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How to Write an Effective Book Review: A Formula for Success

Updated on June 18, 2013
So many books to read!  Why not share them.
So many books to read! Why not share them.

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.


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    • Grant's World profile image

      Grant Handford 12 months ago from Canada

      Thank you for writing this Hub. I am going to format a book review according to your suggestions.

      Have yourself a fantastic 2017.

    • profile image

      McKynzie 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for this! This was the very first page that I clicked on and right away I knew this was exactly what I was looking for. I only read a few sentences and knew this was spot on

    • profile image

      Johnb0 3 years ago

      Very good blog post.Really thank you! Fantastic. kdadgbfgbdce

    • shellyakins profile image

      shellyakins 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks, Ian. I love writing book reviews and have met several authors this way. I enjoy cultivating relationships with the authors and discussing their books with them after I read them. Mostly through Facebook. If you are a good reviewer and are consistent about it, they'll start sending you free books to review. I like free anything, but free books are the best!

    • Ian Dabasori Hetr profile image

      Ian D Hetri 6 years ago from Papua New Guinea

      This is a great piece of work. I have being doing some book reviews in the past and find this hub relevant.The whole idea of doing a book review is to tell others what you think about the book and the author and not what the author thinks about his book. The person who does a book review is like a sales man. He sells the book and the author. There are good benefits with doing a review if the authors are happy with your work. i mean some authors go to the extent of giving presents or further still other authors can publish your review in their blog or sites that can send huge traffic into you hub site boosting your earnings. Great up vote up and book marked.

    • shellyakins profile image

      shellyakins 6 years ago from Illinois


      I started writing book reviews two years ago for the paper I work for. I take the approach that it's like a blog and I use a blog type voice when I write. I read a whole bunch of reader reviews on Amazon and figured out what works and what doesn't work before I wrote my own. I use the outline above as a format to write my reviews.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      I'd love to try my hand at writing reviews -- guess it just means reading and writing a few practice reviews. Thanks for the good pointers

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

      These are great points to keep in mind, you have broken it down usefully. Voted up. :)