DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL BOOK REVIEWER( IF THAT’S EVEN A THING?) NOR AM I CLAIMING TO BE ONE 🙂
With the start of 2018, I want to introduce you to a few tips on ‘How to write a book review’. Since the only thing I can consider myself competent in is reading and writing reviews, I thought I’d take the bait and write a blog post. If you’re in school or college, and are required to write a book review for your English paper or if you’re thinking of starting a blog or a page dedicated to reviewing books, then keep on reading. (Also, please overlook my sense of humor and sad attempt at sounding smart).
Let’s clear a few things right in the beginning. There is no ‘right’ way to write a review. Books are highly subjective and a review is not a testimony to the credibility of the said book. There are a number of books I loved which didn’t get GOOD reviews or in fact quite a number of books I HATED with a passion that went on to becoming International bestsellers, but that’s the whole point. One shoe doesn’t fit all.
Now how I see it, there are two ways of writing a review; Personal and Formal. Let’s understand what both formats mean.
- Personal: Here, you write whatever you feel about the book. You express your love for the characters, your admiration at how the plot was crafted and genuine applaud to the author concerned. In short, letting your emotions do the reviewing. Now you can do this either on your blog or Instagram page or your Facebook page. You’re taking a more informal approach to the book. Nothing is wrong with using this format. If this is how you’d like to review the book, then go ahead. YOU DO YOU. Of course, you will not be getting into the technical details of book reviewing i.e commenting on the narrative technique, plot, theme, writing style etc. You only focus on how you felt when you read the last line of the book.
Many people who don’t review books as a hobby or as a book blogger, adopt this format.
- Formal: Here, things get a little tricky. (Don’t worry, it’s easier than math, I promise). When you’re writing a review as a blogger, you need to be careful of not bashing the author’s work just because the book didn’t appeal to you. By this I don’t mean you should lie or sugarcoat information but instead use a more constructive approach. Let’s take an example:
You were disappointed at the climax and you were expecting a different result but at the same time you found really interesting quotes in the book, and were impressed by the writing style. You then go on to mention what you didn’t like about the book, your concerns and tips on what could have been different while simultaneously praising the author for what worked for you.
It’s really important to understand that authors are humans, and cannot produce work that’s going to be liked by everyone especially since we’re dealing with something as subjective as art. If you’re a book blogger, you’ll get books for review by various publishers and even authors. Remember, constructive criticism goes a long way.
The following points should be remembered while writing a formal book review:
a.) Try to introduce the author and the premise of the novel in the beginning of the paragraph. Preferably, a short summary of what the novel is about and what you thought of it. The reason behind this is that people are busy and no one really has the time or patience to read through an entire review. As sad as this might be, with the onset of online reading and social media anything exceeding one paragraph is too much reading material.
b.) The second paragraph should be a more in-depth analysis of the book; what are the characters like, what problems they’re in, and how they try to overcome their problems, etc.
c.) The third paragraph should be about the narrative technique, plot, writing style and theme of the novel including other details such as how the author managed to put together important pieces of the puzzle and present a masterpiece or how it was inspiring or moving to you as a reader.
d.) By the fourth paragraph, you should be on your way to wrapping up your review. It’s more like a conclusion. Your final thoughts and the kind of reader base the novel can appeal to. For instance, if readers of historical fiction would enjoy a YA novel or not, or if crime mystery lovers would like to read a romance novel. Give a heads up to your readers of what they might expect from the book.
Now let’s talk about the format of this particular way of reviewing:
- You can either start the review by writing down the essentials i.e Author’s name, publishing house, rating etc followed by the blurb of the book. After you’re done filling in the above mentioned points, you proceed to write the review. You can take a look at this post to get a clearer picture: Book Review: Option B
- OR after you’re done writing the entire review( taking into consideration all the technical aspects), you can write a short paragraph at the end narrating your personal thoughts about the book. I’ll give you an example:
All in all, the book appealed to me in a number of different ways. I could relate to most of the characters and their situations. Although, I was left disappointed by the ending, I think the book as a whole is a good read.
3.) Another way of writing the review is by filling in the details (author name, publishing house , blurb etc) at the end of your review. This means your review starts in the beginning and then towards the end you mention the details. I personally prefer writing reviews this way and have only recently adopted this method. Click on this review to get an idea: Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra: If you could read just one book, let it be this one.
4.) Usually the blurb for the book is written at the back. You can copy-paste it directly to your review or you can write a blurb of your own. To be honest, writing a blurb of your own requires practice and takes time. This, however, does not mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s credible if you can come up with your own blurbs. It definitely adds a more personal touch whilst maintaining a formal approach. (The only time I wrote blurbs were when I was interning at a publishing house. IT WRECKED MY BRAIN)
These are some of the tips I have learnt over the years. Like I said, there are many ways to write a review, but I tried to narrow it down as much as possible. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to follow these steps. You can mix both the formal and informal formats as and when you like 🙂
Please let me know if this was helpful or if there are other ways you like to write reviews. I’M ALL EARS.
Also, happy new year. 🙂