While reading is an activity many of us fell in love with years ago, writing book reviews is seen by some as a rather dreadful assignment. Learning how to write a book review is an important part of our education and plays an important role in our development even from a young age.
Writing a book review is a complex activity that actually starts while reading the book we are about to review. But, let’s clarify a couple of things first.
What Is a Book Review?
A book review is defined as a form of literary criticism and represents a critical analysis, a thorough description of a book, and an evaluation of its content, quality, meaning, and significance.
Its optimal length varies from 500 to 2000 words depending on the complexity of the book that is being analyzed and the reviewer’s personal opinion is an essential part of this type of writing.
How to Write a Good Book Review?
Knowing how to write a book review that is actually good is not something many can achieve. There’s a reason why there are so much fewer literary critics than actual writers.
The main reason for that is that one of the most important parts of knowing how to do a book review the right way is actually the reviewer’s opinion rather than the writing technique from the review. Of course, we are all entitled to our opinion and in order to efficiently put our thoughts in writing, we need to follow certain guidelines and respect a certain format for writing a book review.
Once you’ve finished reading the book (taking into account everything we mentioned above), it’s time to start writing. Here’s our roadmap to a successful book review.
1. Summarize the Book in a Couple of Sentences
Clearly one of the more important parts of writing a book review is a short summary of the action. Always start with a quick description of the book, adding what it is about, what period the action is taking place in, and who the main characters are.
Try to condensate the most relevant aspects of the book in a couple of short, easy-to-read sentences. You should avoid giving away too much information, so make sure you don’t give spoilers or reveal any key plot twists. Use this opportunity in all your book reviews to simply summarize the book as you would shortly tell a friend what the book is about.
Since your personal opinion matters, as opposed to the way a book report should be done, you can also mention from the start if you are going to use a rating system and what star rating you would give the book.
2. Include Information About the Author
As a book reviewer, you should never fail to mention a couple of important details about the author, preferably at the beginning of your review. This doesn’t only include information about the writer and his work, but also how the book is related to other titles in the author’s portfolio, what was happening in the writer’s life as he was writing the book, and other interesting details.
Perhaps you could expand on what you think the author’s purpose was. Share your thoughts about the way the writer manages to fit his book into a particular genre and whether it does that particular genre any justice.
3. Mention the Main Theme
One of the main steps to writing a book review consists of simply mentioning the main theme of the book in question. You should always pinpoint the theme, explain how it is represented by the author, and what its role is to the final outcome of the story. This is a great opportunity to also explore the way the theme fits into the genre the book is a part of.
4. Describe the Characters
Characters are a big part of the story. Some stories are simply built around certain characters who become more important in the reader’s eye than anything else. As a book reviewer, you will need to pay extra attention to them whenever you write about a book.
Write a little about their personalities, how they influence the outcome of the story and other particularities that make them stand out. Your readers will be interested in finding out whether they will love or hate certain characters.
5. Write About the Plot
Learning how to write book reviews means also learning how to present the plot of a book in a way that is comprehensive and attractive to your readers. You will need to be able to describe the story in just a couple of sentences and to find a way to condensate the essence of the plot in a way that captures its beauty and charm.
Share your opinions about the plot. Does the book keep you on the edge of your seat? Is the story laid back and more focused on details or descriptions than it is on the action? Did you enjoy the plot twists (or lack of twists)? Remember to never give spoilers.
6. Discuss the Writing Style
Another important job for any book reviewer that is worth his salt is to closely analyze and present the writing style the readers will find in the book in question. Are there any motifs that stand out? Is the author famous for a particular writing style?
On top of some technicalities, you should also mention how the writing style influences the reading experience and how it fits with the overall quality of the book. Is it an easy read? Should other readers have a dictionary nearby? Depending on the rating system you decide to use, you can also mention what star rating you would give the writing style.
7. Add Quotes
Throughout the review, don’t hesitate to use quotes from the book whenever you feel like they would support your ideas.
Whether you focus on writing techniques, the light different characters are being put in or other details about how the book was written, quotes play an important role in making your work more credible.
Use the quotes you saved with Basmo and sprinkle them throughout your book review wherever you feel they would bring value to your content.
8. Mention What Made You Love the Book
As I mentioned before, your opinion is extremely important in a book review, as opposed to a book report. Make sure to include any positive aspects you found while reading the book.
All your likes should appear in your review. Don’t hesitate to give praise where praise is due, whether you liked the way a character was built through the book, the action, the twists, or simply the general theme of the novel.
