Book reviews are a great way to connect with fellow bibliophiles. A well-written review can help you discover new books, find bookish communities, and spark cultural conversations. When writing a book review, you want to share what you felt about a particular work—why you liked or disliked it—without spoiling it for future readers. Ultimately, the goal of writing a book review is to help readers decide whether to read the book themselves.
Let’s take a look at seven steps to help you write a reliable book review.
1. Read the Book
How can you write a review of a book you’ve never read? Alternatively, why would someone want to read a review by someone who has never read the book? The first and arguably most important first step to writing a book review is to read the entire book. Be attentive to your reading experience and note what captured or lost your attention.
2. Take Notes
Once you’ve finished reading the book, go back and take brief, purposeful notes. What are the major events of the book and what were their effects on you as a reader?
Here are some guidelines that can help lay the foundation for your review:
- Explain how the book as a whole affected you.
- Explain how the author evokes an emotional response.
- Explain the relationship between form and content.
- Explain the function of each character in the novel.
- Explain the characters’ relationships to one another.
3. Summarize the Book
All book reviews should include some kind of summary. You’ll want to inform readers of what the book is about without giving too much away. To accomplish this, here are some things to include in your summary:
- How is it categorized by the publisher?
- How is the book structured?
- Who is the target audience?
4. Form an Opinion
Your opinion is the crux of your book review. Be specific! Don’t just say if the book was good or bad, but explain why. Support your opinion with specific examples from the text and move from passing judgement to a thorough explanation.
5. Contextualize the Book
You can often obtain this information from looking at the book’s cover and introduction. Otherwise, you may need to do a little research. Spend some time relating this book to similar works by the author or from the same genre to further your explanation and judgement of it.
Some important questions to consider include:
- What genre does the book fall into?
- Is it the first of its kind or an imitation?
- Is this the author’s first book or fifteenth?
6. Avoid Spoilers
Please, for the love of literature, don’t ruin the book for others. A good book review does not give away the book’s plot twists or endings but piques the interest of future readers. If you absolutely have to give something away about the book, at least mark your review with a fair warning.
7. Review Your Review!
Hooray! You’ve finished writing your review. Now’s the time to step back and revisit your work. You may have to edit your review to add or remove details. Here are some questions to ask during your revisions:
- Did you explain every major aspect of the book?
- What was your target audience?
- Did you write this for a class with specific criteria—or for a fan magazine whose audience already knows this type of book well?
- Did you make a clear claim about your opinion of the book? Do you support your claim with evidence?
For a more in-depth review on how to write a book review, visit eNotes’ How To Series.