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 read a book you’re about to review
As I mentioned before, the work on a book 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’s a couple of things you should do while reading a book you want to write a review about.
Pay attention to everything while reading
Yes, you read that right. You should pay attention to literally everything while reading if you want your book 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 learnt from the book and the main ideas and themes are all relevant for your book 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.
Take notes while reading
Remembering all the details from a book, like 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 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.
How can Basmo help?
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.
To take notes while reading with Basmo, follow these steps:
- Open the app on your smart device.
- Tap on the book you are currently reading.
- Start a reading session.
- As you read and important details reveal themselves throughout the book, simply start typing within the reading session.
- Once you finish the reading session, your notes will remain saved within the book and you can access them anytime and from anywhere.
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.
How can Basmo help?
Luckily, Basmo can again be of help.
As soon as you tap to end a reading session, you are prompted by the app to mention how you feel. You can choose emoticons to mark how that particular section of the book made you feel and you can also write your thoughts in a separate note.
This is the final step in any reading session, which makes it particularly easy for you to write down your thoughts about each section of the book, as soon as you finish reading it.
Adding quotes in a book review is always a great idea. They give your text more credibility, they are great ways of emphasising 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.
How can Basmo help?
Basmo even goes the extra mile to make this process smoother and more efficient. Not only can you write your quotes manually while reading, 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.
To use this feature, follow these steps:
- Open the app and select the book you’re currently reading from the main screen.
- Start a reading session.
- As you read, if you come across a quote you might want to add to your book review, you can either add a note manually or use the page scanner within the app. You can scan pages of a book, extract the relevant text and then format it as you see fit.
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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 of 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. Start with a short summary of the book
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.
2. Write about the most important aspects of the book
Follow up with a couple of important details about the book. This is where you should add information about the time when the book was written, the main theme, details about the author and his or her career, and point out the writing style.
Here is where the notes you took while reading come in handy. Check your notes within the Basmo app and see what technical details stood out to you while reading.
3. Use quotes to emphasise your ideas
Throughout the book 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.
4. Include what you liked about the book
As I mentioned before, your opinion is extremely important within a book review. Make sure to include any positive aspects you found while reading the book.
All your likes should appear in your book 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 of simply the general theme of the novel.
5. Mention what you didn’t like about the book
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.
6. Compare it with other similar books
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, mention which one you liked best or what you found interesting about the connections between these titles.
7. Write your conclusions about the book and give it a rating (if you want)
In the end, you need to conclude your book 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 rating. Whether you choose to go with the 5 stars system or to grade it from 1 to 10 or not grade it at all, it is up to you.
What to include in a book review?
Now that you have a pretty good overview of how to review a book, let’s have a look at what a book review cannot miss under any circumstances.
If you’re writing your book review for an audience, rather than as a writing exercise only for your benefit, a hook is very important.
What’s a hook?
Think of a song and try to sing it. The first thing that comes to mind when you’re humming a song is most likely the hook. It’s usually the catchiest part of a song, and if we apply this logic to your book review, it should be a sentence or a question placed in the first part of your review, which keeps your audience engaged and determines them to read your thoughts rather than move on ignoring your review.
Essential Book Information
Another very important piece without which your book review wouldn’t even come close to its potential value is the essential details about the novel.
That includes, among other things you find important, the year the book was written in, what genre it is a part of, who wrote it and at which point in his career and how many copies were sold.
Basic Plot Summary
Keeping in mind that everyone hates spoilers, a couple of details about the action are still mandatory in your book review and, as I mentioned above, they should appear at the beginning of your review.
Your Praise and Critique
I can’t stress enough the importance of your personal view in a book review. Without it, your review cannot exist or cannot be called a review.
Be critical, analytical and own up to your thoughts and opinions.
You can view writing a book review as a dialogue between you and your readers. Express your feelings as if you would speak to them directly and make your recommendations accordingly.
Explain why they should or shouldn’t read the particular book you’re telling them about and bring strong arguments. Your readers will respect you for it.
Final thoughts about learning how to write a book review
While becoming proficient in book review writing is clearly a long journey which 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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