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How to Write a Book Review: Step by Step and Examples

How to Write a Book review In this article, you will find information about what types of reviews exist, the definition of a book review, its purpose, how to write a book review (structure, length, steps, recommendations), useful writing tips and tricks, and, of course, examples.

What Is a Review?

A review is a critical judgment or discussion that contains an assessment and a brief analysis of a literary work, book, scientific publication, play, movie, piece of art, journalistic article, etc. 

Writing a review is a fascinating, creative process, in which the reader (viewer) becomes a writer and creates his own text in which he expresses his thoughts, experiences, as well as personal understanding and awareness of what he has read or seen.

The subject of the review is not just facts, but various informational phenomena: performances, books, games, brochures, scientific works, films, TV shows, etc.

Read also article “How to Write a Film Review: Preparation, Steps, Examples”.

Post “How to Write a Synopsis of a Book, Story, or a Movie: Examples.”

The review refers to the analytical genres of the journalistic writing style. 

What Is the Purpose of Book Review?

Since the review is an analytical genre, its purpose is not just to inform about a new book or other literary work, but to describe it.

The literary review includes analysis, assessment of what is happening, argumentation, personal conclusions, and reasoning. But at the same time, a book review should not be considered as a way to solve some global social problems. This is done by various studies, critical, or research articles. 

The main purposes of a book review are: to inform potential readers about the release of a new book, to give an overview of its plot, and to provide an assessment of the quality of the book.

Basically, the author of the review (reviewer) studies one or two literary works (books) and gives them an assessment, more often critical.

Types of Book Review

There are two types of book reviews depending on the number of analyzed literary works:

  1. Monographic review. The subject of a monographic review is one literary work, which the author can compare with other works known to the public. This book review is short.
  2. Mixed review. The subject of a mixed book review is two or more books, which, most often, the reviewer compares with each other or with other new or little-known literary works. This review is long enough.

Depending on the length of the text, the book reviews are:

  1. Mini book review. This is a short review (1 or 1.5 pages of printed text or 400-500 words ), in which the reviewer briefly, concisely and without unnecessary digressions gives a reasoned assessment of the work. Mini book reviews are in high demand.
  2. Medium and long book review. This is a large-scale review, in which the topic is thoroughly disclosed, an in-depth analysis is presented, and a comprehensive assessment of the book is given. These reviews are usually written by expert critics. 

How to Write a Book Review: Its Structure

On average, a book review is 1000-1250 words.

The introductory part of a book review includes a summary of its plot and a general impression of the read.

At the same time, the summary of the book should not take more than ⅓ of the entire review. Try not to reveal the plot twists of the book, keep the intrigue and interest of the future reader.

The main part of the book review should consist of reasoning, arguments, impressions, highlighted ideas and concepts, trends, characteristics, and features of the book. Quotes may be included in the review but within reasonable limits. The most important thing is to convey the impression of the book in your own words.

How to Write a Book Review: Writing Tips and Tricks

How to write book review
How to write a book review: 9 steps
  1. Read the book at least once. After the first reading, you will have a general impression of what you have read. Then you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the book under study. After that, read it again, compare your feelings with the first impression, and write down if your opinion has changed. 
  2. Give the audience details about the book. For example, tell the date of publication of the book, the author, indicate the publisher, and tell where you can read/buy/find the book.
  3. Describe the quality and value of the book to yourself and others. What are its advantages and disadvantages? Who will benefit from reading? What is new, relevant, and interesting in it?
  4. You must know your target audience. You must understand who you are writing for. The style of writing a book review will depend on the audience. A more detailed presentation of your arguments will be needed for the general public, while for experts, your review should be as concise, reasoned, and “to the point” as possible.
  5. Prove it. Show your reader why and how you came to that conclusion. Support your critical assessment with evidence, facts, quotes, and comparisons. Read more “How to Write a Persuasive Article or Essay: Examples of Persuasive Argument.”
  6. Explain what criteria, standards, and characteristics you were guided by when analyzing and evaluating the book.
  7. Confirm your opinion. You can use quotations or describe scenes from the book, or you can use external sources such as the opinions of other critics, reviewers, and experts.
  8. Understanding the genre, style, and main theme of a book. Knowledge of the subject is one of the fundamental requirements for creating a truly good review.
  9. Compare. In the review, it is allowed and even, in some cases, it is necessary to compare one book with another. Create contrast.

