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Writing a Book Review - How to Do It

Updated on April 21, 2012

Step 1. Read and Summarize

Truthfully, I prefer to read a book cover to cover, then go back and re-read the book again and take note of any points I found extremely interesting and/or highly educational depending on what type of book it was. That way you can report both your natural feel for the book, and the level of engagement you had in it as a reader, then you can follow up with any specifics.

Once you've read the book as often as you feel necessary, write out a summary of the book. If you are trying to make money or encourage others to read the book, then you'll want to make sure to include some teasers in your summary, but you won't want to give away all the juicy details. Leave some mystery so that your readers are enticed to go and get the book themselves. Though be careful not to sound overly promotional. It's not just bad hub-etiquette, it's just tacky and no one wants to feel their being "sold" on a book. They come to read reviews because they're pretty much sold on the book, they just want to see what others thought of it before they finally buy it.

If the book is fictional, you'll want to include:

  • The main characters and their direct cohorts
  • The basic idea of the plot and story line
  • Some hints about any really passionate or dramatic scenes or chapters
  • Your excitement (or lack there of) about the ending of the book

If the book is non-fiction based, you'll want to include:

  • The subject and any subtopics that the book covers
  • The type of reader who would find the book most helpful, or the type of reader that would most likely gravitate towards the book
  • What types of things you can learn from reading the book, including a few things you learned yourself.

Step 2: Compliment and Criticize

You have two choice at this point, and I personally find that it depends on your mood and the book being reviewed. You can:

  • Make a list of all the good and bad things about the book


  • List two or three really great/useful things about the book and one (two at most) things you would change about the book.

If you found a lot very interesting passages in the book that you want to list, follow with the first option and create an organize 'pros' and 'cons' or 'good' and 'bad' parts of the book. If you really only have one or two thoughts about how great or horrible the book was, stick with the second option.

Either way, try to keep both your compliments and your criticism constructive. If you are praising the book, keep it concrete as opposed to opinion based. Obviously it is your opinion that the book is good, your object is to tell people why it is good. When you are criticizing the book it's the same idea. Obviously you see some things that could use improvement, but your readers want to know why they should know that. Will it sway them away from wanting to buy it? Or will it simply give them an overall look at the book before they buy it?

Step 3: Your Opinion

When it comes to reviews, opinions are highly valuable when they are placed correctly within the review. The first part of your review should contain the summary, facts, pros and cons. After that, a well placed opinion about the book gives the reader a more personal perspective and helps them understand more about why you gave the book the type of review you gave it.

Try to keep your opinion passage at fewer than three paragraphs. You can go into more if you want, though many readers will find it difficult to keep focused on a long opinion piece. Keep it within three paragraphs and give your readers a peek inside the mind of the reviewer (you!). Let them know what you really think about the book. Would you recommend it? Or buy it as a gift for someone you know who would enjoy it? Or would you burn the book and regret that you ever spent the money on it? People want to know, so tell them where it made you swoon, how it helped you get ahead or in what ways it just wasted your money.

Step 4: Thumbs or Stars?

Now it's time to rate the book overall. Personally, I find that "thumbs" or "stars" are pretty universal ratings that everyone gets. Two thumbs up, one thumb up, two thumbs down. 1 star, 3 stars, 5 stars. You can get crafty and do 3.5 stars are any similar variant.

Regardless of the symbolism you choose, a rating for the book is helpful and easy for everyone to understand. So give it two thumbs up, 5 stars or whatever, then let people know what made you decide on that rating.

Step 5: Keywords, Pics and Ads

You'll want to include a picture of the book you're reviewing, and don't forget to include relevant keywords, keyphrases and taglines that will help readers find your review.

If you are writing on hubpages or similar writing sites, you'll also want to take advantage of modules that allow you to advertise the actual book itself. Even if your intent wasn't to sell the book, or even if you wrote a horrible review, you can earn a little extra for your hard work, and there's nothing wrong with that, is there? =)


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    • BizGenGirl profile image

      Bema Self 5 years ago from Seattle

      Your very welcome Suzzycue =)

      And yeah, you could pretty much use these same tips for movie reviews. There really is not a lot of difference except that books are mentally visual, lol.

    • suzzycue profile image

      Susan Britton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the tips. I will use this hub information on book reviews. I suppose you could use these tips on movie reviews too. Could you?

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks, BizGenGirl! Your hub is tops when it comes to clarity of instruction. I'd love to hear more in depth about how to review different types of books: poetry; short story collections vs. novels; genre fiction; teen fiction; children's stories; and non-fiction for education, or entertainment, or empowerment.

    • BizGenGirl profile image

      Bema Self 5 years ago from Seattle

      Millionare Tips, you ask some inspirational questions! So inspirational that I wrote this hub to answer your first question -

      I'll try to go more into depth about "Evergreening" reviews, tomorrow. =)

    • kloydskii profile image

      kloydskii 5 years ago

      Good suggestions! It is really a helpful article for i am studying Literature and Linguistics.

    • bmcoll3278 profile image

      bmcoll3278 5 years ago from Longmont, Colorado

      Great info thanks I plan to do some I will be better able to do it now thanks to you. voted up

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Okay, I'm game. You mentioned keywords. What types of keywords do you list? I know I try to use the author's name, book title, and maybe a theme or category of the book (fiction / non-fiction), (crafts / politics). What else?

      I've written a hub about writing book reviews as well. In it, I tried to think of ways to make a book or movie review more evergreen. I was wondering if you had any ideas about writing a book review that doesn't die when the popularity of the book or movie fades.

    • BizGenGirl profile image

      Bema Self 5 years ago from Seattle

      I'm glad you all enjoyed this hub! That's why I love to write, to help =)

      Does anyone have any other questions about how to write book reviews or how to write anything else? =)

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      You include here your opinion on what makes a useful book review. A very helpful guide I will refer back to!

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Excellent ideas on writing book reviews. I write book reviews on new authors whose books I have read. This will give me a much better frame to set up the book reviews with. up + and shared.

    • nilaeslit profile image

      Nila Eslit 5 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you for these tips. I have been thinking of doing a book review but don't know how to start. I bookmarked your article for my reference.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      These are great ideas for writing a book review. I think I pretty much do this, except I have a hard time rating a book with stars or thumbs, etc. I am working on getting better at that.