 Readathon. Come check it out and join the next few weeks!
This picture book was such a delight. I hadn't remembered reading it when I was a child, but it might have been read to me... either way, it was like a whole new experience! It's always so difficult to convince a child to fall asleep at night. I don't have kids, but I do have a 5-month-old puppy who whines for 5 minutes every night when he goes in his cage/crate (hopefully he'll be fully housebroken soon so he can roam around when he wants). I can only imagine! I babysat a lot as a teenager and I have tons of younger cousins, nieces, and nephews, so I've been through it before, too. This was a believable experience, and it really helps show kids how to relax and just let go when it's time to sleep.
The bunny's are adorable. The rhymes are exquisite. I found it pretty fun, but possibly a little dated given many of those things aren't normal routines anymore. But the lessons to take from it are still powerful. Loved it! I want to sample some more books by this fine author and her illustrators.
Publishers Weekly reviews Elizabeth Lilly’s Geraldine :
This funny, thoroughly accomplished debut opens with two words: “I’m moving.” They’re spoken by the title character while she swoons across her family’s ottoman, and because Geraldine is a giraffe, her full-on melancholy mode is quite a spectacle. But while Geraldine may be a drama queen (even her mother says so), it won’t take readers long to warm up to her. The move takes Geraldine from Giraffe City, where everyone is like her, to a new school, where everyone else is human. Suddenly, the former extrovert becomes “That Giraffe Girl,” and all she wants to do is hide, which is pretty much impossible. “Even my voice tries to hide,” she says, in the book’s most poignant moment. “It’s gotten quiet and whispery.” Then she meets Cassie, who, though human, is also an outlier (“I’m that girl who wears glasses and likes MATH and always organizes her food”), and things begin to look up.
Lilly’s watercolor-and-ink drawings are as vividly comic and emotionally astute as her writing; just when readers think there are no more ways for Geraldine to contort her long neck, this highly promising talent comes up with something new.
Examples of genre fiction book reviews
Karlyn P reviews Nora Roberts’ Dark Witch , a paranormal romance novel , on Goodreads:
4 stars. Great world-building, weak romance, but still worth the read.
I hesitate to describe this book as a 'romance' novel simply because the book spent little time actually exploring the romance between Iona and Boyle. Sure, there IS a romance in this novel. Sprinkled throughout the book are a few scenes where Iona and Boyle meet, chat, wink at each, flirt some more, sleep together, have a misunderstanding, make up, and then profess their undying love. Very formulaic stuff, and all woven around the more important parts of this book.
The meat of this book is far more focused on the story of the Dark witch and her magically-gifted descendants living in Ireland. Despite being weak on the romance, I really enjoyed it. I think the book is probably better for it, because the romance itself was pretty lackluster stuff.
I absolutely plan to stick with this series as I enjoyed the world building, loved the Ireland setting, and was intrigued by all of the secondary characters. However, If you read Nora Roberts strictly for the romance scenes, this one might disappoint. But if you enjoy a solid background story with some dark magic and prophesies, you might enjoy it as much as I did.
I listened to this one on audio, and felt the narration was excellent.
Emily May reviews R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy Wars , an epic fantasy novel , on Goodreads:
“But I warn you, little warrior. The price of power is pain.”
Holy hell, what did I just read??
➽ A fantasy military school
➽ A rich world based on modern Chinese history
➽ Shamans and gods
➽ Detailed characterization leading to unforgettable characters
➽ Adorable, opium-smoking mentors
That's a basic list, but this book is all of that and SO MUCH MORE. I know 100% that The Poppy War will be one of my best reads of 2018.
Isn't it just so great when you find one of those books that completely drags you in, makes you fall in love with the characters, and demands that you sit on the edge of your seat for every horrific, nail-biting moment of it? This is one of those books for me. And I must issue a serious content warning: this book explores some very dark themes. Proceed with caution (or not at all) if you are particularly sensitive to scenes of war, drug use and addiction, genocide, racism, sexism, ableism, self-harm, torture, and rape (off-page but extremely horrific).
Because, despite the fairly innocuous first 200 pages, the title speaks the truth: this is a book about war. All of its horrors and atrocities. It is not sugar-coated, and it is often graphic. The "poppy" aspect refers to opium, which is a big part of this book. It is a fantasy, but the book draws inspiration from the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking.
Crime Fiction Lover reviews Jessica Barry’s Freefall , a crime novel:
In some crime novels, the wrongdoing hits you between the eyes from page one. With others it’s a more subtle process, and that’s OK too. So where does Freefall fit into the sliding scale?
In truth, it’s not clear. This is a novel with a thrilling concept at its core. A woman survives plane crash, then runs for her life. However, it is the subtleties at play that will draw you in like a spider beckoning to an unwitting fly.
Like the heroine in Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking, Allison is lucky to be alive. She was the only passenger in a private plane, belonging to her fiancé, Ben, who was piloting the expensive aircraft, when it came down in woodlands in the Colorado Rockies. Ally is also the only survivor, but rather than sitting back and waiting for rescue, she is soon pulling together items that may help her survive a little longer – first aid kit, energy bars, warm clothes, trainers – before fleeing the scene. If you’re hearing the faint sound of alarm bells ringing, get used to it. There’s much, much more to learn about Ally before this tale is over.
Kirkus Reviews reviews Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One , a science-fiction novel :
Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles.
The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three.
Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.
Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.
Book review examples for non-fiction books
Nonfiction books are generally written to inform readers about a certain topic. As such, the focus of a nonfiction book review will be on the clarity and effectiveness of this communication . In carrying this out, a book review may analyze the author’s source materials and assess the thesis in order to determine whether or not the book meets expectations.
Again, we’ve included abbreviated versions of long reviews here, so feel free to click on the link to read the entire piece!
The Washington Post reviews David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon :
The arc of David Grann’s career reminds one of a software whiz-kid or a latest-thing talk-show host — certainly not an investigative reporter, even if he is one of the best in the business. The newly released movie of his first book, “The Lost City of Z,” is generating all kinds of Oscar talk, and now comes the release of his second book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” the film rights to which have already been sold for $5 million in what one industry journal called the “biggest and wildest book rights auction in memory.”
Grann deserves the attention. He’s canny about the stories he chases, he’s willing to go anywhere to chase them, and he’s a maestro in his ability to parcel out information at just the right clip: a hint here, a shading of meaning there, a smartly paced buildup of multiple possibilities followed by an inevitable reversal of readerly expectations or, in some cases, by a thrilling and dislocating pull of the entire narrative rug.
All of these strengths are on display in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Around the turn of the 20th century, oil was discovered underneath Osage lands in the Oklahoma Territory, lands that were soon to become part of the state of Oklahoma. Through foresight and legal maneuvering, the Osage found a way to permanently attach that oil to themselves and shield it from the prying hands of white interlopers; this mechanism was known as “headrights,” which forbade the outright sale of oil rights and granted each full member of the tribe — and, supposedly, no one else — a share in the proceeds from any lease arrangement. For a while, the fail-safes did their job, and the Osage got rich — diamond-ring and chauffeured-car and imported-French-fashion rich — following which quite a large group of white men started to work like devils to separate the Osage from their money. And soon enough, and predictably enough, this work involved murder. Here in Jazz Age America’s most isolated of locales, dozens or even hundreds of Osage in possession of great fortunes — and of the potential for even greater fortunes in the future — were dispatched by poison, by gunshot and by dynamite. […]
Stacked Books reviews Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers :
I’ve heard a lot of great things about Malcolm Gladwell’s writing. Friends and co-workers tell me that his subjects are interesting and his writing style is easy to follow without talking down to the reader. I wasn’t disappointed with Outliers. In it, Gladwell tackles the subject of success – how people obtain it and what contributes to extraordinary success as opposed to everyday success.
The thesis – that our success depends much more on circumstances out of our control than any effort we put forth – isn’t exactly revolutionary. Most of us know it to be true. However, I don’t think I’m lying when I say that most of us also believe that we if we just try that much harder and develop our talent that much further, it will be enough to become wildly successful, despite bad or just mediocre beginnings. Not so, says Gladwell.
Most of the evidence Gladwell gives us is anecdotal, which is my favorite kind to read. I can’t really speak to how scientifically valid it is, but it sure makes for engrossing listening. For example, did you know that successful hockey players are almost all born in January, February, or March? Kids born during these months are older than the others kids when they start playing in the youth leagues, which means they’re already better at the game (because they’re bigger). Thus, they get more play time, which means their skill increases at a faster rate, and it compounds as time goes by. Within a few years, they’re much, much better than the kids born just a few months later in the year. Basically, these kids’ birthdates are a huge factor in their success as adults – and it’s nothing they can do anything about. If anyone could make hockey interesting to a Texan who only grudgingly admits the sport even exists, it’s Gladwell. […]
Quill and Quire reviews Rick Prashaw’s Soar, Adam, Soar :
Ten years ago, I read a book called Almost Perfect. The young-adult novel by Brian Katcher won some awards and was held up as a powerful, nuanced portrayal of a young trans person. But the reality did not live up to the book’s billing. Instead, it turned out to be a one-dimensional and highly fetishized portrait of a trans person’s life, one that was nevertheless repeatedly dubbed “realistic” and “affecting” by non-transgender readers possessing only a vague, mass-market understanding of trans experiences.
