A book review is a very common task for students of all stages, and it’s incredibly important both for your academic success and the audience of the book who may stumble upon your review. In order to write a great book review, it’s not enough to simply read the book from cover to cover: you also need to understand its plot, message, structure, style, and the circumstances the writer had when creating the work.
How to write a good book review
Writing an impressive book review starts before you even read the book. First you need to gather as much information as possible about the author’s personality and the place of this particular book in their literature portfolio. Then you can proceed to reading the book, and remember that it may take more than one reading to get a clear idea about the book.
As you’re reading the book, it’s important to make as many notes as possible: you will come back to them while writing your review. Note down interesting facts, key moments, character development, any illustrations, language, and everything you feel is crucial for your future review. It’s also a good idea to write down the emotions the book makes you feel and possible questions you’ll need to answer in your review.
Ideally, by the time you finish reading the book, you will have a clear understanding of the book’s theme, characters, and ideas. Knowing what the authors wanted to say with his book, how he got the message across the writing, and which stylistic techniques he used to meet his objective is one of the key components for the success of your review. That way you will be able to effortlessly write a detailed and informative review of the book in question.
The book review format
Like any other written academic assignment, the book review has its own format and structure. Most book critics and students prefer to do their reviews in the APA format and use APA-style citations, although you may be given a different instruction by your teacher. The format of your review may also differ according to the length: short reviews have a simpler format and structure than long book reviews.
A typical book review structure is different from most essays you’ve written before: it contains a heading, an introduction, a summary of the book, a critical analysis, an evaluation, and a conclusion. Now let’s look at each chapter of your future book review in detail.
Here you will need to list the following information: book title, author’s name, publisher name, publication location, publication date, and the page count.
The introduction is a crucial part of a book review that is the first impression any reader will get of your work. Your introduction must give a clear idea about the content of the rest of the work. Specify some details about the author, the circumstances for writing the book in question, and some information about the book. To start your introduction with a bang, try to begin the text with a quote, anecdote, or other phrase that will instantly grab the attention of the reader.
Summary is a major part of the book review – usually it takes up to 50% of the content. Here you will need to briefly retell the events from each of the book chapters without giving away any plot twists or ending – your job is to encourage the reader to become so interested in the book that they can’t help but read it too.
4. Critical analysis and evaluation
The next chapter of your book review is the most personal one, as here you will present your own opinion on the book. Among the things that need to be in this part of your review is, for example, a list of requirements for successful books in that particular genre and whether the author meets the criteria. You can also list the positive and negative sides of the book, as well as point out possible inconsistencies or weak spots in the plot.
The conclusion of the book review is not intended for introducing new ideas – it should be used for reinstating your position. In a few sentences, summarize why you believe the book you’ve reviewed is a good or bad piece of literature and what exactly make it what it is.
Even if you hardly ever make spelling or grammatical mistakes, when you’re truly immersed in the writing process, it’s not uncommon for book reviewers to make some mistakes in their writing. That is why we strongly recommend proofreading your work once you’ve finished the review. You can also ask someone else to proofread it too: that way you will not only minimize the chance of unnoticed mistakes, but will also receive a sincere feedback.
Writing different book review formats
As you write more and more book reviews, you will develop your own reviewing style and techniques, as well as finding your unique writing voice. However, if you’re only beginning your path in writing book reviews, here are some tips on how to write different styles of reviews.
1. History book review
When working on your history book review, pay special attention to the following aspects:
- What techniques and arguments the author used
- What were the historical circumstances for publishing the book
- Which sources and evidence were used by the author for credibility
- How the book’s structure affects its character
2. Critical review
A typical critical review should be based upon three aspects: who is the author, why he decided to write the book, and what can the readers get from the book.
- Investigate and describe what kind of an expertise the author has to write the book and what makes him knowledgeable about the problems and concepts described in the book.
- What were the author’s reasons for writing the book and how his evidence and assumptions support the main purpose of the book?
- What does the book bring to the table of discussion and how can the readers benefit from the book? Answering this question is a great basis for the conclusion of your book review.
3. Scholarly book review
The review of a scholarly book isn’t that different from any other book review you’ve written before, but there is still one big difference: in the beginning of your review, make sure to include a citation of the book in one the following formats: MLA, APA, or Chicago.
The book review writing process consists of several important parts, which are all crucial for the success of your essay. Read the source material, note down everything important, pay special attention to your writing, and don’t forget to proofread your work in the end.