Book reviews are intended to equip prospective book buyers with the information they need to make an informed decision about a particular book. A great book review not only describes the book, it skillfully evaluates and analyzes it. It assesses the goal or promise of a book and appraises how successful the book is at accomplishing the goal or fulfilling the promise. It’s also an expression of your opinion of the project—an opinion supported with evidence from the reviewed book.
Here are seven steps you can take to write a great book review:
Step 1: Before you read the book, evaluate the title, cover, back-cover copy or online summary. What do you expect from the book based on these items? What is the book’s promise to you? The author’s thesis or premise? Do you agree or disagree with the thesis of the book (nonfiction)? Are you intrigued by the story question (fiction)?
Step 2: Read the entire book before reviewing it. This may seem obvious, but I’ve read reviews of books, I’m sure the reviewer never bothered to read.
Step 3: As you read, highlight passages that strongly support the book’s premise. Also mark phrases that challenge, encourage, exhort, entertain or teach you. You can pull quotes to include in your review. If you’re reviewing fiction, highlight descriptions or dialogue that provide a taste of the author’s writing.
Step 4: Note the author’s voice, style. Who is the intended audience?
Step 5: Write a great hook for your review, setting the tone for your readers.
Step 6: Write your review, including the following:
- How the book affected you.
- Explain how the author achieved the effects.
- Summarize the book.
- Weigh in with your opinion. Why would you recommend (or not recommend) this book? Give specific examples to back up your opinion.
- Compare/contrast this book with others in its category, if possible. (For instance, if you’ve read several books on this topic or in this genre.)
- What if anything has the book left out?
- What personal experiences have you had related to the subject or theme?
Step 7: After writing your review, carefully proofread it for inaccuracies, typos and errors. Be sure you have the correct title, author, publisher included.
If you’re part of a book’s launch, you can use the quotes gleaned in step #3 on social media to spur interest in the book. Your review is now ready to post to online bookseller sites. You may also submit it to periodicals that accept book reviews.