In the intervening decade, trans narratives have emerged further into the literary spotlight, but those authored by trans people ourselves – and by trans men in particular – have seemed to fall under the shadow of cisgender sensationalized imaginings. Two current Canadian releases – Soar, Adam, Soar and This One Looks Like a Boy – provide a pointed object lesson into why trans-authored work about transgender experiences remains critical.
To be fair, Soar, Adam, Soar isn’t just a story about a trans man. It’s also a story about epilepsy, the medical establishment, and coming of age as seen through a grieving father’s eyes. Adam, Prashaw’s trans son, died unexpectedly at age 22. Woven through the elder Prashaw’s narrative are excerpts from Adam’s social media posts, giving us glimpses into the young man’s interior life as he traverses his late teens and early 20s. […]
Book Geeks reviews Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love :
WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
“Eat Pray Love” is so popular that it is almost impossible to not read it. Having felt ashamed many times on my not having read this book, I quietly ordered the book (before I saw the movie) from amazon.in and sat down to read it. I don’t remember what I expected it to be – maybe more like a chick lit thing but it turned out quite different. The book is a real story and is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things – Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name – EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India) and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia). These are also the three Is – ITALY, INDIA, INDONESIA.
Though she had everything a middle-aged American woman can aspire for – MONEY, CAREER, FRIENDS, HUSBAND; Elizabeth was not happy in her life, she wasn’t happy in her marriage. Having suffered a terrible divorce and terrible breakup soon after, Elizabeth was shattered. She didn’t know where to go and what to do – all she knew was that she wanted to run away. So she set out on a weird adventure – she will go to three countries in a year and see if she can find out what she was looking for in life. This book is about that life changing journey that she takes for one whole year. […]
Emily May reviews Michelle Obama’s Becoming on Goodreads:
Look, I'm not a happy crier. I might cry at songs about leaving and missing someone; I might cry at books where things don't work out; I might cry at movies where someone dies. I've just never really understood why people get all choked up over happy, inspirational things. But Michelle Obama's kindness and empathy changed that. This book had me in tears for all the right reasons.
This is not really a book about politics, though political experiences obviously do come into it. It's a shame that some will dismiss this book because of a difference in political opinion, when it is really about a woman's life. About growing up poor and black on the South Side of Chicago; about getting married and struggling to maintain that marriage; about motherhood; about being thrown into an amazing and terrifying position.
I hate words like "inspirational" because they've become so overdone and cheesy, but I just have to say it-- Michelle Obama is an inspiration. I had the privilege of seeing her speak at The Forum in Inglewood, and she is one of the warmest, funniest, smartest, down-to-earth people I have ever seen in this world.
And yes, I know we present what we want the world to see, but I truly do think it's genuine. I think she is someone who really cares about people - especially kids - and wants to give them better lives and opportunities.
She's obviously intelligent, but she also doesn't gussy up her words. She talks straight, with an openness and honesty rarely seen. She's been one of the most powerful women in the world, she's been a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, she's had her own successful career, and yet she has remained throughout that same girl - Michelle Robinson - from a working class family in Chicago.
I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.
Hopefully, this post has given you a better idea of how to write a book review. You might be wondering how to put all of this knowledge into action now! Many book reviewers start out by setting up a book blog. If you don’t have time to research the intricacies of HTML, check out Reedsy Discovery — where you can read indie books for free and review them without going through the hassle of creating a blog. To register as a book reviewer , go here .
And if you’d like to see even more book review examples, simply go to this directory of book review blogs and click on any one of them to see a wealth of good book reviews. Beyond that, it's up to you to pick up a book and pen — and start reviewing!
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Writing a Book Review
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A critical book review is a thoughtful discussion of a text’s contents, strengths, and limitations. A book review should reflect your capacity to read critically and to evaluate an author’s arguments and evidence. Compose your review as you would any essay, with an argument supported by evidence, and a clear, logical structure.
- Read the book carefully, taking notes on material that you think may be relevant or quotable and on your impressions of the author's ideas and arguments.
- Determine the author’s principal argument, the chief themes of the text, the kinds of evidence used, and the way in which the author uses them.
Organizing the Review
- All reviews begin with bibliographic information: the author’s name, the book’s full title, place of publication, publisher, edition, date, pagination, and cost, if known.
- In no more than two paragraphs, introduce the book. Give your initial appraisal of the work, including your key observation on the text. This key observation will be your thesis. Try not to begin with a flat statement such as “This book is interesting.” Begin with an anecdote, a challenging quotation, or a key observation.
- clearly set out the author’s purpose in writing the book, and whether or not you think the author has succeeded.
- describe the author’s arguments and the themes of the book, and give your appraisal of their validity and effectiveness.
- describe the sources and evidence the author uses to prove his case, and evaluate their appropriateness and sufficiency. What are the author's sources? Should the author have used more, or different, sources?
- Comment on the author's organization and writing style.
- Conclude. Here you may make more general remarks about the text and the ideas presented in it. If you have not already done so, indicate whether you feel the book is worthwhile, and for what audience. Is the book outstanding? Will it make a lasting contribution to its field, or is it less satisfactory?
Questions to Consider
Although you should not use the following questions as some sort of laundry list of “things to include” (dull for us all), you may wish to consider them as you prepare and write your review.
Analysis of Content
- What is the author’s principal argument? What are her/his conclusions?
- What does the author choose to emphasize?
- Does the author’s presentation contradict or refute alternative interpretations?
- What methods of analysis does the author employ?
- What sorts of evidence does the author employ?
- Who is the author? Is he/she qualified to write this work?
- When was the work written? How relevant is it today?
Evaluation of Content
- Is the book convincing in style and substance? Why or why not?
- Does the author accomplish her/his purpose?
- Is the author fair to his/her subjects, or is the author overly biased? Is the book accurate or misleading?
- Does the author describe but not analyze?
- Does the author treat all available data equally well?
- Are all arguments in the book equally well supported? Is the book marred by generalizations or speculations?
- Is the author's use of evidence adequate and convincing?
- Does the author omit possible alternative interpretations? Is the author's approach flexible, or is it dogmatic?
- Is the book well-organized? Are all parts of the book equally well reasoned and developed?
- Is the book well written, or is it in some way repetitive, obscure, or confusing?
- To whom would the book appeal? What audience did the author intend?
Office / Department Name
Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center
Writing Center Director
The $400 million campaign marked the most ambitious fundraising initiative in the College's history.
How to Write a Book Review: Your Easy Book Review Format
Your easy-to-use book review format and why it works! Unsure how to structure your book review? Look no further. I’m sharing with you my tried-and-true template for crafting a substantive, helpful book review, no matter if it’s a nonfiction book or fiction book. I’ll also let you peek into my traffic to see why you should be publishing book discussion guides, not reviews, and then I’ll include the steps you need to write one.
This book review format is intended for anyone looking to write a substantive book review for a blog, for school, or for review sites like Goodreads and Amazon.
First… dive deeper into book reviewing with my book
(or just skip to the review template).
If you want to learn much, much more about writing a book review, be sure to check out my bestselling book, How to Write a Book Review .
This essential book, which expands on book reviews and discussion guides, is available on Amazon.
And now for the book review template!
Each of these components in the book review template serve a purpose. I’ve learned over the years through SEO optimization and keyword research that these components of a book that readers look for the most.
Here’s the book review format:
Part 1: introduce the book and the author: 1-2 paragraphs.
- Include any background you can find about the book.
- Briefly summarize the author’s biography.
Introducing the book you’re reviewing provides necessary context. Don’t expect that readers have already heard about the book, much less the author. This is also a good time to add in details about any buzz the book has; for example, if it’s been picked for a national book club, is already a bestseller, or is a noteworthy review.
Part 2: Plot Summary : 3-5 paragraphs
- If you’re writing a review that must include all aspects of the plot, be sure to include a spoiler warning.
- Summarize the plot in no more than 3-5 paragraphs.
- Add 3-5 key takeaways (for nonfiction only).
One of the most important components of a book review is the plot summary. Readers in book clubs rushing to get the basic framework of what happens in the book are going to hunt for your plot summary first and foremost.
In no more than 3-5 paragraphs, summarize the book’s key events.
Not sure how much to add? Divide how many pages the book is and write one paragraph per each 100 pages.
If you’re reviewing nonfiction, be sure to write 3-5 takeaways that extract the core theses of the book.
For example, in Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers , here are 3 takeaways you could extract for a book review’s summary section:
- More often than not, we resort to believing people even when they are lying to our faces, a tendency Gladwell calls the “Default to truth.”
- “Coupling” is a phenomenon that finds links between two factors that can be unpaired, like a rise in suicides by gassing and changing the way ovens are made.
- Criminologists were able to beat back crime in inner cities by making more stops to check for weapons. However, other, more rural and car-dependent urban areas misapplied the findings, leading to an unnecessary increase in motor vehicle stops.
My tip: if you’re feeling overwhelmed by having to distill the key takeaways, reread the beginning and the final chapter and see what themes and ideas repeat between the two.
Interlude: A Quick Note on Writing Discussion Guides Instead of Book Reviews
My How to Write a Book Review guide actually sets you up to write book discussion guides, too.
Wait a second—you may be saying—isn’t that a book about how to write book reviews , not book discussion guides ?