Questions that Help You in Writing a Book Review

  1. What is your impression of the book? What were your expectations of this book before you started reading it? Did your expectations come true? Explain your reaction to the readers, and tell how you came to that conclusion.
  2. Tell in your own words about the main idea of the book (according to the author). How and in what context is it set out in the text?
  3. What is the author’s main goal? How did the author achieve it or could not achieve it in your opinion?
  4. Is there a way to present the author’s text more effectively and concisely?
  5. Is there a logical chain and connection between the events described in the book? Maybe you noticed some contradictions and inconsistencies?
  6. Can you identify the main storyline that the author follows? Does the book have its own philosophy? Are the events random, cyclic, linear?
  7. What motivated and inspired the author while writing the book? What information did the writer use?
  8. How accurately, convincingly, and honestly does the author write? Have you noticed misrepresentation, exaggeration, or depreciation? If so, why did the author do this?


Examples of Book Review

Example 1

Book Review: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque 

In the years following World War I, much of the literature on both sides of the Atlantic was strongly anti-war in sentiment. The enthusiasm and idealism that people felt when war was declared and when they signed up and rallied for war soon soured in the trenches, with both sides crying out “never again.” Of course, that universal desire to avoid conflict died with the rise of the Nazis in Germany, having lasted less than 20 years. But in 1928, when All Quiet on the Western Front was published in Germany, the anti-war sentiment was still strong.

The war the German leaders promised (and expected) a war that was supposed to last only months. The expectation of all the generals and the rulers was that the war would be over by the end of 1914 – Germany’s clearest road to victory was a defeat of France within six weeks, followed by a war on the Eastern Front against a weak opponent, Russia. German war efforts, to be successful, required a short war.

When the German efforts were stopped at the Marne in September 1914 and the paralysis of trench warfare set in, the destruction of a generation of young men was the result. Brutal peace terms were exacted on Germany at the war’s conclusion, as Germany was seen as the chief aggressor in the conflict and the party most responsible for the war.

The bitter disappointment that followed the high hopes resulted in a great bitterness and cynicism towards the rhetoric of war together with a call that war as a solution to a country’s differences with another country come to an end. Erich Maria Remarque’s novel follows Paul Bremer, a young man in the German infantry on the Western Front. The novel, told in first person, opens at a point where Paul has been at the front for a little more than a year, having joined in those first few months.

No longer the idealistic high schooler, who enlisted together with his entire class in a burst of patriotism at his teacher’s insistence, Paul, in his time in the ranks, has learned to see through the slogans of war. As a student, he puffed up with pride and patriotism at his teacher’s referring to his generation as “the Iron Youth;” now, as a soldier, he is much tougher and worthy of that appellation, but his toughness is aimed at staying alive and keeping his sanity, all the while feeling disdain for the slogans of war and the people who utter them in ignorance.

A coworker of mine told me that the English translation by A. W. Wheen, though adequately translating the German, does not capture the tone of the original. Paul is a teenager, a gymnasium (equivalent in the US would be college prep) student, who entered the war at the age of 17, and by the book’s conclusion, is just shy of 20. According to my colleague, Remarque has Paul deliver the narrative in the first person in language and tone appropriate for a youngster. And so, the more standard English of the translation misses the slangy teen language of young Bremer, though capturing the literal meaning of the words. The translation does better, though, in those places when Paul gets more intellectual or philosophical or even poetic (as young people are wont to do).