9. Your Dislikes Matter Too
Equally important are your dislikes. The process of learning how to review a book also consists of you becoming more opinionated about what you read.
Don’t be afraid to point out what you didn’t enjoy and bring arguments for your opinions. Mention what you think could have improved the book or the story, mention things that could have changed your overview, and be as honest and critical as you see fit.
10. Make Comparisons
Whenever you’re writing a book review, it’s a good idea to bring up other titles that have something in common with the one you’re reviewing and make a comparison.
Whether it’s other books written by the same author or novels from the same genre or the same period in history, if you’ve read them, it’s a good idea to bring that up. Compare the different styles and stories, and mention which one you liked best or what you found interesting about the connections between these titles.
11. Summarize Your Thoughts and Rate the Book
In the end, you need to conclude your review with your final thoughts about the novel. Write about the general feeling you were left with after finishing it, what the main theme was, how it was presented overall, whether you would read it again or not, and whether you would advise others to read it as well.
You also have the option to give the book a star rating. Whether you choose to go with the 5 stars rating system, grade it from 1 to 10, or not grade it at all, it is up to you.
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How to Read a Book You’re About to Review
As I mentioned before, the work on a review doesn’t start as soon as you put pen to paper to start writing it. This process starts as soon as you open the book you want to review. You need to actively read the book, not just leaf through it. Here are a couple of things you should do while reading a book you want to write a review about.
1. Pay Attention to Everything While Reading
Yes, you read that right. You should pay attention to literally everything while reading if you want your review to be a top-quality product.
The main characters, the story, the writing style and general tone of the book, how the author builds up tension before key moments in the action timeline, the lessons that are to be learned from the book, and the main ideas and themes are all relevant for your review.
It may sound a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry. You will see below that this is all quite manageable if you take our advice and take the process seriously from the start.
2. Take Notes While Reading
Remembering all the details from a book, as I mentioned above, is probably impossible for most of us, unless we take notes.
Taking notes while reading a book we’re about to review is essential. Write down everything you consider to be important, from character names, to plot twists and other details, as they reveal themselves in the book.If you don’t want the process of note-taking to be messy and disorganized, using a reading tracking app could be the right move for you. They are tiny little wizards installed on your phone or tablet, and they can take your reading experience to new highs.
Basmo for example allows users to take notes while reading, without even having to close the ongoing reading session.
Moreover, the notes can be formatted in quite a lot of different ways, which means that by using different fonts and styles, colors, and font sizes, you can keep your notes tidy, organized, and easy to read.
3. Write Your Thoughts After Each Reading Session
On top of taking notes while reading, it is also important to write down your thoughts or conclusions after each reading session. While the notes you take while reading have their role in helping you remember important details from what you read, the notes you take at the end of a reading session are equally important, but for different reasons.
The notes you take after certain sections of a book or after each reading session are an opportunity for you to explore the big picture, rather than the small details that make up the story. Draw your conclusions after each reading session, summarize what you read, how it made you feel, and what you think might happen next. Remember, a book review is different from a book report, which means that your personal opinion matters a lot. Whenever you jot down your thoughts, you should also consider how those thoughts will impact the final star rating you will give the book.
4. Save Quotes
Adding quotes in a review is always a great idea. They give your text more credibility, they are great ways of emphasizing your opinions about a book and they give your review’s readers a taste of the book they are reading about.
Quotes can be anything from a wise idea expressed by the author, a line from one of the main character’s dialogues, a nice description the writer makes, or simply a sentence that is integral to the way the story develops.
The way you integrate quotes in your book review is up to you and is a matter of personal choice. What’s important to remember is that reading apps can make the process of saving and even collecting quotes a lot easier.
Basmo even goes the extra mile to make this process smoother and more efficient.
Not only can you write your quotes manually while reading, but it gives you the option to also scan pages from a book, convert the images into text, and select the sentences or paragraphs you want to save.
Moreover, you can choose different fonts and colors and even turn your favorite quotes into images that can be easily shared on social media platforms.
Final Thoughts About Learning How to Write a Book Review
While becoming proficient in review writing is clearly a long journey that takes a lot of effort, determination, and practice, the important thing to remember is that if you’re disciplined, organized, and take advantage of the tools you have at your disposal, this goal is definitely achievable.
Never hesitate to use a reading app to make things easier for yourself. As mentioned above, Basmo comes packed with features designed to help you achieve any goals you might have when it comes to reading, including the right tools to aid you in writing book reviews like a pro.
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