Learn How to Write a Book Review
The contents of a book review can vary widely based on the audience, the genre, and where the review is published. However, there are a few basic elements that are applicable to most critical book reviews. Once you have the format down, consider getting into book reviewing for pay.
- General Information: All book reviews should contain some key information for the audience. This includes, of course, title, author, genre, plot outline and publisher. It might also include the number of pages, list price, ISBN number and other such minutiae.
- Expanded Plot or Content Summary: Again, this will vary, with some publications or outlets wanting more, and some wanting less. Some may ask that the summary be straightforward with no personal reflection or analysis weaved in it, while others may want you to go back and forth between the two. Generally, a book review should reveal the central issue, but not the solution of that issue- that is, don't give away the ending! Non-fiction summary should focus on the premise of the book, how that premise is presented and backed up, and what the author posits or adds to the subject matter.
- Personal Reactions and/or Analysis: This portion of your review should detail how the story or book affected you. This is the place where you would explore personal connections, prior experiences with the author or subject matter, and perhaps even talk about misconceptions or pre-existing perceptions you may have brought into the review with you. At the same time, this conversation sometimes dovetails into the process of analyzing the author's intent, motivation, and outcome, along with strengths and weaknesses.
- Recommendations: Many book reviews will end with the writer's recommendation on the text. Declare your personal take on the novel, and elaborate on your recommendation (or non-recommendation, as the case may be.) This is the place to make any declarations or statements on the overall value and quality of the text.
Based on your targeted publication, you may have to change up or add to these basics, but they should provide a good starting point for the writer who wants to get into this particular genre of critical reviewing.
Sample Book Reviews
- American Library Association's "BookList Online" review of The Last Secret of the Temple
- Mark Flanagan, reviews Walter Mosley's
- The New York Times review of Good Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens.