How to Write an Effective Book Review: A Formula for Success
Put Your Love of Reading Into Words
I love to read and share books with my friends and readers. I think the best thing about reading is dialoguing about books and sharing stories.
As part of my job at a weekly newspaper, I write book reviews. Here's the formula I use to construct my reviews:
Introduction: a few sentences about the book (sometimes what caught my attention when I picked it up.) Make sure to include the title and author here. That's the most important thing and needs to be in the first sentence. Repeat the book title throughout the review as appropriate.
Summary: Summarize the book in a few paragraphs. This is the most difficult thing because you have to give enough information so the reader knows about the book, but withhold information so as not to give things away about the plot. It's a tightrope walk. Readers don't want to read the whole plot in a review, but they also want to know generally what the book's about.
Opinion: Here's where you get to tell what you liked and didn't like about the book. If you absolutely HATED it, try to think about a group of people who would like the book and why. In this section you get to analyze how the author put the book together: characters, language, plot, descriptions, literary devices, etc. The point here is to entice the reader to read the book (if you liked it) or not to read the book (if you hated it.)
Other Things to Think About: As
a reviewer, your responsibility is to future readers of the book, not
to the author or the characters. You have to be truthful in your
reviews without being overly dramatic or gushing. If you do this, then
readers will start to trust you and your advice. Be to the point. More words does not mean a better review.
Also, if I know I'm going to review a book I'm reading, I keep a few pieces of paper folded up inside the book to make notes on as I read. That way, when I go to write the review, I remember what I was thinking as I read the book. I flag (with post-its or write down the page numbers) parts I liked or didn't like and why. Again I use these when I write the review at the end. I usually don't quote material in a review unless it's absolutely critical to my point.
Read and analyze reviews to get a sense of how others write and construct them. As a personal rule, I don't read reviews of books I'm writing about until after I have completed my review. I don't want the other person's words in my head as I am trying to write. Other then hub pages, Amazon posts reviews on their site from both professional reviewers and people who just read the book. You can also check out your local paper or national papers, magazines, blogs and author websites for reviews.
Have fun, because it's really all about sharing books with other people. If you do believe that, it'll come through in your words.
Some Posted Reviews
- A review of StarShip Troopers
This Hugo-winning (and super-awesome) military science fiction story, first printed as an abridged serial in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (Oct and Nov 1959, as Starship Soldier), made hardcover...
- Dramatic Irony...Let the Reader in on the Joke
A review about a book I didn't love...
- Journey with Eat, Pray, Love
Follow one woman's journey around the world as she discovers herself.
- Water for Elephants Book Review
Sara Gruen's New York Times bestselling Water for Elephants is a gritty and spellbinding story that weaves Jacob Jankowski's adventurous youth as a circus vet with his confined existence as an aging man in a nursing home. This book creates a new defi