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How to Write a Book Review that Stands Out

Updated on September 15, 2014

If you’re looking to express your thoughts on a book or any piece of literature you’ve read, it’s important to do it in a way that’s articulate and easy to understand by your audience.

What is a book review?

A book review is a simple summary of a book you’ve read and displays your thoughts and suggestions about the book. It should always contain an introduction of the book and the author, a short summary of the storyline and its main characters and a critique on how well or bad the book was written. It can also contain your recommendation on whether or not the book is good read for the audience. In short, it’s a discussion you’re having with the audience about the author’s work.

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr | Source

Steps for writing a good book review

  1. Determine the audience. Who will be reading your review? Other authors? Your blog readers? Make sure the review is tailored to your target audience.
  2. Outline the storyline and identify the main characters. After introducing the book and author, it’s good to identify the main character and their role in the story. From there, it will be pretty easy to flow with writing the summary of the book. It’s also important to identify the time setting of the book; for novels, identify whether or not it’s present day or if it’s based on a historic event.
  3. Ask yourself: Is there an argument or thesis in this work? Is it a point of view you agree with? It may not be the case with novels, but for books that pertain to history or political arguments, it’s vital to identify the author’s thesis. Be sure to identify your analysis of the thesis or argument.
  4. Identify what the author uses to strengthen their story or argument. Was the story set in a historic setting or event? If so, it’s important to not only point that out, but discuss how that enhanced the story and made it more interesting to read. Also discuss if the author did a good job referencing the event or settling.
  5. Provide your opinion of the work or story. Was the book any good? Did it lack a good storyline or argument? Your readers need to know this – that’s why they’re reading your review! Discuss your thoughts of the author’s work, whether or not they did a good job
  6. Write the conclusion. This is perhaps the most important part of your review. In this section you want to be sure to recommend or not recommend the book. Identify the strengths and weaknesses as you saw while reading.

Be sure your review is the appropriate length and accessible for your readers. Source: Mike McCune, Flickr
Be sure your review is the appropriate length and accessible for your readers. Source: Mike McCune, Flickr | Source

Try to avoid:

  • Sounding like other reviews. The whole point is to make your review interesting and thought provoking for your reader. If it’s a book you’re commending, you will have to be very convincing in your review.
  • Sounding like a cliff note. That’s not why the reader is seeing what you have to say. Don’t just provide a quick summary of the book because that’s already provided in other areas online.
  • This is an assessment, so be fair and not sound too judgmental. You’re discussing an author’s work so try to avoid turning off your readers with an unfair assessment

Another Take on Book Reviews

A few more things to consider…

  • Does the book fall in the line of the genre it’s claiming? Is it a traditional romance novel or does it take a twisted approach at romance? Be sure to point that out in your review.
  • Who is the author? Are they associated with anyone in the book? Your audience may be interested in knowing this information.
  • Has the book provided you any insight on a certain topic? Be sure to include in the review.

Examples of book reviews:

Click here and here.

Don't forget who's reading

Always keep your target audience in mind when writing up your review.
Always keep your target audience in mind when writing up your review. | Source

Check out more thoughts on reading and writing

Join me on my new blog, New3Creations, a Writer's Haven

Advantages of good book reviews

  • Helps one to chose what they will read or study
  • Provide assessment of a story during a certain time period
  • Beneficial when comparing other books
  • You can widen your perspective on other works, books and authors

Other types of literary reviews

  • Articles
  • Scholarly
  • Popular book series
  • Author reviews

Vote on Book Reviews:

Have book reviews helped you in your reading selections?

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So There You Have It!

If you're an avid reader, doing a review of the books your read would be a great resource for the literary world. Unfortunately, many books go without being reviewed, making it less interesting for a reader's curiosity. There are blogs that are solely based on book reviews and they're informative if you want a summary of a book you're interested in. Do the research...it just may save you from purchasing a dud book!

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    • Zainab Tarawali profile image
      Author

      Musu Bangura 2 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Hi mariannesWhims - thanks for stopping by!

      Bernadette - Glad you found it useful. I figured I should provide this info because it was hard for me to find when I was starting out. Thanks for commenting.

    • Bernadette Harris profile image

      Book Bug 2 years ago

      Useful hub for book review hubbers. :) Thanks!

    • MariannesWhims profile image

      Marianne Gardner 2 years ago from Pacific NW, USA

      Thanks for the tips! Good points!

    • Zainab Tarawali profile image
      Author

      Musu Bangura 3 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Thank you lambservant. I'm glad this guide was helpful for you.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I love to write book reviews as well as music although I haven't done many. This is very helpful. Nice work.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I haven't yet published a book review, but have been thinking a lot about doing so. This is very helpful info. I'm bookmarking it. Thanks!

    • Zainab Tarawali profile image
      Author

      Musu Bangura 3 years ago from Nation's Capital

      janshares, I'm glad this hub was helpful to you! I'm also glad it was understandable to you as a reader. Thanks so much for the vote up!

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      I really needed this guide on how to do a book review, Zainab. I have a friend who asked me to review her new book and I haven't gotten around to it yet. I don't recall ever doing one before except in high school and college! So this will be extremely helpful. This is extremely well-written and informative. You've covered all the basic points to create a well-rounded book review. I'm so glad I found this hub. Voted up and useful.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile image
      Author

      Musu Bangura 3 years ago from Nation's Capital

      You're welcome, Denise! I'm glad you found this information helpful.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I am in the process of doing my first book review. Thanks for the helpful tips!

    • Zainab Tarawali profile image
      Author

      Musu Bangura 3 years ago from Nation's Capital

      FlourishAnyway, I think you should review them and out of curiosity see what others are saying about the books. You just may give someone the insight they need. :)

      Hi Ms Dora,

      Thanks for the feedback. It's much appreciated!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I consider this article very helpful for those who write reviews. I don't think you left out anything the reader would want to know. Good job!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Good points. I read a lot -- chew through books due to my high reading speed -- and have thought about doing book reviews, but they might be a little too pointed and honest. I just bought 5 books based on stellar Amazon reviews and several of them were merely so-so, one was just awful. There are other books that haven't sold well but are hidden gems. You provide good recommendations on how to write a good review for those who want to step out to do so.