The fact is, as I’ve mined my own traffic and data over the years, book discussion guides (also known alternatively as book group guides, book club guides, study guides, or reading group guides) bring in the most consistent traffic to my site vs. traditional book reviews.
Check out how much traffic two of my book guides brought in over a period of 30 days:
This traffic suggests there’s a market for these evergreen topics. People don’t want just reviews anymore. They want substantive content to help them take it to the next level and prep for book clubs, essays about books, and reading groups.
Now let’s do some SEO research to see what kind of book discussion topics are trending on Google.
Here’s a screenshot that shows you what are the top searches for content that go easily into a book discussion guide for Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls , the book I write a complete guide of in How to Write a Book Review . Take a look at the search traffic for City of Girls , the novel we will be using in this book as we work through the parts of a book review. Courtesy of the Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere, we can see what people look for when you search Google for: “city of girls”:
You see? The top results for City of Girls are, after the top spot goes to review, all components of a book discussion guide.
The main difference between book discussion guides and book reviews, as laid out in this blog post and in my book, are three components: Discussion Questions (Part 3 of this guide), Quotes (Part 4 of this Guide) and Similar Books (Part 7).
Now back to the guide!
Part 3: Discussion Questions (Optional )
- Include 5-10 discussion questions.
This part is optional. But if you’re writing book reviews that you hope will also work as book group guides, you’ll want to come up with 5-10 questions that stir up discussions.
Check out my discussion guide to Jenny Offill’s Weather . Here are four questions from that article, which was published here on the blog:
Here are four discussion questions from the Weather guide:
1. Why do you think Offill named her novel Weather ? In what ways does weather show up as a theme in Offill’s novel?
2. Weather is written in micro-moments. Lizzie’s narrative is comprised of sentence and sometimes paragraph-long segments that build into a larger story. What was the experience like to read a narrative like that? How does this unique format serve the story and its contemporary, zeitgeisty setting?
3. How does Lizzie change over the course of the story? What specific examples did you see of her changing, or lack thereof?
4. How would you characterize Lizzie’s relationship with her brother, Henry? Compare and contrast it with other relationships Lizzie has a duty to uphold, such as with her husband, Ben, and son, Eli?
If you’re already writing a plot summary, consider taking your guide to the next level by including some discussion questions for a reading group guide.
And if you’re stumped for what questions are right, How to Write a Book Review has a list of 30 book discussion questions anyone can easily adapt to fit their book review.
Part 4: Quotes (Optional)
- Include 5-10 key quotes from the book with speaker and page numbers.
Adding quotes is another optional component of a book review or book discussion guide. All you have to do is list 5-10 quotes from the book that you felt warrant special attention. You might also want to go so far as to analyze each quote, but it’s not necessary. You’ll want to include the speaker of the quote and the page numbers.
You could also break this out into a separate post.
My quote post of the best quotes from Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch gets traffic every day from Google and Pinterest.
Readers really look for these types of posts, so you can naturally include them in your guide.
Part 5: Pros and Cons
- Include 2-4 positive qualities or “Pros” of the book as bullet points (or plus signs).
- Include 2-4 negative qualities or “Cons” of the book as bullet points (or negative signs).
- Depending on whether your review is positive or negative, the balance between the pros and cons will be weighted differently.
There are many ways to structure the positives and negatives for the book you’re reviewing, but ultimately, the information should be clear and readable.
Keep in mind that each positive trait of a book or negative trait can be lost if they are buried in lengthy paragraphs. Your readers are mostly skimming this section or scrolling fast.
The way to fix that? Get to the point, clean and fast.
That’s why I endorse separating your Pros and Cons of the book in two separate bullet point lists.
Pro’s and Con’s lists are easily recognizable and intuitive to consumers. After all, one purpose for the book review is not just to enlighten, but to help a reader make a consumer purchase to buy the book.
Need an example? My book review of Pumpkins follows this format, albeit I switched in “strengths” and “weaknesses” for “pro’s” and “con’s”:
Book Review of PUMPKINHEADS by Rainbow Rowell
Here’s a “Strength” I wrote for Pumpkinheads :
Positive: Pumpkinheads Captures That Fall Mood
If you’re coming to Pumpkinheads having never gone to a pumpkin patch, don’t worry—Faith Erin Hicks fully immerses you in the setting, crammed with tiny details, vivid colors, and a cohesive visual style that immerses you there. The sensory experience translate off the page. I felt like I could smell phantom whiffs of pumpkin spice, hay, and kettle corn just by reading the novel. This book totally nails the mood of fall. Whenever you’re feeling nostalgic for the fall , pick up Pumpkinheads and get magically swept back into PSL season.
And here’s a “Weakness” I wrote for Pumpkinheads :
Negative: Josie felt a little one dimensional
Of the two main characters, Josie felt less developed to me. Deja was a great sidekick, but without her there to keep the conversation rolling, Josie would have made even less of an impression on me. It was almost like, his main motivation in the story was to find Marcy, speak to her, and give her his number. But that felt like a desire line that Deja applied to him. And certainly that is a bit forced. She’s deliberately trying to push Josie to sort through how serious he is about Marcy and dating in general. However, the result was I didn’t really know what Josie himself wanted.
However you choose to customize the language in this section: Pro’s and Con’s, Strengths and Weaknesses, “What I Loved” and “What I hated,” organize the information cleanly in bullet point lists.
Part 6: Overall Assessment
- Synthesize the points you make in Part 3. Ultimately, does the book get a favorable review?
Now it’s time to synthesize your pro’s and con’s into an overall assessment. It can be as easy as adding up how many positive and negative qualities you’ve listed and go with the one that has more. Still, in this section, you’re going to want to weigh the good and the bad to make sure you’re giving people as objective a point of view as possible.
Remember that you’re reviewing a book , not your feelings Broke by Books
Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the judgment call and give an overall assessment. Don’t back down from whatever strong feelings you have about the book. Readers like a book review that feels passionate and earnest.
A quick note on star ratings…
If you’re an avid Goodreads reviewer, you are used to giving 1-5 stars for a book’s rating.
It’s up to you if you want to include a star rating for the book you’re reviewing. I usually do because it’s a factor that resonates with a lot of readers. If you’re using a star rating system, the Overall Assessment is the place to put that.
Part 7: Similar Books (Optional)
- Include 3-5 similar books.
This is another section that often goes in book discussion guides. People who just finished reading a book often crave similar books to deal with their book hangover. Or the subject of the book might leave them curious to learn more.
This is your spot in the book review (or discussion guide) to include 3-5 similar books to the one you’re reviewing.
For example, check out my article with discussion questions for The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy.
Discussion Questions for THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX AND THE HORSE
After the plot summary, discussion questions, and quotes, I listed five books for people who loved The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse .
Including extra books for people to read if they enjoyed the one you’re reviewing make take more time. The effect is well worth it. People look to you as an authority and your review as more than just opinion, but a trusted and useful piece of information.
Part 8: Further Information
- Include the stats of the book: pub date, publisher
- Link to other resources: author interviews, reviews on authority sites
This final part in the book review template is one of my favorites. At the very end of your book review, add further information so readers can leave your review and launch into more info on the book. That starts with the pub date and publisher, along with basic facts like page count.
But it’s also fun to include further information about the author. In my review of Weather , for instance, I embedded a YouTube video of the author promoting her book. I also included links to interviews with the author. To my surprise, I’ve seen in my blog’s traffic that people actually routinely click on the extra links to learn more about the books.
And… that’s it!
This post has everything you need to write a comprehensive book review or book review discussion guide. If you want to take it further, be sure to check out my eBook How to Write a Book Review :
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Sarah S. Davis is the founder of Broke by Books, a blog about her journey as a schizoaffective disorder bipolar type writer and reader. Sarah's writing about books has appeared on Book Riot, Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, BookRags, PsychCentral, and more. She has a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Library and Information Science from Clarion University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
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How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide
WHAT IS A BOOK REVIEW?
Traditionally, book reviews are written evaluations of a recently published book in any genre. Usually, around the 500 to 700-word mark, they offer a brief description of a text’s main elements while appraising the work’s strengths and weaknesses. Published book reviews can appear in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. They provide the reader with an overview of the book itself and indicate whether or not the reviewer would recommend the book to the reader.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A BOOK REVIEW?
There was a time when book reviews were a regular appearance in every quality newspaper and many periodicals. They were essential elements in whether or not a book would sell well. A review from a heavyweight critic could often be the deciding factor in whether a book became a bestseller or a damp squib. In the last few decades, however, the book review’s influence has waned considerably, with many potential book buyers preferring to consult customer reviews on Amazon, or sites like Goodreads, before buying. As a result, book review’s appearance in newspapers, journals, and digital media has become less frequent.
WHY BOTHER TEACHING STUDENTS TO WRITE BOOK REVIEWS AT ALL?
Even in the heyday of the book review’s influence, few students who learned the craft of writing a book review became literary critics! The real value of crafting a well-written book review for a student does not lie in their ability to impact book sales. Understanding how to produce a well-written book review helps students to:
● Engage critically with a text
● Critically evaluate a text
● Respond personally to a range of different writing genres
● Improve their own reading, writing, and thinking skills.
Not to Be Confused with a Book Report!
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BOOK REVIEW AND A BOOK REPORT?
