Writing a book review can seem like a difficult task, but it needn’t be. It can, in fact, be a lot of fun and not only can it garner interest from other readers, but it can really get you thinking about the book you’ve just read in a different way than you normally would, which can actually increase your enjoyment of it!
There doesn’t have to be any set style, but there are a few things that really should be included every time – the title and the author – otherwise how is anyone going to know what you’re reviewing? A few other pieces of information that can be useful are the publisher, the publication date and the ISBN number (a unique identifier code, usually located next to the bar code) as this can make finding the book easier for those who would like to read it. Sometimes including a little background information on the author can make it all the more interesting too.
OK, now you’ve got the basic information, where do you go from there?
To give an idea of the content, it’s often a good idea to include a brief synopsis. You can either summarise the story (being careful not to give away major plot points) in a few paragraphs, or you could use the ”blurb” from the back of the book (or inside the dust jacket) which is a ready-made hook – after all, it’s probably what drew you to the book in the first place!
Next, you might like to consider the main theme of book. What is the author trying to say? Is there a specific message there? Is it of a specific genre and if so, does anything make it stand out from other similar books, or is it stereotypical?
Two major points to include here are characters and plot. Are the characters realistically portrayed and how well do they sit within the storyline? This is where you get to tell the reader exactly what it is about this book that you loved or hated. Think about whether the plot was commonplace or whether there were plenty of twists in the tale that kept you guessing right up to the end. You might also want to mention the tense (past or present) and the writing style (written in first or third person, comedic, dark, or suspenseful).
By the time you get to your conclusion, you should have some idea of what kind of person might enjoy this – you may choose to compare it with another writer’s style and recommend it to fans of that author to try. It can also be helpful to rate the book, to give an idea of how good (or bad) you, personally, thought it was. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions, even if they differ from the ideas of the author; it makes the review more enjoyable and useful to other potential readers.
Of course, after writing a few reviews, you’ll begin developing your own style (nothing is set in stone – there are no hard-and-fast rules) and it will get easier every time – you might even find you enjoy it so much you look forward to the review almost as much as the book itself!
Written for The Book Club Forum by Kell Smurthwaite, 2006 ©