Writing A Book Review

An article by Kay Hedges Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Book Review Writing

Before writing a book review, make sure to understand the difference between a book report and book review. Many people use these terms interchangeably; however, there are vital differences in how they are written.

Book Review and Book Report – Is There a Difference?

  • A book report has a factual emphasis. It is a realistic account of the subject matter of the book. Its aim is to present the content and the structure of the book as objectively as possible. The book report includes a plot summary; it doesn’t look into deeper meanings of the book and doesn’t attempt to explain the symbolism.

    Book report writing is a good way to structure and articulate the thoughts about the subject book. In a nutshell, it is simply a summary of the contents of the book.

  • A book review is a critical evaluation of the book that provides a thoughtful and in-depth analysis, and evaluation of the main idea, and purpose of the book. It is also a kind of reaction paper, which analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the book in terms of accepted historical and literary standards, supporting this evaluation with evidences from the text. In a word, it presents the assessment of the quality, meaning, and significance of the book.

    What, in fact, sets book reviews apart from book reports is their personal character. Book reviews are highly personal and reflect the opinions of the reviewer on the given literary work. In the book review the reviewer clearly states his position and impressions regarding the book under consideration.


Structure of Book Review

The structure of book reviews resembles other types of academic writing. Book reviews usually comprise of a thesis statement, a supporting body paragraph, and a conclusion.

Reviews are succinct, they rarely exceed 1000 words. Book reviews consist of descriptive and evaluative elements. In the descriptive element, include the essential information about the title, author, type of book, and general subject matters.

In the evaluative element, include an assessment of the book, particularly of the perceived ideas and implied purposes, quoting exemplary passages from the text.

A good book review is well organized, includes the critical assessment and analysis, and it clarifies the spirit of the literary work. Book reviews may vary in tone, style, and subject; however they share a common structure.

Here are a few helpful tips.

  • Before beginning, make a few notes highlighting the important points
  • Think of the reader as a friend who is interested in the story
  • Note the name of the author and the book title in the first paragraph
  • Use one paragraph for

    each point to serve as emphasis

  • Stress the main theme in the beginning of the review. This helps the reader understand if they want to continue
  • Talk about whether the book is part of a genre, like mystery, adventure, or romance. What aspects of the genre does it use?
  • Discuss the book’s writing style. Is it funny? Does it sufficiently portray a sense of the setting? What is the author’s/narrator’s “voice” like?
  • Try using a few short quotes from the book to illustrate the points. This gives the reader a sense of the author’s writing style.
  • Explain the feel about the book and not just what the book is about. A good review should express the reviewer’s opinion and persuade the reader to share it, to read the book, or to avoid reading it.
  • Do research about the author and incorporate that into the review. Biographical information can help formulate opinions about the book and gives the review a “depth.” Any book is the product of an author’s mind; and, therefore, it may be helpful to know something about the author and how she or he came to write the book.


Begin with an introduction

As you write the introduction, note that it should contain factual and descriptive data, including the name of the author, some relevant details about his life and creative work, the title and main theme of the book.

The second component of the introduction is the subject of the book, which may be very perplexing to uncover since stories, novels, and plays don’t explicitly state this.

Try to reveal a special angle and novelty of the piece that will encourage further discussion and evaluation and allow the book review to be original.

The introduction should be descriptive; however it should be catchy to seize the attention of the readers. Choose an interesting form of presenting the ideas to make sure readers stay interested. Many writers begin their book reviews with a quip or an anecdote that delivers their intended point.

Each book review is different, but each successful review includes a couple of key elements that are designed to help describe to the reader what is most important.

  • Describe the setting of the book. How does it compare or contrast to the world? A book’s setting is one of its most vital components. Does the author draw the reader into the setting?? Try to pass onto the reader the sense of the setting and place that the author has provided.
  • Describe the book’s main characters. Does the writer make them believable as people? Why or why not? Think about whether liking them or disliking them makes a certain feel in the book. Use examples of things they’ve said or done to give a sense of their personalities.
  • Give the reader a taste of the plot, but don’t give the surprises away. Readers want to know enough about what happens in a book to know whether they’ll find it interesting. But they never want to know the ending! Summarize the plot in a way that will answer some questions about the book but leave other questions in the reader’s mind.


Keep on Summarizing

Next follows a concise summary of the literary work, where the author’s purpose of writing the book is stated. It should provide a leading idea, plus compare and contrast the main characters.

Plunge the readers into the atmosphere of the book to make them interested in the ideas discussed in this literary piece and to uncover an understanding of the symbolism and implicit themes contained in the book. Articulate clearly and logically, making each argument persuasive and sound.

A critical assessment of the literary work will require that arguments and assertions are proven with concrete evidences from the text. A critical assessment implies not only an analysis but also whether or not reading it was effective, persuasive, and exciting. This should promote a discussion on how it enhanced a greater understanding of the issue at hand.

The analysis and evaluation should be organized into separate paragraphs that deal with particular aspects of each argument. Make the structure of the summary logical and comprehensive, not just a chronological review.

Draw a logic conclusion

Sum up and restate the thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book in the conclusion. Don’t introduce any new ideas and evidence for each argument, make a conclusion that is based on ideas that extend the logic of the thesis statement.

Write the first draft

After completing the preliminary questions, write a first draft of the review. Take these elements and weave them together into a complete review. When the first draft is finished, rewrite and revise.

  • Check back through the writing tips and incorporate as many of the suggestions as possible.

  • Read through each paragraph and make sure the main point is clear.

  • If a sentence or paragraph seems awkward or unclear, it has to be rewritten — and rewriting is what separates good writing from bad. Begin by trying to simplify.

  • Check to make sure points are not repeated. Make sure to state the main points clearly and emphatically. Then explain why the point is important, instead of saying it again. Repetitive writing makes for dull reading.

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