Writing a Book Review

For some of us writing a book review is a nightmare. Some think that their opinion is going to be wrong and feel ashamed that someone else is going to read it. For others, the idea that one should read a book to complete a review is too depressing. There are students whose reviews are all around the place and do not have one clear idea, and there are those who do not know what else can be said apart from “I liked the book” or “I didn’t like the book”. All these problems can be dealt with if the correct approach to writing a review is taken.

Shocked Face

What to Start With?

First of all, you need to select the tactics of paper completion. There are at least two types of reviews: one is based entirely on your own feelings, while the second one is a critical writing about what you have read. How do you choose? Check the assignment requirements and remember your classes. What does the teacher prefer: a paper full of references or famous people’s quotes or a flow of your own thinking? Do they want you to find some allusions or simply describe your perception?

Depending on what type of review you have decided to compose, here are two ways on how to proceed with them.

Personal Approach

Re-read the Book

In case you have decided that writing about your personal perception will be the best way to complete the assignment, it is better to re-read the book. This will let you understand it more clearly, see the details you have not noticed before and finally understand what you feel towards each character. You might think you have understood everything well enough after the first time, but try and you will find out that some details appear to look differently than during the first reading.

Additional Tip

Before you start reading the book for the second time, take some notes of what you think is worth mentioning, what has shocked you, what you particularly liked and disliked. The opinion might change, therefore it will be good to have these notes at the moment of writing the review.

If you do not feel like reading the book again or it is too thick, find a gist (a brief plot description). They can sometimes be found even on Wikipedia, so there must be no problem with reading one.

Good Idea

Read a few of these short plot descriptions to make sure you remember the plot well enough now. No matter if you went for re-reading the entire book, some parts of it or limited yourself to a few plot descriptions, do not forget to take as many notes of the thoughts you have as possible. Later you can use all of them for a strong review.

Bad Idea

Do not simply discuss the book with a friend or ask them to retell the plot. Not only their version of plot revealing might be incorrect or miss a few crucial scenes, but the result of such conversation might influence your perception of the book, and your perception is the diamond we are trying to cut here.

Think About the Ideas You Want to Share

Take some time to read the notes taken and shape out the main impression you have after reading it. Think of your readers as if they were your friends: what do you want to tell them? Would you like them to read the book as well? Will you try to persuade them to do this? Or, on the contrary, do you want to share all valuable ideas from it, so that others do not waste time and read the entire novel? Once you are sure what the purpose of your review is, you can start writing.

How Does One Write It?

Since you are writing an assignment and not a blog review, do not be afraid to bring up some scenes, characters description, their special features, phrases and relationships. Not only will this make the paper brighter and more interesting to read, but also leave no doubt that you have read the book attentively and in full. This kind of review does not need any references unless you want to use direct quotes as illustrations. The key is simple: just write. The most important part will be to read the paper later, maybe in a day or two, so you can check if some of your thoughts are unclear or a bit messy and fix it.

Critical Approach

This is a perfect way to write about the books that are well known, forgotten or those that were once forbidden, influenced a whole generation and so on. So, you are supposed not only to write about their content, but also to provide the evaluation of the book basing not on your emotions only, but on the judgment whether the book can be useful to read or not. This is why you need to check on critical articles, so you know what influence this book might have or had some time ago.

What About the Structure?

You will need to summarize the book, but be careful not to turn your review into a summary. One part of the summary and two parts of a critique is a perfect recipe of your review cocktail. The opinions can be both negative and positive. Do not be afraid to show you know less than your teacher or the author, as you are not supposed and just cannot know more. What matters is your opinion, but it has to be supported and justified.

Here are a few questions to concentrate on while writing:

  • Formulate your opinion. What is it based on? What were your reactions to the reading?
  • What life philosophy do you see hidden in between the lines?
  • What is the idea you think the writer wanted to share with the readers?
  • What aim did the author pursuit while sharing the book with the world?
  • What reader is the book oriented to? What profession, age and general knowledge level should the reader have to understand the book?
  • Do you find the judgments fair of biased? Do you think it is the author’s personal position or this was done on purpose? Why?

More detailed plan of what you should address to can be found here.

Hopefully, this will be a useful guide on the way to an A paper!


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