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Book Review Writing: Don't Be a Critic, Be an Etiquette Reviewer

PS has worked as a freelance writer since 2012. When she's not traveling and writing, she helps people with web design and development.

What is a book review and what is its purpose?

What is a book review and what is its purpose?

Writing Book Reviews

Writing a book review is not always an easy task as most of us are not literary experts. Even if we are, we become a little biased and have our own preferences when writing positive and negative reviews. That makes the reviewing task tedious and non-reliable.

Writing a review is not an activity that we do just to put our opinion out there; many people are paid to do so. To make it look genuine and flawless, here I am sharing a few tips with you to make your writing easier and provide readers with some interesting insights.

Book Reviews Are of Different Types

Before starting with the writing tips, it’s important to know the different forms of book reviews.

  1. Reviews are critically written for evaluations in academia that involve the work examination as per the literary standards.
  2. Reviews are written for websites and print periodicals.

The platforms for which these reviews are used vary drastically, but at their core, they are quite similar. In both cases, you can be a little less formal if the review needs to be quite long and descriptive. Under both situations, your aim must be to help your readers conclude their decision of buying or downloading the book, along with other options that are equally well or much better suited for them.


Prerequisites for Book Review Writing

1. Get Hold of the Book and Read It Thoroughly

A book review becomes less credible if you haven’t read it yourself. As simple as it sounds. This way you don't only insult the writer’s efforts and time spent in writing the book, but you are also making yourself less worthy of being considered a sensible reviewer. Your review must showcase the in-depth understanding go the book that entertains readers and helps them come to a conclusion.

The question is the style of book reviewing that is seemingly gaining huge popularity. It is loosely based on facts, which are transformed into opinions and majorly based on opinions which are portrayed as facts.

— Gore Vidal, American Writer

Spend some time reading the book. Take notes of interesting characters and engaging sections that you think lure readers to buy the book. Also, consider the author’s writing style and how he/she has progressed with the story development. How does it start? Where is it leading? Where it must actually lead? Is it predictable? If it’s a self-help book, how is it different from others and does it really strike on its intentions?


2. Add Your Personal Touch

Readers buy books based on emotions- in fact, every buying activity is based on emotion. They are the most important part of every book, so your notes about your personal likes and dislikes will be beneficial for them. These emotions must come from the story, final message and author’s technique. To better guide you in this part, here are some questions you must ask yourself:

  • How does the story impact you, is it motivating, upsetting, or hilarious?
  • What part made you feel the happiest and worst?
  • Is it a one-time read or good for lingering longer?
  • Which are your most and least favorite characters and why?

3. Think About Your Readers

Knowing your readers is the most important aspect of writing. You must know who’s going to read these reviews. Are the readers from educational institutes, book clubs or habitual magazine readers? Research a bit about the publication to understand your audience’s mindset. For example, a review meant for a women’s magazine that is exclusively about humorous topics can be informal and a little shrewd. On the other hand, magazines that talk about serious topics look for more formal and analytical reviews.

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Writing the Review

The Introduction

  • The introduction is the core part of your review. Its spontaneity ensures that readers are going to read the full review. Make it engaging from the very beginning.
  • You can start the paragraph by writing about an inside detail of the book which is unclear and astonishing. It’ll be intriguing and can easily grab attention.
  • Question yourself about what you found most amusing and unexpected in the book that made you read it till the end. For example consider a book based on a drug addict named Blair Stevens (say), who is currently in rehab. So you can write, “Blair Stevens is forced into rehab for excessive drug use, but she’s looking for a five-star treatment and a luxurious establishment, where she can recover from life’s hardships. There’s a surprise in store for her… ”
  • Even if you disliked the book, start with a question or a quote that encourages readers to find out what’s it actually all about. For example, if the book is based on a science genre, but you found it distasteful, then the opening can be “Speaking of its sci-fi theme, I was delighted to put my hands on it, but… [give a hint of what annoyed you]”.

The beginning paragraph concentrates on the interesting snippet rather than going deep down into the detail of why such a thing happened. For example, you start with where Blair Stevens is and then, later you describe how she became a drug addict and the reason behind her transformation.