While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are clear differences in both the purpose and the format of the two genres. Generally speaking, book reports aim to give a more detailed outline of what occurs in a book. A book report on a work of fiction will tend to give a comprehensive account of the characters, major plot lines, and themes in the book. Book reports are usually written around the K-12 age range, while book reviews tend not to be undertaken by those at the younger end of this age range due to the need for the higher-level critical skills required in writing them. At their highest expression, book reviews are written at the college level and by professional critics.
Learn how to write a book review step by step with our complete guide for students and teachers by familiarizing yourself with the structure and features.
BOOK REVIEW STRUCTURE
ANALYZE Evaluate the book with a critical mind.
THOROUGHNESS The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Review the book as a WHOLE.
COMPARE Where appropriate compare to similar texts and genres.
THUMBS UP OR DOWN? You are going to have to inevitably recommend or reject this book to potential readers.
BE CONSISTENT Take a stance and stick with it throughout your review.
FEATURES OF A BOOK REVIEW
PAST TENSE You are writing about a book you have already read.
EMOTIVE LANGUAGE Whatever your stance or opinion be passionate about it. Your audience will thank you for it.
VOICE Both active and passive voice are used in recounts.
A COMPLETE UNIT ON REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF TEXTS
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ELEMENTS OF A BOOK REVIEW
As with any of the writing genres we teach our students, a book review can be helpfully explained in terms of criteria. While there is much to the ‘art’ of writing, there is also, thankfully, a lot of the nuts and bolts that can be listed too. Have students consider the following elements before writing:
● Title: Often, the title of the book review will correspond to the title of the text itself, but there may also be some examination of the title’s relevance. How does it fit into the purpose of the work as a whole? Does it convey a message or reveal larger themes explored within the work?
● Author: Within the book review, there may be some discussion of who the author is and what they have written before, especially if it relates to the current work being reviewed. There may be some mention of the author’s style and what they are best known for. If the author has received any awards or prizes, this may also be mentioned within the body of the review.
● Genre: A book review will identify the genre that the book belongs to, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry, romance, science-fiction, history etc. The genre will likely tie in, too with who the intended audience for the book is and what the overall purpose of the work is.
● Book Jacket / Cover: Often, a book’s cover will contain artwork that is worthy of comment. It may contain interesting details related to the text that contribute to, or detract from, the work as a whole.
● Structure: The book’s structure will often be heavily informed by its genre. Have students examine how the book is organized before writing their review. Does it contain a preface from a guest editor, for example? Is it written in sections or chapters? Does it have a table of contents, index, glossary etc.? While all these details may not make it into the review itself, looking at how the book is structured may reveal some interesting aspects.
● Publisher and Price: A book review will usually contain details of who publishes the book and its cost. A review will often provide details of where the book is available too.
BOOK REVIEW KEY ELEMENTS
As students read and engage with the work they will review, they will develop a sense of the shape their review will take. This will begin with the summary. Encourage students to take notes during the reading of the work that will help them in writing the summary that will form an essential part of their review. Aspects of the book they may wish to take notes on in a work of fiction may include:
● Characters: Who are the main characters? What are their motivations? Are they convincingly drawn? Or are they empathetic characters?
● Themes: What are the main themes of the work? Are there recurring motifs in the work? Is the exploration of the themes deep or surface only?
● Style: What are the key aspects of the writer’s style? How does it fit into the wider literary world?
● Plot: What is the story’s main catalyst? What happens in the rising action? What are the story’s subplots?
A book review will generally begin with a short summary of the work itself. However, it is important not to give too much away, remind students – no spoilers, please! For nonfiction works, this may be a summary of the main arguments of the work, again, without giving too much detail away. In a work of fiction, a book review will often summarise up to the rising action of the piece without going beyond to reveal too much!
The summary should also provide some orientation for the reader. Given the nature of the purpose of a review, it is important that students’ consider their intended audience in the writing of their review. Readers will most likely not have read the book in question and will require some orientation. This is often achieved through introductions to the main characters, themes, primary arguments etc. This will help the reader to gauge whether or not the book is of interest to them.
Once your student has summarized the work, it is time to ‘review’ in earnest. At this point, the student should begin to detail their own opinion of the book. To do this well they should:
i. Make It Personal
Often when teaching essay writing we will talk to our students about the importance of climbing up and down the ladder of abstraction. Just as it is helpful to explore large, more abstract concepts in an essay by bringing it down to Earth, in a book review, it is important that students can relate the characters, themes, ideas etc to their own lives.
Book reviews are meant to be subjective. They are opinion pieces, and opinions grow out of our experiences of life. Encourage students to link the work they are writing about to their own personal life within the body of the review. By making this personal connection to the work, students contextualize their opinions for the readers and help them to understand whether the book will be of interest to them or not in the process.
ii. Make It Universal
Just as it is important to climb down the ladder of abstraction to show how the work relates to individual life, it is important to climb upwards on the ladder too. Students should endeavor to show how the ideas explored in the book relate to the wider world. The may be in the form of the universality of the underlying themes in a work of fiction or, for example, the international implications for arguments expressed in a work of nonfiction.
iii. Support Opinions with Evidence
A book review is a subjective piece of writing by its very nature. However, just because it is subjective does not mean that opinions do not need to be justified. Make sure students understand how to back up their opinions with various forms of evidence, for example, quotations, statistics, and the use of primary and secondary sources.
EDIT AND REVISE YOUR BOOK REVIEW
As with any writing genre, encourage students to polish things up with review and revision at the end. Encourage them to proofread and check for accurate spelling throughout, with particular attention to the author’s name, character names, publisher etc.
It is good practice too for students to double-check their use of evidence. Are statements supported? Are the statistics used correctly? Are the quotations from the text accurate? Mistakes such as these uncorrected can do great damage to the value of a book review as they can undermine the reader’s confidence in the writer’s judgement.
The discipline of writing book reviews offers students opportunities to develop their writing skills and exercise their critical faculties. Book reviews can be valuable standalone activities or serve as a part of a series of activities engaging with a central text. They can also serve as an effective springboard into later discussion work based on the ideas and issues explored in a particular book. Though the book review does not hold the sway it once did in the mind’s of the reading public, it still serves as an effective teaching tool in our classrooms today.
Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.
BOOK REVIEW GRAPHIC ORGANIZER (TEMPLATE)
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Book and Movie review writing examples (Student Writing Samples)
Below are a collection of student writing samples of book reviews. Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail. Please take a moment to both read the movie or book review in detail but also the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the key elements of writing a text review
Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of book review writing.
We would recommend reading the example either a year above and below, as well as the grade you are currently working with to gain a broader appreciation of this text type .
BOOK REVIEW VIDEO TUTORIALS
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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.
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A book review is a thorough description, critical analysis, and/or evaluation of the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, often written in relation to prior research on the topic. Reviews generally range from 500-2000 words, but may be longer or shorter depends on several factors: the length and complexity of the book being reviewed, the overall purpose of the review, and whether the review examines two or more books that focus on the same topic. Professors assign book reviews as practice in carefully analyzing complex scholarly texts and to assess your ability to effectively synthesize research so that you reach an informed perspective about the topic being covered.
There are two general approaches to reviewing a book:
- Descriptive review: Presents the content and structure of a book as objectively as possible, describing essential information about a book's purpose and authority. This is done by stating the perceived aims and purposes of the study, often incorporating passages quoted from the text that highlight key elements of the work. Additionally, there may be some indication of the reading level and anticipated audience.
- Critical review: Describes and evaluates the book in relation to accepted literary and historical standards and supports this evaluation with evidence from the text and, in most cases, in contrast to and in comparison with the research of others. It should include a statement about what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well you believe the author has succeeded in meeting the objectives of the study, and presents evidence to support this assessment. For most course assignments, your professor will want you to write this type of review.
Book Reviews. Writing Center. University of New Hampshire; Book Reviews: How to Write a Book Review. Writing and Style Guides. Libraries. Dalhousie University; Kindle, Peter A. "Teaching Students to Write Book Reviews." Contemporary Rural Social Work 7 (2015): 135-141; Erwin, R. W. “Reviewing Books for Scholarly Journals.” In Writing and Publishing for Academic Authors . Joseph M. Moxley and Todd Taylor. 2 nd edition. (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 1997), pp. 83-90.
How to Approach Writing Your Review
NOTE: Since most course assignments require that you write a critical rather than descriptive book review, the following information about preparing to write and developing the structure and style of reviews focuses on this approach.
I. Common Features
While book reviews vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features. These include:
- A review gives the reader a concise summary of the content . This includes a description of the research topic and scope of analysis as well as an overview of the book's overall perspective, argument, and purpose.
- A review offers a critical assessment of the content in relation to other studies on the same topic . This involves documenting your reactions to the work under review--what strikes you as noteworthy or important, whether or not the arguments made by the author(s) were effective or persuasive, and how the work enhanced your understanding of the research problem under investigation.
- In addition to analyzing a book's strengths and weaknesses, a scholarly review often recommends whether or not readers would value the work for its authenticity and overall quality . This measure of quality includes both the author's ideas and arguments and covers practical issues, such as, readability and language, organization and layout, indexing, and, if needed, the use of non-textual elements .
To maintain your focus, always keep in mind that most assignments ask you to discuss a book's treatment of its topic, not the topic itself . Your key sentences should say, "This book shows...,” "The study demonstrates...," or “The author argues...," rather than "This happened...” or “This is the case....”
