Monday, June 28, 2010

How To Write A Book Review

Some book reviews are better than the book itself. I love to read these after I've read the book. They make me "ooh" and "ah" all over again as the reviewer points out things I hadn't noticed or says the things in my heart that I didn't have the words for. I am NOT against these kinds of book reviews. I think they are amazing. But that's not the kind of book review I'm writing about today.

The main purpose of a book review is to help the potential reader see if the book you are talking about is one they want to read. The reader should also be able to find the book you are talking about if they decide to read it. Keeping those two objectives in mind, a book review only needs these elements:

1. The book's title
2. The author's name
3. The genre
4. A short synopsis
5. The tone of the book
6. Your recommendation

1. A title, including subtitle, if there is one. Pretty self-explanatory, I think.

2. The author, including any information you think is interesting or pertinent about the author. If you don't have anything, don't worry about it.

3. The genre. You can find the genre of your book by imagining where you'd get the book at a book store--the science fiction section? the young adult section? the mystery section? If you still don't know what to put, you can probably figure it out by going to and looking at some of the reviews of the book. Some examples of genre are fantasy, sci-fi, chick-lit, thriller, mystery, romance, christian, literary, classic, young adult, middle grades... The list is quite extensive, and can get very category specific. There is no need for you to get this specific, unless you want to.

Let's use the book The Hunger Games as an example. It's probably enough information to say that it fits into the young adult genre. If you know genres well enough, you'll be able to figure out that it's young adult science fiction. Cool--but an astute potential reader will be able to figure out the sci-fi part when they read your synopsis. If you want to seem REALLY smart, you can mention that The Hunger Games is a dystopian young adult science fiction book. But is that really necessary?

4. A short synopsis. Short is the hardest part here. Especially if you have very strong feelings about the book, brevity is not easy.  At the most, you want to give as much information as you might find on the back of the book, but keeping it even shorter is not a bad thing. Let me use the book Lark by Sally Watson as an example. Lark is young adult historical fiction. Here's my synopsis:

When Lark runs away from her uncle's Puritan family, she meets James, a royalist spy whose annoyance at being forced to protect her from the perils of Cromwell's England gradually turns into friendship, and possibly romance. They get into all sorts of perilous (and sometimes hilarious) adventures with gypsies and Roundhead soldiers as James struggles to figure out which of his conflicting duties deserves his loyalty.

5. The tone of the book, how it made you feel. Was the book hard to get through? Did you laugh a lot? Was one theme particularly meaningful or distasteful to you? Words like "light-hearted," "humorous," "exciting," "dry" or "deeply moving" are useful here. You're trying to convey a sense of what the book was like that might be missing from your synopsis. If you think your synopsis covered all the salient points, you can skip this part.

6. Would you recommend it? To whom? This is a good place to mention what kinds of people might not like it. For example, "I recommend this to anyone who has a strong stomach," or "If a lot of swearing turns you off, this might not be the book for you." There will be books that make you say, "Everyone get a copy of this, right now!" and that's alright too. We're mature enough to figure out whether or not we agree with you all by ourselves.

Tomorrow I'll post some reviews of books I've read recently.


  1. Very good pointers. They make me wonder what you would say about my young adult book.

  2. Hi David! Is your book published? I'd love to hear about it.