How to Write An Engaging Book Review?
A book review is a thorough description, critical analysis, and evaluation of the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, often written in relation to prior research on the topic. Reviews generally range from 500-2000 words, but may be longer or shorter depending on several factors: the length and complexity of the book being reviewed, the overall purpose for which the review is written, and whether the review examines two or more books that focus on the same topic.
Professors assign book reviews as practice in carefully analyzing complex scholarly texts and to assess your ability to effectively synthesize research so that you reach an informed perspective about the topic being covered. And you can visit and choose our online book depot for your right book selection.
There are two general approaches to reviewing a book:
Presents the content and structure of a book as objectively as possible, describing essential information about a book's purpose and authority. This is done by stating the perceived aims and purposes of the study, often incorporating passages quoted from the text that highlight key elements of the work. Additionally, there may be some indication of the reading level and anticipated audience.
The practical notebook describes and evaluates the book in relation to accepted literary and historical standards and supports this evaluation with evidence from the text and, in most cases, in contrast to and in comparison with the research of others. It should include a statement about what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well you believe the author has succeeded in meeting the objectives of the study, and presents evidence to support this assessment. For most course assignments, your professor will want you to write this type of review.
What is a book review?
A book review is an honest reaction to a book that generally analyzes its themes, plotline, characters, dialogue, and use of literary devices (if applicable). Through this analysis, written in the first person, a reviewer combines their opinions with insights about the book, sometimes comparing it to other books by the same author or books in the same genre.
Book reviews have a few different purposes. As an academic assignment, a book review requires students to build their analytical skills by engaging with the text and writing a coherent critique. Book reviews on blogs and in magazines often serve to tell readers what to expect from a book so they can decide whether they’re interested in reading it. These reviews act as a preview, offering insights into a book’s content, themes, and storyline, particularly useful when accessed through platforms like smart school books online.
What should a book review include?
- Plot summary
- Thesis statement
- Critical analysis supported by quotations from the book
- Reviewer’s opinion based on their critical analysis
4 tips for writing a book review
1. Avoid repetition
A book review is its own piece of writing. By that, we mean your book review shouldn’t just repeat the book’s plot. It should add a new perspective about the book.
2. Be concise
Don’t ramble in your book review. Keep it focused on your analysis of the book since that’s the content your readers are looking for.
3. Support your claims and positions
Sharing your opinion is a significant part of writing a book review, but be sure to support your positions with insights from the book—as you’d support any claims you made in an academic essay with evidence from your sources.
Before you upload, send, or submit your book review, proofread it. Read it with a critical eye to catch any grammatical or spelling mistakes you may have missed in a previous round of edits.
How do you write a good book review?
Think of your book review as a conversation with a friend: You want to share your opinion and insights without giving everything away. Don’t spoil the book’s ending or its surprises, but do discuss how effectively you think the writing navigated its literary elements—such as plot, theme, and conflict—throughout the text.
Choosing a Book
Think about what kind of book would be most useful to you in writing your dissertation, finalizing a paper for publication, or passing your exams. Since book reviews do take time, like any writing, it is best to choose a book that will work for you twice, as a publication and as research.
Alternatively, some recommend that graduate students focus on reviewing textbooks or anthologies, since such reviews take less background knowledge and editors can find it difficult to find people willing to do such reviews. Although the traditional book review is of one book, editors will often welcome book reviews that address two or more related books–called a review essay.
Choose a book that (1) is in your field, (2) is on a topic for which you have sound background knowledge, (3) has been published in the past two or three years, and (4) has been published by a reputable publisher.
Books on hot topics are often of special interest to editors. It can also be rewarding to pick an obscure but useful book in order to bring attention to it. To avoid complications, it is best not to review books written by your advisor, spouse, or ex!
To identify a suitable book in your field:
- Look up the call number of the favorite book in your field and go to the stacks of your university library. Do a shelf search around the call number to see if anything similar or related has been published in the past couple of years.
- Go to any book database—your university library and search using two or three keywords related to your field to find books in your area.
- Read magazines that review books before publication—such as Choice, Library Journal to get a sense for interesting books that will be coming out. You can get copies of books for review before they are published. Editors especially like reviews of just published books.