II. Developing a Critical Assessment Strategy
There is no definitive methodological approach to writing a book review in the social sciences, although it is necessary that you think critically about the research problem under investigation before you begin to write. Therefore, writing a book review is a three-step process: 1) carefully taking notes as you read the text; 2) developing an argument about the value of the work under consideration; and, 3) clearly articulating that argument as you write an organized and well-supported assessment of the work.
A useful strategy in preparing to write a review is to list a set of questions that should be answered as you read the book [remember to note the page numbers so you can refer back to the text!]. The specific questions to ask yourself will depend upon the type of book you are reviewing. For example, a book that is presenting original research about a topic may require a different set of questions to ask yourself than a work where the author is offering a personal critique of an existing policy or issue.
Here are some sample questions that can help you think critically about the book:
- Thesis or Argument . What is the central thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one main idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to the world that you know or have experienced? What has the book accomplished? Is the argument clearly stated and does the research support this?
- Topic . What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Is it clearly articulated? Does the author cover the subject adequately? Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? Can you detect any biases? What type of approach has the author adopted to explore the research problem [e.g., topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive]?
- Evidence . How does the author support their argument? What evidence does the author use to prove their point? Is the evidence based on an appropriate application of the method chosen to gather information? Do you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author's information [or conclusions] conflict with other books you've read, courses you've taken, or just previous assumptions you had about the research problem?
- Structure . How does the author structure their argument? Does it follow a logical order of analysis? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense to you? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?
- Take-aways . How has this book helped you understand the research problem? Would you recommend the book to others? Why or why not?
Beyond the content of the book, you may also consider some information about the author and the general presentation of information. Question to ask may include:
- The Author: Who is the author? The nationality, political persuasion, education, intellectual interests, personal history, and historical context may provide crucial details about how a work takes shape. Does it matter, for example, that the author is affiliated with a particular organization? What difference would it make if the author participated in the events they wrote about? What other topics has the author written about? Does this work build on prior research or does it represent a new or unique area of research?
- The Presentation: What is the book's genre? Out of what discipline does it emerge? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of its genre? These questions can provide a historical or other contextual standard upon which to base your evaluations. If you are reviewing the first book ever written on the subject, it will be important for your readers to know this. Keep in mind, though, that declarative statements about being the “first,” the "best," or the "only" book of its kind can be a risky unless you're absolutely certain because your professor [presumably] has a much better understanding of the overall research literature.
NOTE: Most critical book reviews examine a topic in relation to prior research. A good strategy for identifying this prior research is to examine sources the author(s) cited in the chapters introducing the research problem and, of course, any review of the literature. However, you should not assume that the author's references to prior research is authoritative or complete. If any works related to the topic have been excluded, your assessment of the book should note this . Be sure to consult with a librarian to ensure that any additional studies are located beyond what has been cited by the author(s).
Book Reviews. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Book Reviews. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Hartley, James. "Reading and Writing Book Reviews Across the Disciplines." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57 (July 2006): 1194–1207; Motta-Roth, D. “Discourse Analysis and Academic Book Reviews: A Study of Text and Disciplinary Cultures.” In Genre Studies in English for Academic Purposes . Fortanet Gómez, Inmaculada et al., editors. (Castellò de la Plana: Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I, 1998), pp. 29-45. Writing a Book Review. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Book Reviews. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Suárez, Lorena and Ana I. Moreno. “The Rhetorical Structure of Academic Journal Book Reviews: A Cross-linguistic and Cross-disciplinary Approach .” In Asociación Europea de Lenguas para Fines Específicos, María del Carmen Pérez Llantada Auría, Ramón Plo Alastrué, and Claus Peter Neumann. Actas del V Congreso Internacional AELFE/Proceedings of the 5th International AELFE Conference . Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza, 2006.
Structure and Writing Style
I. Bibliographic Information
Bibliographic information refers to the essential elements of a work if you were to cite it in a paper [i.e., author, title, date of publication, etc.]. Provide the essential information about the book using the writing style [e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago] preferred by your professor or used by the discipline of your major . Depending on how your professor wants you to organize your review, the bibliographic information represents the heading of your review. In general, it would look like this:
[Complete title of book. Author or authors. Place of publication. Publisher. Date of publication. Number of pages before first chapter, often in Roman numerals. Total number of pages]. The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History . By Jill Lepore. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. xii, 207 pp.)
Reviewed by [your full name].
Begin your review by telling the reader not only the overarching concern of the book in its entirety [the subject area] but also what the author's particular point of view is on that subject [the thesis statement]. If you cannot find an adequate statement in the author's own words or if you find that the thesis statement is not well-developed, then you will have to compose your own introductory thesis statement that does cover all the material. This statement should be no more than one paragraph and must be succinctly stated, accurate, and unbiased.
If you find it difficult to discern the overall aims and objectives of the book [and, be sure to point this out in your review if you determine that this is a deficiency], you may arrive at an understanding of the book's overall purpose by assessing the following:
- Scan the table of contents because it can help you understand how the book was organized and will aid in determining the author's main ideas and how they were developed [e.g., chronologically, topically, historically, etc.].
- Why did the author write on this subject rather than on some other subject?
- From what point of view is the work written?
- Was the author trying to give information, to explain something technical, or to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?
- What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? If necessary, review related literature from other books and journal articles to familiarize yourself with the field.
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is the author's style? Is it formal or informal? You can evaluate the quality of the writing style by noting some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, accurate use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, and fluidity [i.e., quality of the narrative flow].
- How did the book affect you? Were there any prior assumptions you had about the subject that were changed, abandoned, or reinforced after reading the book? How is the book related to your own personal beliefs or assumptions? What personal experiences have you had related to the subject that affirm or challenge underlying assumptions?
- How well has the book achieved the goal(s) set forth in the preface, introduction, and/or foreword?
- Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?
III. Note the Method
Support your remarks with specific references to text and quotations that help to illustrate the literary method used to state the research problem, describe the research design, and analyze the findings. In general, authors tend to use the following literary methods, exclusively or in combination.
- Description : The author depicts scenes and events by giving specific details that appeal to the five senses, or to the reader’s imagination. The description presents background and setting. Its primary purpose is to help the reader realize, through as many details as possible, the way persons, places, and things are situated within the phenomenon being described.
- Narration : The author tells the story of a series of events, usually thematically or in chronological order. In general, the emphasis in scholarly books is on narration of the events. Narration tells what has happened and, in some cases, using this method to forecast what could happen in the future. Its primary purpose is to draw the reader into a story and create a contextual framework for understanding the research problem.
- Exposition : The author uses explanation and analysis to present a subject or to clarify an idea. Exposition presents the facts about a subject or an issue clearly and as impartially as possible. Its primary purpose is to describe and explain, to document for the historical record an event or phenomenon.
- Argument : The author uses techniques of persuasion to establish understanding of a particular truth, often in the form of addressing a research question, or to convince the reader of its falsity. The overall aim is to persuade the reader to believe something and perhaps to act on that belief. Argument takes sides on an issue and aims to convince the reader that the author's position is valid, logical, and/or reasonable.
IV. Critically Evaluate the Contents
Critical comments should form the bulk of your book review . State whether or not you feel the author's treatment of the subject matter is appropriate for the intended audience. Ask yourself:
- Has the purpose of the book been achieved?
- What contributions does the book make to the field?
- Is the treatment of the subject matter objective or at least balanced in describing all sides of a debate?
- Are there facts and evidence that have been omitted?
- What kinds of data, if any, are used to support the author's thesis statement?
- Can the same data be interpreted to explain alternate outcomes?
- Is the writing style clear and effective?
- Does the book raise important or provocative issues or topics for discussion?
- Does the book bring attention to the need for further research?
- What has been left out?
Support your evaluation with evidence from the text and, when possible, state the book's quality in relation to other scholarly sources. If relevant, note of the book's format, such as, layout, binding, typography, etc. Are there tables, charts, maps, illustrations, text boxes, photographs, or other non-textual elements? Do they aid in understanding the text? Describing this is particularly important in books that contain a lot of non-textual elements.
NOTE: It is important to carefully distinguish your views from those of the author so as not to confuse your reader. Be clear when you are describing an author's point of view versus expressing your own.
V. Examine the Front Matter and Back Matter
Front matter refers to any content before the first chapter of the book. Back matter refers to any information included after the final chapter of the book . Front matter is most often numbered separately from the rest of the text in lower case Roman numerals [i.e. i - xi ]. Critical commentary about front or back matter is generally only necessary if you believe there is something that diminishes the overall quality of the work [e.g., the indexing is poor] or there is something that is particularly helpful in understanding the book's contents [e.g., foreword places the book in an important context].
Front matter that may be considered for evaluation when reviewing its overall quality:
- Table of contents -- is it clear? Is it detailed or general? Does it reflect the true contents of the book? Does it help in understanding a logical sequence of content?
- Author biography -- also found as back matter, the biography of author(s) can be useful in determining the authority of the writer and whether the book builds on prior research or represents new research. In scholarly reviews, noting the author's affiliation and prior publications can be a factor in helping the reader determine the overall validity of the work [i.e., are they associated with a research center devoted to studying the problem under investigation].
