A friend recently asked me about this, and I remembered that it was once like pulling teeth for me too, “What on earth do I say?” I would ponder.
So here it is, how I think about writing book reviews. (Step pre-1: unless you are being paid a boatload, only bother to review books you actually care about)
- Think – What stood out to you the most? What issues are most central in your mind? How did the book impact you?
- Find quotes – find the most representative and interesting quotations, especially ones that revolve around the themes you thought of in step one. Less is more here. Choose the best and don’t overwhelm the reader with tons of block quotations.
- Connect the dots – use words to tie your thoughts together. Don’t stress out here; it’s just a first draft and you don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. Just let it flow. No rules; just write.
- Edit and Rearrange – now put it in a more logical order and check for typos and sentence grammar. Don’t be afraid to add or remove large chunks.
- Summary: do not spend much time on summary unless you are writing a summary specifically. For a review, boil it down to one concise sentence and include this in the first paragraph.
- Can you place the work’s significance for the genre? If so, great. Include it. If not, don’t worry about it. Just explain what the work meant to you.
- Balance: I usually include one area I was less-than-pleased with, even if I loved it as a whole. This isn’t necessary, but it helps to remember that your reviews need not be all hot or cold. They can have nuance. Conversely, even if you hated the book, try to find something positive about it, even if it’s only in the idea.
- Real world meaning: for personal reviews or works, say what the work meant to you and how it has/will affect your life. For more formal reviews and works, mention the “real world” significance to be found in the work. Such as “So and So’s Treatise on the Philosophical Dynamics of Wind Movements may seem abstract, but it will forever change how you perceive your walk through the park on a breezy day.” Or “The love/hate relationship between the two central characters illuminated this area of my own life…” etc etc. These are the parts that really impact us as readers.
And there you have it! Now you can review books too and maybe even get free review copies from publishers. Or use this to write any paper on anything! Enjoy!
Questions: Was this actually helpful? Would you like to see any other how-tos or other questions answered on this blog?