- Read those academic journals that list books recently received for review or recently published in their area.
- Ask faculty members in your department for recommendations.
Once you have identified several books, locate copies and skim them. Pick the book that seems the strongest. Do not pick a book that has major problems or with which you disagree violently. As a graduate student, you do not have the protection of tenure and may one day be evaluated by the person whose book you put to the review.
If you really feel strongly that you must write a negative review of a certain book, go ahead and write the review. Academia is, after all, quite open now and young scholars do sometimes make their reputations by deflating those who came before them. Just realize that going on record in such a public way may have consequences.
Choosing a Journal
Identify several leading journals in your field that publish book reviews. One way to do this is to search an on-line article database or something like Book Review Digest, if your library has access. Using several keywords from your field, limit your search to book reviews and note the journals where the results were published.
Before starting to write your review, contact the book review editor of one of the journals. This is important standard practice; in particular because most journals do not accept unsolicited reviews. You do not want to write an entire review of a book and send it to a journal, only to be told that they don’t accept unsolicited reviews or that a review of that very book is to appear in the next issue.
So, send a short e-mail to book review editors at prospective journals (most journals have websites with such information) identifying the book you would like to review and your qualifications for reviewing it. This email need not be longer than two sentences: “I am writing to find out if you would welcome a review from me of [Book Title], edited by [editor] and published in 2012 by [publisher]. I am currently writing my dissertation at Stanford on the history of the field of [name of a field related to book].”
Another reason why you want to contact the book review editor is that they often can get you the book for free. Publishers frequently send books for review straight to journals or, if the book editor directly contacts them, straight to you. Of course, you don’t need to wait for the book to start your review if you have access to a library copy. If you get a free book, make sure to write the review. A book review editor will never send you another book if you don’t deliver on the first.
If the book review editor says yes, they would like a review of the book from you, make sure to ask if the journal has any book review submission guidelines. In particular, you want to make sure you understand how long their book reviews tend to be.
If the book review editor says the book is already under review, move on to your next journal choice or ask the editor if they have any books on the topic that they would like reviewed. You are under no obligation to review a book they suggest, just make sure to get back to them with a decision. It is perfectly acceptable to say “Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve decided to focus on writing my prospectus/dissertation.”
Reading the Book
It is best, when writing a book review, to be an active reader of the book. Sit at a desk with pen and paper in hand. As you read, stop frequently to summarize the argument, to note particularly clear statements of the book’s argument or purpose, and to describe your own responses.
If you have read in this active way, putting together the book review should be quick and straightforward. Some people prefer to read on the computer, but if you’re a good typist, you often start typing up long quotes from the book instead of analyzing it. Paper and pen provide a little friction to prevent such drifting.
Take particular note of the title, the table of contents, the preface (often the richest source of information about the book), and the index (is it accurate, broad, deep?).
Some questions to keep in mind as you are reading:
- What is the book’s argument?
- Does the book do what it says it is going to do?
- Is the book a contribution to the field or discipline?
- Does the book relate to a current debate or trend in the field and if so, how?
- What is the theoretical lineage or school of thought out of which the book rises?
- Is the book well-written?
- What are the book's terms and are they defined?
- How accurate is the information (e.g., the footnotes, bibliography, dates)?
- Are the illustrations helpful? If there are no illustrations, should there have been?
- Who would benefit from reading this book?
- How does the book compare to other books in the field?
- If it is a textbook, what courses can it be used in and how clear is the book’s structure and examples?
It can be worthwhile to do an on-line search to get a sense for the author’s history, other books, university appointments, graduate advisor, and so on. This can provide you with useful context.
Making a Plan
Book reviews are usually 600 to 2,000 words in length. It is best to aim for about 1,000 words, as you can say a fair amount in 1,000 words without getting bogged down. There’s no point in making a book review into a 20-page masterpiece since the time would have been better spent on an academic essay that would count for more on your c.v.
Some say a review should be written in a month: two weeks reading the book, one week planning your review, and one week writing it.Although many don’t write an outline for an essay, you should really try to outline your book review before you write it. This will keep you on task and stop you from straying into writing an academic essay.