- Foreword -- the purpose of a foreword is to introduce the reader to the author and the content of the book, and to help establish credibility for both. A foreword may not contribute any additional information about the book's subject matter, but rather, serves as a means of validating the book's existence. In these cases, the foreword is often written by a leading scholar or expert who endorses the book's contributions to advancing research about the topic. Later editions of a book sometimes have a new foreword prepended [appearing before an older foreword, if there was one], which may be included to explain how the latest edition differs from previous editions. These are most often written by the author.
- Acknowledgements -- scholarly studies in the social sciences often take many years to write, so authors frequently acknowledge the help and support of others in getting their research published. This can be as innocuous as acknowledging the author's family or the publisher. However, an author may acknowledge prominent scholars or subject experts, staff at key research centers, people who curate important archival collections, or organizations that funded the research. In these particular cases, it may be worth noting these sources of support in your review, particularly if the funding organization is biased or its mission is to promote a particular agenda.
- Preface -- generally describes the genesis, purpose, limitations, and scope of the book and may include acknowledgments of indebtedness to people who have helped the author complete the study. Is the preface helpful in understanding the study? Does it provide an effective framework for understanding what's to follow?
- Chronology -- also may be found as back matter, a chronology is generally included to highlight key events related to the subject of the book. Do the entries contribute to the overall work? Is it detailed or very general?
- List of non-textual elements -- a book that contains numerous charts, photographs, maps, tables, etc. will often list these items after the table of contents in the order that they appear in the text. Is this useful?
Back matter that may be considered for evaluation when reviewing its overall quality:
- Afterword -- this is a short, reflective piece written by the author that takes the form of a concluding section, final commentary, or closing statement. It is worth mentioning in a review if it contributes information about the purpose of the book, gives a call to action, summarizes key recommendations or next steps, or asks the reader to consider key points made in the book.
- Appendix -- is the supplementary material in the appendix or appendices well organized? Do they relate to the contents or appear superfluous? Does it contain any essential information that would have been more appropriately integrated into the text?
- Index -- are there separate indexes for names and subjects or one integrated index. Is the indexing thorough and accurate? Are elements used, such as, bold or italic fonts to help identify specific places in the book? Does the index include "see also" references to direct you to related topics?
- Glossary of Terms -- are the definitions clearly written? Is the glossary comprehensive or are there key terms missing? Are any terms or concepts mentioned in the text not included that should have been?
- Endnotes -- examine any endnotes as you read from chapter to chapter. Do they provide important additional information? Do they clarify or extend points made in the body of the text? Should any notes have been better integrated into the text rather than separated? Do the same if the author uses footnotes.
- Bibliography/References/Further Readings -- review any bibliography, list of references to sources, and/or further readings the author may have included. What kinds of sources appear [e.g., primary or secondary, recent or old, scholarly or popular, etc.]? How does the author make use of them? Be sure to note important omissions of sources that you believe should have been utilized, including important digital resources or archival collections.
VI. Summarize and Comment
State your general conclusions briefly and succinctly. Pay particular attention to the author's concluding chapter and/or afterword. Is the summary convincing? List the principal topics, and briefly summarize the author’s ideas about these topics, main points, and conclusions. If appropriate and to help clarify your overall evaluation, use specific references to text and quotations to support your statements. If your thesis has been well argued, the conclusion should follow naturally. It can include a final assessment or simply restate your thesis. Do not introduce new information in the conclusion. If you've compared the book to any other works or used other sources in writing the review, be sure to cite them at the end of your book review in the same writing style as your bibliographic heading of the book.
Book Reviews. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Book Reviews. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Gastel, Barbara. "Special Books Section: A Strategy for Reviewing Books for Journals." BioScience 41 (October 1991): 635-637; Hartley, James. "Reading and Writing Book Reviews Across the Disciplines." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57 (July 2006): 1194–1207; Lee, Alexander D., Bart N. Green, Claire D. Johnson, and Julie Nyquist. "How to Write a Scholarly Book Review for Publication in a Peer-reviewed Journal: A Review of the Literature." Journal of Chiropractic Education 24 (2010): 57-69; Nicolaisen, Jeppe. "The Scholarliness of Published Peer Reviews: A Bibliometric Study of Book Reviews in Selected Social Science Fields." Research Evaluation 11 (2002): 129-140;.Procter, Margaret. The Book Review or Article Critique. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Reading a Book to Review It. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Scarnecchia, David L. "Writing Book Reviews for the Journal Of Range Management and Rangelands." Rangeland Ecology and Management 57 (2004): 418-421; Simon, Linda. "The Pleasures of Book Reviewing." Journal of Scholarly Publishing 27 (1996): 240-241; Writing a Book Review. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Book Reviews. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University.
Always Read the Foreword and/or the Preface
If they are included in the front matter, a good place for understanding a book's overall purpose, organization, contributions to further understanding of the research problem, and relationship to other studies is to read the preface and the foreword. The foreword may be written by someone other than the author or editor and can be a person who is famous or who has name recognition within the discipline. A foreword is often included to add credibility to the work.
The preface is usually an introductory essay written by the author or editor. It is intended to describe the book's overall purpose, arrangement, scope, and overall contributions to the literature. When reviewing the book, it can be useful to critically evaluate whether the goals set forth in the foreword and/or preface were actually achieved. At the very least, they can establish a foundation for understanding a study's scope and purpose as well as its significance in contributing new knowledge.
Distinguishing between a Foreword, a Preface, and an Introduction . Book Creation Learning Center. Greenleaf Book Group, 2019.
Locating Book Reviews
There are several databases the USC Libraries subscribes to that include the full-text or citations to book reviews. Short, descriptive reviews can also be found at book-related online sites such as Amazon , although it's not always obvious who has written them and may actually be created by the publisher. The following databases provide comprehensive access to scholarly, full-text book reviews:
- ProQuest [1983-present]
- Book Review Digest Retrospective [1905-1982]
Some Language for Evaluating Texts
It can be challenging to find the proper vocabulary from which to discuss and evaluate a book. Here is a list of some active verbs for referring to texts and ideas that you might find useful:
- account for
Examples of usage
- "The evidence indicates that..."
- "This work assesses the effect of..."
- "The author identifies three key reasons for..."
- "This book questions the view that..."
- "This work challenges assumptions about...."
Paquot, Magali. Academic Keyword List. Centre for English Corpus Linguistics. Université Catholique de Louvain.
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How to write a history book review.
Writing a book review is one of the fundamental skills that every historian must learn. An undergraduate student’s book review should accomplish two main goals:
- Lay out an author’s argument, and
- Most importantly, critique the historical argument.
It is important to remember that a book review is not a book report. You need to do more than simply lay out the contents or plot-line of a book. You may briefly summarize the historical narrative or contents but must focus your review on the historical argument being made and how effectively the author has supported this argument with historical evidence. If you can, you may also fit that argument into the wider historiography about the subject.
The 'How to ... ' of Historical Book Reviews Writing a book review may seem very difficult, but in fact there are some simple rules you can follow to make the process much easier.
Before you read, find out about the author’s prior work What academic discipline was the author trained in? What other books, articles, or conference papers has s/he written? How does this book relate to or follow from the previous work of the author? Has the author or this book won any awards? This information helps you understand the author’s argument and critique the book.
As you read, write notes for each of the following topics.
Write a few sentences about the author’s approach or genre of history. Is the focus on gender? Class? Race? Politics? Culture? Labor? Law? Something else? A combination? If you can identify the type of history the historian has written, it will be easier to determine the historical argument the author is making.
Summarize the author’s subject and argument. In a few sentences, describe the time period, major events, geographical scope and group or groups of people who are being investigated in the book. Why has the author chosen the starting and ending dates of the book’s narrative? Next, discover the major thesis or theses of the book, the argument(s) that the author makes and attempts to support with evidence. These are usually, but not always, presented in a book’s introduction. It might help to look for the major question that the author is attempting to answer and then try to write his or her answer to that question in a sentence or two. Sometimes there is a broad argument supported by a series of supporting arguments. It is not always easy to discern the main argument but this is the most important part of your book review.
What is the structure of the book? Are the chapters organized chronologically, thematically, by group of historical actors, from general to specific, or in some other way? How does the structure of the work enhance or detract from the argument?
Look closely at the kinds of evidence the author has used to prove the argument. Is the argument based on data, narrative, or both? Are narrative anecdotes the basis of the argument or do they supplement other evidence? Are there other kinds of evidence that the author should have included? Is the evidence convincing? If so, find a particularly supportive example and explain how it supports the author’s thesis. If not, give an example and explain what part of the argument is not supported by evidence. You may find that some evidence works, while some does not. Explain both sides, give examples, and let your readers know what you think overall.
Closely related to the kinds of evidence are the kinds of sources the author uses. What different kinds of primary sources are used? What type of source is most important in the argument? Do these sources allow the author to adequately explore the subject? Are there important issues that the author cannot address based on these sources?
How about the secondary sources? Are there one or more secondary books that the author seems to lean heavily on in support of the argument? Are there works that the author disagrees with in the text? This will tell the reader how the work fits into the historiography of the subject and whether it is presenting a major new interpretation.
Is the argument convincing as a whole? Is there a particular place where it breaks down? Why? Is there a particular element that works best? Why? Would you recommend this book to others, and if so, for whom is it appropriate? General readers? Undergraduates? Graduates and specialists in this historical subject? Why? Would you put any qualifications on that recommendation?
