Writing a Quality Book Review
Have you read some great….and maybe some not so great books recently on your eReader or Tablet device? Congratulations, you are part of a group of people known as “bibliophiles” who are reading more books each month using a variety of electronic devices. In the past, you relied on a friend, librarian, book club, or the book bestseller list in a newspaper to help you choose books. Today, you might be influenced to select a book for reading because of a good online review or a catchy book cover.
No doubt you have noticed that about two weeks after you purchased a book electronically, a request for a review appears in your email. Do some reviews help you make a choice to read that book? Do you wish you could write a fabulous review? Do you avoid doing a review because you do not know where to start? Well, you are in luck because this blog shares the key elements of a great review that will help you be a person of influence in the book-reading world.
What is a book review?
A review is a description of the book and your experience with reading this particular treasure. It can be as basic as a few impressions to as detailed and critical as a scholarly analysis. Reviewers provide a sense of the quality, meaning, and impact of a book. Book reviews are very personal creations because they share your opinion.
A review is not a retelling of the story. If you retell the story then you will spoil it for others. The review should instead focus on the purpose of the book, what the book is about, how you enjoyed the book, and in the case of non-fiction — does the book and author provide information that has merit. The review is a record of your emotional and intellectual response, an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, and how the book made you feel or think. A review may be as short as 50 words or longer – just remember that your review needs to get to the point quickly because the goal of a reader is not to spend hours reading reviews…his or her goal is to find that next book to read.
As readers, we are experts on how we want the story to develop and end or how much information a book should give to us… when it works or does not work, we can certainly share our opinion with others. You do not have to be an excellent writer to craft a good book review. Your goal is to assist customers in deciding whether to buy or borrow a book to read.
Are all reviews the same?
The answer is – NO – all reviews are not the same. The content and how you approach a review will depend on your intention and the requirements of your target audience.
The Descriptive Review
This type of book review gives the essential information about a book (style, subject, audience, plot, and character). This is usually done by sharing your interpretation of the work and by sometimes quoting particular passages from the text that you felt were especially strong or weak.
The Critical review
This type of review describes and compares the book to others of a similar genre. You do not always need to cite a specific book in the comparison but you most certainly can refer to similar works so that the reader of your review might be able to use this as a comparison.
Both types of reviews, descriptive and critical, benefit from including the following pieces in your review.
This is where you capture the reader’s attention, hopefully with your opening sentence. The introduction should state your main conclusion and set the tone of the review. This can be 10 to 15 words.
This should be sufficient so that the reader of your review will have some understanding of the author’s thoughts. This is not a story summary of the story; instead, it describes the elements or pieces that the author uses to bring the story to life. This has an overall appraisal of the book. Describe and evaluate what you think was the intent of the author and explain how well you think the author did in giving you a good book to read. You can provide quotations supporting your analysis. Your review is considered an opinion based on your reading. Share how you think the author succeeded (or failed) in his/her goal. Use examples to support your thoughts. This can have 50 to 250 words in this section.
Wrap up your review with some final thoughts and remind the reader of why you did or did not like the book. This can be 10 to 50 words.
How to Write that Perfect Book Review
Sit down and write all out thoughts out about the book. If the book was good and you feel positive about this work and want others to know about your great find — simply write that out with the Introduction, then write the Body, and end with a Conclusion as described above.
What about those times when you did not like the book? Certainly you want to “warn” others not to spend good money on this book. This is the most difficult review to write because it is negative. Many authors actually appreciate these reviews when they are well written because a negative review will help the author learn where he/she can improve. Other readers really appreciate knowing why you did not like the book because it helps them make an informed decision about whether or not the book might be good for him/her.
We can all admit it is more difficult to write a negative review. Simply writing “I hated this book” does not tell the next potential reader why. For a book that you consider to be of lower quality, it is a good idea to use the “sandwich” review approach. With this method, you write something positive about the book, then give the details of how this book failed (the negative part) and then find something nice to say in your conclusion. This will help the next potential reader understand why you gave the book a low rating. It also helps you “ease the pain to the author for receiving a negative review” by putting the bad parts inside of two good parts.
The Final Parts to your Excellent Book Review
Carefully read what you have written and make sure it is easy to understand. Check for grammar and spelling errors. Make sure your review is honest and avoids any personal attacks.
When you are ready, submit your review, and know that you have possibly helped 100’s or 1000’s of other bibliophiles find the next treasure or avoid spending money on a bad book.