Classic book review structure is as follows:
- Title including complete bibliographic citation for the work (i.e., title in full, author, place, publisher, date of publication, edition statement, pages, special features [maps, color plates, etc.], price, and ISBN.
- One paragraph identifying the thesis, and whether the author achieves the stated purpose of the book.
- One or two paragraphs summarizing the book.
- One paragraph on the book’s strengths.
- One paragraph on the book’s weaknesses.
- One paragraph on your assessment of the book’s strengths and weaknesses.
How long is a book review?
Generally, book reviews aren’t long. In most cases, they’re between 500 and 750 words. Keep your book review concise and focus on the book’s big-picture aspects, such as its character development, pacing, reliance on tropes, and use of literary devices. Summarize the plot, then focus on analyzing the book.
Mention what you did and didn’t like, and support these positions with quotations from the book. An effective book analysis is more than sharing your opinion; it’s interacting with the text and demonstrating that you’ve read it critically and formed a well-developed opinion about it.
How are book reviews structured?
Book reviews tend to follow similar layouts to other kinds of essays. An essay reviewing a book should begin with an introduction paragraph that summarizes the plot and includes the reviewer’s thesis statement.
Following the introduction, a book review should have one body paragraph per point it critiques. For example, a review may have three body paragraphs, one that discusses the book’s themes, one that discusses its characters, and one that discusses the author’s use of metaphor.
A book review ends with a conclusion paragraph that summarizes the points made in the body paragraphs and shares any final thoughts the reviewer has about the book. It may include a rating, like giving the book three stars out of five in case of school books.
Book review format
While book reviews vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features. These include:
- A review gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a description of the research topic and scope of analysis as well as an overview of the book's overall perspective, argument, and purpose.
- A review offers a critical assessment of the content in relation to other studies on the same topic. This involves documenting your reactions to the work under review--what strikes you as noteworthy or important, whether or not the arguments made by the author(s) were effective or persuasive, and how the work enhanced your understanding of the research problem under investigation.
- In addition to analyzing a book's strengths and weaknesses, a scholarly review often recommends whether or not readers would value the work for its authenticity and overall quality. This measure of quality includes both the author's ideas and arguments and covers practical issues, such as, readability and language, organization and layout, indexing, and, if needed, the use of non-textual elements.
Book review example
Since story is king in the world of fiction, it probably won’t come as any surprise to learn that a book review for a novel will concentrate on how well the story was told.
That said, book reviews in all genres follow the same basic formula that we discussed earlier. In these examples, you’ll be able to see how book reviewers on different platforms expertly intertwine the plot summary and their personal opinions of the book to produce a clear, informative, and concise review.
Some of the review book examples are there
I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith's novel I Capture the Castle is a journey through the mind of a young writer as she attempts to chronicle her daily life. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain has recently learned to speed-write, and she decides to work on her writing skills by describing the actions and conversations of those around her.
While I definitely recommend this book to other readers, I would recommend it to older teenagers, mainly because it will resonate better with them.
Over the course of the novel, Cassandra undergoes a definite transformation from child to mature young adult, even though it's only over the course of several months. I love that I could see into her mindset and read exactly what she was feeling when she thought out situations. Her thoughts flowed well and moved the book along very quickly.
Mapping the World
The Mapping the World 8-book set goes into amazing levels of detail. It is a long read, but it gives an immense range and amount of information that you would not find in any other book or series on maps. The flowing way the chapters and books are organized makes it easy to link passages from different books in this series together.
Mapping the World is a treasure box, filled with the seeds of cartography. Collect and plant them, and you soon will have the fruits of cartography, beneficial to those who want to be cartographers. Use this series to the utmost, then the fruits of mapping will be sweet for all who endeavor to succeed in cartography.
Writing a book review is something worth thinking about. Professors commonly assign this form of an assignment to students to enable them to express a grasp of a novel or any other main topic or book. Following the book review format that is mentioned above is highly useful for beginners, as well as reading step-by-step instructions. Writing tips is also useful for people who are new to this essay type and first time writing any book review. If you need a book review or essay, check our book report writing blog and start writing reviews of any book and you will get a hand on it asap!