After having written up your analyses of each of these topics, you are ready to compose your review. There is no one way to format a book review but here is a common format that can be varied according to what you think needs to be highlighted and what length is required.
- Introduce the author, the historical period and topic of the book. Tell the reader what genre of history this work belongs to or what approach the author has used. Set out the main argument.
- Summarize the book’s organization and give a little more detail about the author’s sub-arguments. Here you would also work in your assessment of the evidence and sources used.
- Strengths and weaknesses or flaws in the book are usually discussed next. It is up to you to decide in what order these should come, but if you assess the book positively overall, do not spend inordinate space on the book’s faults and vice versa.
- In the conclusion, you may state your recommendations for readership unless that has been covered in your discussion of the book’s strengths and weaknesses. You might review how convincing the argument was, say something about the importance or uniqueness of the argument and topic, or describe how the author adds to our understanding of a particular historical question.
How to Write a Book Review in the APA Format
How to write a paper in mba style.
The academic disciplines of psychology and sociology require authors to submit work that conforms to APA standards. These standards are set by the American Psychological Association (APA) to “advance scholarship by setting sound and rigorous standards for scientific communication.” When writing an APA book review to conform to these standards, authors should also be mindful of APA formatting, style and usage issues.
General APA Book Review Requirements
When writing a book review, spend some time introducing the author's background, motivation and qualifications for writing the book. Note that an APA style book report describes what happens in the book with descriptions of the book's contents and ideas. In contrast, an APA style book review looks at the book's ideas but focuses primarily on the reviewer's opinion and analysis of the book itself. In your book review, begin by introducing the concepts of the book clearly and thoroughly. Summarize the author’s intentions and methods and then evaluate the effectiveness of those methods. Did the book make a convincing argument? Did the data or information presented effectively prove the thesis? Was it interesting? Humorous? How does the book engage the reader?
When using direct quotations or a paraphrase from a book in your book review, you must cite the author according to the book review format in APA style. This is done by including the name of the author, the year of publication and the page number. You can accomplish this by using a signal phrase that includes the author’s last name. As an example, “According to Gosling (2008), 'We know that creative people tend to be more philosophical but no more or less anxious than other types' (p. 36)." Be sure to place the punctuation after the parenthetical citation rather than directly after the quote. If, throughout the article, you are only quoting from the one book you are reviewing and this is clear to the reader, it is not necessary to include the date after each quote or paraphrased section.
APA Style Reference List
Each quote cited in the APA book review must correspond to a source in a reference list at the end of the article. In a book review, this usually consists of only one book. On occasion, a reviewer may cite other texts in comparison with the one being reviewed. In those cases, the references must appear alphabetically. Sources must be double-spaced and formatted with a hanging indent with all lines but the first line of each entry must be indented. The references should be presented with the author’s name, the publication year in parenthesis, the title (in italics and in sentence case), the city and state of publication and the publisher. If an author's name is not available for the source, verify the reference by visiting the related .edu website. Note the placement of specific punctuation in this example: Gosling, Sam. (2008). Snoop: What your stuff says about you. New York, NY: Basic Books.
APA Book Review Formatting
APA format requires some general formatting standards. The preferred typeface for APA publications is Times New Roman with a 12 point font size, according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Use a one-inch margin all around. Double space lines of text throughout the document. This includes the title, headings, body and any references. Align the lines using the flush-left feature in your word processing software. Never divide words at the end of a line by using a hyphen. It is better to keep the line short than break a word at the end of a line.
Check Before Submitting
Before submitting, always check with the source to verify whether certain features are required in the document. For instance, many APA publications require an abstract or a brief summary of the article. However, this is not usually required with a book review and is reserved for papers containing scientific research. Do not hesitate to check with your professor or copy editor with any questions before submitting your manuscript.
Style and Usage Issues
Style and usage requirements are not universal across all disciplines. When conforming to APA book review standards, keep these requirements in mind. Capitalize major words in titles of books and articles within the body of the paper. This excludes conjunctions, articles and prepositions unless they contain over four letters. Capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound when it appears in a title. Use the serial comma throughout your work. Place a comma after each element in a series of three or more items even when the last element is followed by a conjunction. For instance, “the students measured the height, width, and depth of the nests.” Use numerals to express numbers ten and above and all numbers that represent statistical data. For example, you would write, “Mr. Smith spent five years writing the book,” but “Mr. Smith spent 25 years writing the book” and “more than 5 percent of the sample.”
Writing a Summary Paper in APA Style
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How to Use a Summarization for APA Format
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- Purdue Owl: Writing a Book Review
- Owl Purdue Online Writing Lab: In-Text Citations The Basics
- Writology: How to Write a Good Book Review
Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.
APA Citation Guide (7th edition) CGS
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Book Review From Library Database (No Title)
Author of Review's Last Name, First Initial. (Year of Publication). [Review of the book Title of Book: Subtitle if Any , by Book Author's First Initial. Second Initial if Given Last Name]. Name of Journal , Volume Number (Issue Number), first page number-last page number. https://doi.org/DOI-number (if given)
For more information on how to cite Book Reviews in APA 7, refer to pages 334-335 of the Publication Manual of the APA located at the circulation desk.
Book Review from a Website (with Title)
Author of Review's Last Name, First Initial. (Year of Publication). Title of Review. [Review of the book Title of Book: Subtitle if Any , by Book Author's First Initial. Second Initial if Given Last Name]. Title of Website , URL
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Stop pixel peeping and start printing: How to plan your first photo book
There are a lot of people I’ve met in my photographic (and writing) career who want to publish their own books but dismiss it as an unattainably lofty goal. Creating a photo book is indeed long, hard work, but it’s straightforward if you have an organized plan, a clear vision, and a solid understanding of the final format in which you want to distribute it. I’ve created several online-only photo books and even a physical photo book, a collection called Postcards from the End of the World , published by Carrara Books in 2022. While each book I've assembled presented unique challenges, it was worth the effort to see them to fruition.
I’m going to share what I’ve learned in the process of publishing my books – both digital and physical – so if you want to see your name on the cover of a photo book someday, you’ll know exactly what it’ll take.
Shooting a theme
Your book's theme is the most crucial part of the process, as the choices you make here will influence every other decision further down the line. The photos should be the driving force of your book, and everything else should be tailored to bolster their impact on readers.
Looking for recurring themes in your own work can be a great way to begin work on your first photo book if you’re unsure where to start. For some of my photo books, I don’t have a clear idea exactly what the 'plot' – or 'gallery theming', if you prefer – is going to look like beforehand.
Instead, in my day-to-day shooting, I discover repeated motifs in my work and then try to imagine ways to build upon them. For my physically-published book, Postcards From the End of the World, I began by shooting a lot of apocalyptic-looking images of abandoned places without any real plan to make a book out of them. (Fire season in Nevada has a way of helping that process along.)
It was only when I’d taken a lot of these images that I developed a plan for a book based on the images I already had. The photo book would be an imagining of what it would be like to be the last person to shoot photos of the planet, and it would cover a fictional 'journey' from middle America to the Pacific. I went through my galleries from the past year of shooting abandoned places to find more images that would work for the theme and then rounded out the project with a few specific trips for vistas that would complete the book’s vision.
If you’d rather get started on making your book faster or you don’t have a large gallery you can pull from, you can just go out and make a book from scratch. For my first online photo book, The Pilgrimage , I decided to venture into the deserts of my then-home Nevada on a long weekend, and I wanted to return home three days later with enough photos to publish a book.
A storyboard is crucial when starting from scratch, especially in a compressed time frame. It doesn’t need to be a fully drawn-out storyboard like a director would have for a movie since it’s especially tricky to visualize what shots you’ll be able to take once you’re out in the world.
Instead, make a list of the general emotions and story you want your finished book to have, plus a 'dream list' of places you could find that would make for specifically strong imagery. Having at least one location planned – ideally for an introduction or conclusion that can guide the rest of the photos you take – is also a fantastic idea, as it will help shape the places you look for. In The Pilgrimage , I knew a few things: that it would be a tale about a lonely traveler making a journey to a strange place with religious overtones and that I would conclude the trip at an art installation in Goldfield, Nevada .
Even though I was heading into the desert to places I’d never been, I brought a list of ideal scenes I was seeking (anything that depicted scarcity: empty water towers, abandoned gas stations) and sought them out. I also brought a few props (a vintage dress, a lantern) for specific shots I had on my storyboard dream list, and I used myself as a stand-in for a model when necessary.
"Make a list of the general emotions and story you want your finished book to have."
I shot hundreds of photos over the span of two days. I returned home, organized a completed photo book by the third day, and published it online on the fourth day, right as I returned to work from my long weekend. The days were long, but forcing myself to a tight timeframe ensured I finished it, and the motivational boost of releasing my work into the world was phenomenal.
Formatting and printing
Whether you pre-plan your collection from the start or discover a throughline in your Lightroom catalog, transforming it from a bunch of photos to a coherent collection is just as important as taking the shots. First, as with any focused gallery of work, you should choose a cohesive editing style.
In the shots above from my series Self-Portraits of My Past Lives , the goal was to emulate the photographic look of the era I was attempting to mimic. The shots were, therefore, edited with various tools from the Nik Collection to simulate wet-plate photography or vintage films (despite being shot on a digital camera). Much more subtle techniques are also acceptable, of course!