Include the Author’s Name

Along with the story, it is important to mention the author’s name along with his or her achievements and recognition. Also, inform the readers if the book is one of the author’s best-selling works. The name plays a very important role, for example, if authors like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King write a book and readers are unaware of it, then they’ll be drawn to read the review not because of the book’s title, but because of the author’s name.

Important Additional Details

Some readers are very clear about what genre of books they prefer. For example, one of my friends is extremely drawn to science dystopian genre novels, if she finds any book related to this genre, she’d surely go for it.

Make sure to include the genre and also, mention if the book belongs to any series and readers need to read some other related books to better understand its story.


Main Part of the Review

After the introduction, there’s a body of a review where you need to write the summary or a little description of the book, without providing much detail about the important details. (You know, spoiler alert!)

1. Examine the Text

  • Make sure the characters are easily understandable.
  • You have clearly described their roles and they are fully realized.
  • Your words must make the readers, personally understand their importance in the storyline.
  • Don’t try to justify everything in your review, leave a few holes and mysteries unresolved, but make sure your content is well-mapped and logical.

2. Understand the Story’s Motive

  • Every book is written with the purpose to understand its meaning.
  • What makes this book important? Why did the author decide to write this book in the first place?
  • How does it relate to contemporary society, people, and the environment?
  • Does it somewhat relate to the author’s life or his/her acquaintances?
  • Possibly, the book is written solely for entertainment purposes. If it is so, define how humorous it is. Is it dark comedy or relevant to the stressed people who need an escape from daily office life?

3. Use Factual Information

  • Justify your thoughts with solid facts to help you establish credibility.
  • If you are new and people don’t know much about your reviewing procedure, it is important to help them understand the essence of the book with reasonable examples.
  • Extract a few lines from the book and add them to your review to build a valuable link between your thoughts and that of readers’.
  • For example, if the main character is a middle-aged married woman who is a criminal. You can add a few lines from the stories about her wrongdoings that justify the statement.
  • Don’t go for copy-paste, you are not rewriting the whole sequence, you only need to use snippets to establish the foundation for your thoughts.

Concluding the Review

This is the time to end your review, finish it with personal impressions. What were your initial thoughts? How did they change after reading the book? Does the book change you as a human being? What impact did it have on your mind? What do you think about the author’s writing style?

Maintain professionalism. End the review with a rating along with a reason for choosing the specific rating.

Don’t mull over your thoughts about how much you liked or disliked the book. Remember what you found annoying and uninteresting may not be the same for others. There’ll always be readers who look for something that you never liked to have and vice-versa.

A recommended way to review the book that you disliked is to write in the conclusion what types of readers would like to read this book. For example, the book may be suitable for readers who believe in fairy tales and have a thing for supernatural elements. You can also give reference to other books such as people who enjoyed Mirror, Mirror would cherish this book as well.

There’s no strict format for writing the book review. Make it personalized with professionalism in an organized manner. Besides the book’s title and author’s name, you can also include its publisher, date of publication, ISBN, special features such as illustration, pictures or any other visuals along with the price and where it can be purchased or downloaded.

© 2019 Prachi Sharma


Julia Rose from Japan on September 06, 2019:

I really like this and will be keeping a note of it for some book reviews ^^.

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on August 07, 2019:

Very interesting! I like how you broke the review down. Thank you for sharing :)

Prachi Sharma (author) from Seattle, WA on August 06, 2019:

Hi Tajwer, I am quite new to book reviewing. I recently received one task where I'd to review a book based on paranormal activities. I did some research and found these points to be strikingly relevant. I'm glad you agree. Thank you.

Prachi Sharma (author) from Seattle, WA on August 06, 2019:

Thank you Kathy. I am glad my thoughts match with yours.

Tajwer Shakir on August 06, 2019:

Being a book reviewer I totally agree with your key points!

Kathy Henderson from Pa on August 06, 2019:

Interesting article, this is a difficult task I would think. I myself a bit of an empath, and therefore would not be the best critic. Though to understand and improve I believe an honest review is important and also not my gifted area. Very truthful points in this piece.

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