A Practical Guide to Writing Book Reviews

Updated on March 26, 2018
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When we talk about books review, we mean a literary criticism in which a book is objectively analysed based on its contents, style, and merits. It is a total overhaul of any piece of a written work, or appreciation of its entire structure, ranging from the cover title, theme, plot, style, characters, as well as its general contents.

What to Consider While Reading a Book for a Review

  1. The Cover Title: Whether you are reading a prose, poetry, drama, or any other textbook for a review, the first thing you will consider is the book's title. Check if the title suits the theme of the work or not. Also, take a critical look at the picture and its role on the cover page. Find out if there is any relationship between the title and the picture. Compare both with the themes associated with the story of the book; ascertain if there will be need for changes or not.

  2. Author's Point of View: What is the theme, or subject matter of the book? Do you agree or disagree with the author's point of view, I mean, what the author is talking about? Can you convincingly make your audience to see reasons why you agreed or disagreed with the author?

  3. The Book's Target Audience: Another vital issue to consider while reading a book for a review is its target audience. Check if the book is for children or adults; men or women; married or unmarried, etc. If the book is for children, find out if the author has delivered his message in a child like manner. Examine his creative prowess in using cartoons and other similar drawings to convey messages? If the book is designed for adults, how well has the author delivered his message maturely? Evaluate the idioms, proverbs, and riddles used, to ascertain if they were properly used, or erroneously lured into the pages. My previous article on 12 tips for writing publishable, readers friendly works, also touched those vital areas to ponder as you read a book for a review.

  4. The Development of the Story: If you are reading a book, be it a fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction, for a review, take a close and critical look at the author's style of writing and compare it with the target audience. Find out if his style is suitable for the target audience or not. Take a look at the setting, the plot, characters and their roles, as well as the general concepts. Identify those areas the author marvellously did well, as well as what is needed to be added or removed. If the author did well, simply appreciate the work. Critics are not fault finders. So, you mustn't criticise a good work. Also, consider the concluding section of the book, with a view to finding out if the book ended well or in a slapdash manner.

Writing a Book Review

Having finished reading and making notes for a book review, the next line of action is to write the review. In every book review, we have what I called the book's identification, the narrative stage, the findings and recommendations.

1. Identifying the Book: Start writing your review by identifying the reviewed book to the public. Let the public know the followings:

  • The book's title
  • Author's name
  • The publisher
  • Date of publication
  • Number of pages/words
  • The price of the book, and
  • The name of the reviewer

The book's title enables readers to ascertain if the book worth reading or not. The name of the author is also important. Most readers plung into reading a reviewed book of an unknown author, just to know what prompted the critic to review it.

A reader may also be interested to know who accepted and published the book, and how well the publisher has done in editing and proofreading it.

The publication date shows how current is the book, and the nature of the writer's vision. The number of pages/words provides information about the volume of the book, while the price determines its affordability.The name of the reviewer is also crucial. It tells the reader if the reviewer is a new critic, or not. The credibility of the past reviews of known critics determines how serious readers will take their work.

2. The Narrative Stage: Here, the reviewer gives a comprehensive account of the book, devoid of bias statements. A critic is not expected in this stage to evaluate the book, as to its strength and weaknesses, rather, he is expected to provide in depth information that will excite and arouse the curiosity of readers.

3. Findings/Recommendations: The opinions of the reviewer prevail here. The reviewer evaluates the book and comes up with his findings. He makes references to the strength and weaknesses of the writer. If it is a creative work, the reviewer checks the setting, the plot, the narrative technique, diction, characters and their roles, coherency, theme, etc. It is important to note that the essence of a book review is not to condemn the work, but rather, to give a corrective light to the work. Avoid rude and provocative comments. It is better to say: "I believe, the title of this good work was given in error. I suggest, the title would have been .... which would encompass the entire theme," than to put it in this way: "The title of this work dose not in any way suits its theme, and has to be removed and replace with ... No sensible writer can write such a romantic novel and gives it a religious title." In your findings and recommendations, don't create the impression that you would have done better than the author. Don't be so clever, to point out every minor errors, for that would portray you as a hostile critic. Where there is need to comment on punctuations, spellings, wrong use of words, and other errors, better put it this way: "I believe, this work has some editiing problems and should be revisited. (See chapter 2, line 5, 7, and 12, of page 15. Also, see chapter 6, line 1, 2, 6, 15, 22, and 25, of pages 13, 14, 18, and 20.) Nevertheless, the great work of John Hill is good for couples and men in relationships.


A Well-Structured Example of a Book Review

  1. Book's Title: The Beauty Ugly Queen

    Author: D. C. Chigbo

    Publisher: Literary World Press

    Date of Publication: 21st March, 2018

    Number of Words: 1,500

    Price: Free

    Reviewer: Ugwu James

  2. In his recent book, D. C. Chigbo has clearly demonstrated what beauty is all about, just within a space of 1,500 words. The story started with a loud cry of King Ezeji, who lost his only child, Prince Kosimasim, when he had no hope of bearing children again.

    Most often has the children of this generation disobey their parents, mostly when it comes to marriage. Kosimasim, upon his graduation from a university, brought home, a beautiful hot stuff damsel, whom he has proposed to marry.

    King Ezeji wasn't comfortable with such marriage proposal. He wondered why his son would dump Kachisikem, his childhood friend, for a complete stranger, whose real identity is unverifiable. Even when he demanded an explanation from his son, Kosimasim claimed that Somma had a better education than Kachisikem, adding that her charming beauty was capable of clutching the support of the natives of Umubaku Kingdom, as their future queen. His explanations portrayed a clear sign that Kosimasim didn't know the meaning of beauty, when it comes to marriage.

    This prompted the King to explain both in clear terms and idioms, the true definition of beauty. He made his son to understand that Kachisikem was the most beautiful woman he would marry, even though, she was ugly.

    It is said that what would kill a dog does not allow it to perceive stinking deification. Kosimasim refused to hearken to his father's words. He insisted that he must marry Somma, threatening to remain single, had his father wouldn't support him to marry his choice.

    If the marriage had ended in divorce, King Ezeji and his son would have celebrated. Prince Kosimasim had never enjoyed his union with Somma, even for once. He was subjected to unbearable condition as his wife lived a wayward life, that eventually engulfed his life.

  3. I must commend D. C. Chigbo for this great work. He has shown that a big idea can exist in a very narrow space. The title of his work truly represented its theme (good character is the beauty of a woman) and the cover picture lures readers into the book's contents. Indeed, the writer is creative. Even though, the story started from the end (burial of Kosimasim,) there was a coherent and smooth development of events. The most beautiful part of the work is that characters were named according to their roles, while scenes were carefully chosen and properly described in line with events. The author succeeded to deliver his message in a simple, mature British and American English, garnished with properly used proverbs and idioms. The book, I must say, is good for every family and the unmarried.

Note: This example of a reviewed book is of three parts. The part one of it which is seen as number 1, represents the book's identification. The part two which is tagged number 2, represents the narrative stage, while number 3, represents the findings and recommendations.

© 2018 Chigbo Douglas Chiedozie

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