If you have not read this book already, you should. All Quiet on the Western Front was one of the key books of its generation. In the late 20s and early 30s there were very few in the US or Europe who hadn’t read the book, or seen the justly famous film version, directed by Lewis Milestone, which starred Lew Ayres as Paul. If you’ve not seen the Milestone film, put that on your must-watch list.

The book and film were both very influential in their time, though ironically, the idealism of the book and film (that such war should never happen again, and now that the clarion call against war rang out, would never recur) which countered the jingoistic idealism that got Europe into the great war, proved just as illusory and helped to blind Europe to the possibility of a second great war. Britain and France were quite willing to believe that Hitler would not risk war. That blindness led to the very martial horror the idealists and pragmatists hoped to avoid.

Example 2

Book Review: Half-Broke Horses 

After reading The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir of her dysfunctional, impoverished childhood, you can’t help but have certain expectations of her latest book, Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel. You want to know why her mother, Rose Mary Walls, turned out to be such a neglectful, bereft parent. You want to know why in the world Rose Mary would marry such a ne`er do well. Walls, however, holds these questions at bay with an almost unbelievable story of her grandmother, Lily Casey, told in first-person. 

Members of the Plaza’s Barista Book Group, which read this book in January, all agreed that Lily Casey was really something else. The opening of the book gives you quick insight into the indomitable spirit of Lily Casey, who at 8-years-old is ushering her siblings into a tree to protect them from an oncoming flood. Lily devises a game to keep them awake throughout the night until the flood waters subside.  

Young Lily runs the family ranch and trains horses as well as her father. At barely 13 years of age, she travels for over a month, alone on horseback, to teach at a rural school. In Lily’s world, born and bred in West Texas, you suck up tears, fears, & other inconveniences to do what needs to be done to survive. Thus, Lily’s telling of her story, while remarkable to the reader, is told in a very matter-of-fact way. 

When she encounters setbacks, such as falling for a man who turns out to have another family, losing a very close adulthood friend to a work mishap, and losing her sister to suicide, Lily’s telling of these events makes it appear as if she had simply suffered from a mild case of indigestion. Yet, the unconventional means by which Lily manages her life is remarkable. 

She chooses her second husband when she decides to have children, asking him for his hand in marriage. She learns to fly a plane, sells bootleg whiskey to keep her house, becomes both the bus driver and the teacher to raise money to buy a ranch. She encourages her husband to facilitate the purchase of a bulldozer to create a dam to capture water for their Arizona ranch. She is able to out-gamble most men and tame any horse. 

Lily’s half-broke horse in life turns out to be her daughter, Rose Mary. Lily is never quite able to control her daughter, whose outlook on life is laissez-faire. Rose Mary isn’t interested in planning her life; she is an artist who only wants to paint and allow life to happen as it may. This is the point in the book where if you have read The Glass Castle, you can’t help but wonder about the affect Lily Casey’s larger-than-life personality had on her daughter.

Our book club had much discussion about whether Lily was the cause of Rose Mary becoming such an irresponsible adult. Lily was very controlling and not very nurturing, and Rose Mary seemed to rebel against everything her mother stood for. 

Those of us who had read The Glass Castle felt that Walls was giving an explanation of sorts for her mother’s odd behavior by telling Lily’s story. However, The GlassCastle aside, the story of Lily Casey in Half-Broke Horses is a fascinating read. 

Process of Creating a Book Review: Step by Step

Let’s summarize. To write a good book review you need to do four steps:

  1. The perception of the book, that is, the direct emotional act of communicating with the work (the process of reading).
  2. The process of reflection, perception, and comprehension of what is read, highlighting theses, interesting thoughts, etc.
  3. Analysis of the book. That is, the definition of the theme and idea of the book, the system of images expressing the writer’s intention, the structural and compositional features of the book, the nature of the conflict as its driving force, and the originality of the writing language and style. 
  4. Writing the text of the book review



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