You’ve just read a book, and you are asked to write a review. You have no clue how to write one. What do you do? This article covers how to write a book review that will benefit your readers by providing them an objective opinion of the book. In short, it tells readers whether they should spend their precious time on reading the book or not.
There are two important traits of a useful book review.
First and foremost, a book review must be organized, which means that the content should be presented with a proper structure that does justice to the original book’s content.
Secondly, the content of the book review must be well-written: not giving away too much information, yet not being vague. A good book review finds that beautiful sweet-spot between describing all the crucial elements of the book, while not giving away all the details that are in the book. If the latter were to be the case, then why even purchase the original book? The reader should be given an incentive to read the book, whether for leisure or research.
This article is divided into two sections. The first section will explain the type of content that goes into the actual book review. The second part will provide a few tips and things to take into consideration while writing the book review.
What Goes Into the Book Review?
Since we are dealing with non-fiction, there are objective standards to follow when it comes to writing a book review, although there is much room for subjectivity.
According to Lesley Ann McDaniel, a non-fiction book review must contain the following:
- An Opening Statement: This should contain the title of the book and the name of the author
- Definition of the Problem to Solve: This part clearly defines what the author wishes to accomplish and present to the reader
- Solution to the Problem: Clarity on the deliverables
- Critiques to 2 & 3: If points 2 & 3 are not accomplished, in what way could the author have done better?
- Author’s Qualification on the Subject: This includes the author’s mastery of the subject at hand, their experience with the said subject, and overall qualification
- Tone of the Book: Style in which the book is written: academic, scholarly, use of humor, dry, etc.
- Personal View on the Subject: A subjective view of how the author has dealt with the overall subject of the book.
After these seven areas are satisfied, some room will be left for a subjective analysis of the book.
These could include, but are not limited to the following:
- Comparison to other books on the same subject
- Favorite part, or least favorite, part(s) of the book
- Personal endorsement of, or connections to, certain ideas
- Parts of the book that could be written differently
- Overall impression
Remember that since this is non-fiction writing, your subjective analysis should be based on objective facts. The reader must have a clear understanding of the book: an understanding upon which your review is contingent.
Now that you have a reasonably good idea of what to write in a book review, let’s have a look at some practical tips on how to write one. These are not hard and fast rules, but they will help in improving the quality of your book review.
#1 Write a Summary, Not Another Book
When summarizing a book, especially one in which small details seem quite important, there is the temptation to include a plethora of information on the book. Doing this leads to writing another book (of course, I’m exaggerating).
Depending on the length of the book review, a good practice would be to divide the book into major sections. Further, you should be able to summarize each section into bite-sized points. By this, I mean that every section should have its own mini-summary.
The purpose of dividing the book into sections is in itself a challenge. Since each book is different, this will be based on the writer’s subjective opinion of the book.
#2 Take Good Notes
While reading the book, take excellent notes, especially key areas and difficult sections. The rule of thumb is that you need to be able to summarize a section in your own words. This is where your notes should give you the ability to accomplish.
- Give the Book an Actual Rating (Stars or Scale)
Some people do not want to read the entire summary because they prefer to experience the book from a fresh perspective. However, they would still like to know whether the book is worth reading. Providing a rating system, either a scale or star rating, will help them make that choice.
#3 Keep Away from Ad-Hominem’s
I understand that I am writing to an audience of mature adults, but sometimes even the best of us allow our emotions to get the better of us (at least I have). Writing can be an outlet for those emotions to rush into a fury.
If you disagree with the author’s research, point of view, or any subjective opinion, keep two things in mind: charity and clarity. Be charitable, meaning respectful, in your disposition. At the same time, be clear as to why you disagree. If you disagree with something, but cannot back it up with facts, then your review will lack credibility.
Proofreading is an essential part of any written piece. Look for errors in punctuation, grammar, syntax, clarity, and of course, the accuracy of your summary.
#5 Have Fun With It
Your attitude towards writing the book review will reflect on the content. Remember that there is plenty of room for subjective analysis, so be creative with your positive remarks and constructive criticism.
Lastly, remember that writing the review is not a chore. You are writing about something that is of importance and interest to you. Your enthusiasm and genuine interest will find its way into your writing, and ultimately to your reader.