You should also choose a crop format you plan to publish with, and even if all your photos are not the same format, there should be just a handful you use in order to make it feel strongly themed. For The Pilgrimage, I chose alternating crops of 2.39:1 and 4:3 to evoke both cinematic and television Westerns of the past, as it fit the mood I wanted to conjure. I laid out the photos in Adobe Indesign, where I do all my book layouts.
"I recommend physically printing out your photos first to choose your sequencing."
Your crop formats may need to change based on the book and the style of printing you’d like. There are almost no boundaries in a digital book, but physical printers often have a small list of available formats. (Usual safe book printing sizes for the US are 8x11", 12x12", or 11x14".) If you do choose to print the book, I recommend physically printing out your photos first to choose your sequencing and ensure that every image looks as good as possible when printed at full size.
If you have a very specific vision that is an uncommon format, it can be virtually impossible to find someone able to print it. This was a problem I ran into with Postcards From the End of the World, where I wanted a 4x6" borderless book to make the images look like real postcards. Finding a printer was difficult and required ordering in bulk rather than print-to-order.
Sending it into the world
Now that your book has been created, it’s time to let people see it. For a digital publication, there are a variety of hosting platforms that independent creators can use. In the past, I’ve launched digital PDF-format books on itch.io and Gumroad ; I use Gumroad exclusively now for its seamless Stripe integration and flat 10% fee, which means I get my money quickly. Neither site charges a sign-up fee; they only take a percentage of what you sell. If you’d rather release your work into the world without charging, both sites also allow you to list your book as a free download.
'The most rewarding part of printing a book is getting to share a carefully curated version of the world through your eyes.'
For physical books, Blurb offers a variety of print sizes and styles and features simple Amazon integration, as well as its own bookstore, to dropship books through. It also hosts its own book-design tool if you would rather avoid a complicated app like InDesign. If you plan to handle shipping yourself (or don’t plan on selling your book), traditional printing outlets such as Bay Photo and White House Custom Color offer book printing in smaller quantities. (For Postcards From the End of the World, I had a publisher which allowed me to bulk-order, so I used Printsquare .)
Regardless of what you choose, the most rewarding part of printing a book is getting to share a carefully curated version of the world through your eyes.
Love it. Absolutely would try.
Great article, very much appreciated!
Thanks for posting this article. Great information etc. Living where I do, I have tons of access to amazing backdrops and scenery. time to hit the road!
By far, the most important thing is learning how to run a business, because essentially that's what this is doing.
Great work - thanks for the article. It's something I'd like to try and I appreciate the tips you've provided.
Good intro, but lets also have more general printing related stuff on DPR ;-) Reports that doing your own printing is dead are premature.
Absolutely! Printing doesn't need to be this complicated, but I appreciate this article. I'm currently surrounded by a bunch of drying 13x19 prints of my daughter I just printed. I can make a book of them with a few staples or screw pins. And making a book can be as easy as using the magazine format from Blurb...my Mom and her 83 year old partner regularly use it for all their trips. They edit and organize on their iPhones, transfer to the Mac, and finalize with the Blurb Bookwright software. Are a lot of the pics blurry, over-enlarged, etc? Of course, but it's super enjoyable to be able to sit down on the couch and flip through the magazine. And it will be around forever; not lost in someone's iPhone or iCloud.
Also...The best book I ever made was of my sister in 2001 after she beat her 2nd cancer. I walked into a bookbinding shop in South Boston with a stack of 13x19 photos on Epson Matte paper that I had printed myself. They bound it with a simple black fabric cover. Sadly, I have this book today in my house, as she passed after her 4th cancer, but it's a physical memory I regularly share with everyone and that I will always have of her.
If you're interested in printing, check out Keith's website, Northlight Images . Lots of great info on printing there.
Well aware...In fact, I've probably read most reviews on his site and watched most of his videos. The best resource for real world printing information!
I am setting up my new Epson xp15000 now with direct feed ink tanks for less messing about with cartridges. I am experimenting with various media and going to figure what paper looks and feels best for selling my prints. I like doing everything in house as I feel I have more control than sending it out to print. Same goes for my film. I am getting a new development system for doing my own negatives.
Don't forget, we have an excellent 'Printing' forum here https://www.dpreview.com/forums/1003
It still where I always suggest people go, with printer problems I can't help with...
Keith, are you the person with the videos on youtube printing using the xp15000?
Yes - I have some on the 15000 I had one here for a while - the main info is at https://www.northlight-images.co.uk/epson-xp-15000-printer-review/
Awesome, thanks. It made my mind up to get that printer actually. It's a great printer.
Another idea is to print directly from camera with a Dpof compatible printer. No need for a computer. Experiment with your cameras picture styles.
I think a printed photo book of family photos is a good idea. I have family photos going back to the 1930s. Scan the photos and make a book. Give as gifts to family members.
May be a good idea as a project. But the photos honestly are mediocre at best.
You must be fun to be around. Actually, I liked the images. To each, their own...
Whats the point of being nasty and criticising something that has literally nothing to do with you? Im happy that the author has taken on this project which she is obviously quite proud. I print heaps of my photos and yes, some are mediocre but the satisfaction I get is wonderful.
There is a whole tradition of fine art color photography that is similar to these photos. Look at them in context with the postcards. I thought this was a wonderfully executed project.
Lol what a derpy comment Dusty. I'm embarrassed for you.
Where is your mediocre photo book available, Dusty?
The person who took the photos obviously likes them, and that's all that matters.
@ Dusty-Lens: If you are such an authority on photographs, why not share your knowledge on Drepview with the rest of us? Or are you just very self centered?
Dusty, art is subjective and I don’t recall anyone stating that the photos were masterpieces, but if the artist likes his art, that should be enough. On the other hand, being nice is also a virtue, but pay attention, I mean being nice, not patronizing or condescending… So in this case, in order to be nice, If you don’t like the photos, you just keep it to yourself…
You’re welcome! (See? I was patronizing and condescending just now) All best
I really liked the photos. If that somehow makes me inept or unsophisticated, then so be it.
don't worry, nobody will force you to buy the book...
Hey chill up ladies and gents. I find the photos mediocre, it is a comments section I shared my personal view. You don't have to agree with me. Cool, with that aside move on as I don't have to agree with you too. Pointless flood.
Hey chill up Dusty. It is a comments section and people are just sharing their personal view of your comments. Some find yours mediocre.
"Pointless flood"? Well, criticism can flow in any direction — it pays to exercise thoughtful consideration when you choose to poke holes in a levee.
These look like very well thought out projects--complete concepts. A lot of people want to make a book because they take nice photos and somebody said "You should do a book". That's the extent of the concept.
I spent over a year aseembling a book after the photos and text were already completed. But to be fair, most of the time and effort was dealing with the incredible complexity of InDesign. But it did do a beautiful job compared to all the "easy" software I tried. So in the end, it was worth it, and next time I could probably zip through an InDesign project in just 6 months. Ok, maybe 8, if I take weekends off.
Thanks for the nice article! This info is useful even if you're not creating a book (electronic of physical) because all of the curation and most of the formatting advice also applies to web galleries.
One thing I struggle with is consistency across images in a gallery. Even though the images thematically match, graphic stuff like lighting and aspect ratio interfere with cohesiveness. Aspect ratio particularly bothers me because I always crop each image in isolation. Then when putting images together, it is rare that their shapes match up. I think I will just need to bite the bullet and recrop images that I want on the same page to have harmonious (though not necessarily identical) shape and size.
That will be a compromise though often working within a constraint can bring forth new forms of creativity.
It's two different ways to enjoy ones photos. Why making it an EITHER/OR in the title of the story?
And yes, I also love photo books. I think they have a better chance to survive than the stuff stored on my computer behind password protection - which, should something - God forbid - ever happen to me, will be tossed out by my children and grand children as old junk, no doubt.
I have used Mixam and been very pleased with the results.
If you're not trying to dropship, Mixam has better print quality than blurb (and shutterfly).
I tried MagCloud (Blurb) for an 11x17 landscape book. It is a 90 page (their max), wire-o bound book printed on 100lb. cover stock.
Although the pages have an ever so slight reddishness to them, I am happy overall. BTW, both MagCloud and Mixam use the same HP Indigo digital printer.
I checked out the Mixam. They do not go bigger than A4. I would have given them a try if they did go larger.
Blurb print on digital press, and there are many qualities available, printing in 6 or more colors in order to get better gradients, by example. Printing in silver halide paper will always bring you better quality (black and white might be challenging doh). I prefer Printique.com for my books, personal or profesional.
@pako, I could not figure out what printer Printique uses. The one MagCloud uses is not the best but it allows for low prices. My $55 MagCloud book would have cost me around $300 or so at Printique and it would have been a bit smaller. MagCloud max size is 11x17. Printique goes up to 10x12.5.
Printique quality (hard cover and better print quality) stand out for sure but the price difference is significant. The purpose of my soft cover, wire-o bound book is to have a large hard copy sample to show clients. It is cheap to produce but it looks impressive and for some odd reason it does not look that cheap after all. The book is printed on 100lb. cover stock throughout which gives it a substantial heft and look.
Really good, informative article, thanks from me also.
Wonderful article. Thanks.
Printing is fun. You can inspect the surface with a microscope.
For really large prints where a microscope is impractical opera glasses are recommended .
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