How to write a book review that people want to read for 2020

How to write a book review cover image

Looking to learn how to write a book review? Don’t worry, we have got you covered. Book reviews can be an intimidating thing to write specially if you are not aware of the general structure and template of the book reviews. This article will give you the book review outline to write a book review for any book, be it fiction, non-fiction or any other literary paper. 

While writing a book review, there is a general pattern that has to be followed. Once followed, all you need is to read the book and write about it. You can use these tips and templates to write a book review for high school, college, or middle school.

How to write a book review – The basics

Just like you have read movie reviews or game reviews, book reviews are very similar. But in the case of how to write a book review, you need to be a little more formal and composed. There are five essential elements that must be present in your book review. These elements are the introduction, book information, the body of the review, your view about the book and finally, a conclusion. 

These five elements need not be exactly the same in your book review, meaning that you can alter the elements according to the book. An example of this is the difference in reviewing fiction and non-fiction book. In a fiction book, you can talk about the story of the book. But for non-fiction, you have to give your views and whether the non-fiction material delivers what it seeks to deliver. I’ll get into details later in the article. 

How to start your book review

To learn how to write a book review, it is essential for you to be better at writing the headline of your review. This is one of the most important parts of your review because it initiates a curious opinion about the book. This compiles them to read the review. There are two types of people who’ll read the book review;

  • The general audience for whom you have written the article
  • Someone who has asked you to write a book review 

In both cases, a good hook or sticky headline (something that sticks in the mind) is essential. If it is for the people, then you must try and catch their attention. This will encourage them to click and read the review. 

In the case of a person who asked you to write the review, a catchy and hooking title will make them wanna read the review. So a hooking title is a must. Generally, a hooking title has a relevant question as there title. So a book review for A Song of Ice and Fire would have the title like, “Have you ever seen the amalgamation of intense politics with dragons and magic?” The aim is to make the reader look at the most idiosyncratic element of the book. 

A caution to practice: in the pursuit of being catchy or hooking, never lean too much towards this element. This may create a hyperbolic title, somewhat of a “clickbait”. 

A person writing how to write a book review
Always take notes while preparing your book review. Image: Unsplash

The book information 

In this section, you have to begin with the essential book information. This includes the name of the author, the theme or genre of the book. You should refrain from writing anything related to your opinion of the book in this section. This is not where you should begin your book review. 

Talk about the main theme of the book. If it is a fiction book, talk about what the story is about, not about the story. Mention the writing style used. Is it easy to read books or does it require the readers to think a lot? 

In the next paragraph in this section, you have to add a short summary of the story of the book. Writing the summary of the book can be a tricky thing but don’t worry, I’ll elaborate on this in the next section. After completing the book information, you can move to the next section of the book review, the actual review or the body of your article. 

Summary of the book

Before we get into the body of the book review, it is essential to understand what to write in the summary of the book. A summary of fiction and non-fiction books are very different. First let’s look at the summary for a non-fiction book.

In the summary of a non-fiction book, you have to condense the overall gist of the book into a paragraph. What the book is about, what message it gives and how effective it is in providing the message or theme. Your summary should let the readers know what the book is about and at the same time, let them want to read more.

For fictional books, your summary should condense the overall storyline of the book. It is advised that you do not reveal the ending or any crucial element of the story that would spoil the book. The summary should lead the readers to know what they’ll be getting if they read this book. Writing a good summary is a skill that needs to be polished after practicing. 

The Body of the book review.

This is the crux of your book review for this is where you put your “review”. This is where you discuss your views on the book and its contents. A book review needs an analysis of the book. So what you put in this analysis?
First try and talk about the theme of the book and what you felt about it. Be free and write whatever you felt about the book. It is necessary to put your genuine thoughts about it, without taking any sides. Don’t ever favor the book or have disdain for the book, even if you did not like it. Remember, a great quality book reviews can have is accepting the fact that the reviewer has a different preference and what’s bad for the reviewer might be good to someone else. 

To tackle this issue here is a solution. When you are noting down the good and bad things about the book, think of it this way; think that this is the worst book ever written, now find what are the best things about it. And also think that this is the best book ever written, find the worst things about the book. 

End this section of the book review with a recommendation. Who do you think would like this book and who should be bored with it? Put the book in the interest categories. People interested in politics would find this as an interesting read but people looking for something fast-paced may find it tedious and slow. The recommendation section is added to make the book review provide any sort of practical help to the readers. And hence, you must add this part. 

The Conclusion 

The conclusion of the book review must tie-up everything together. This section should contain the reasons why the reader should care to read the book. You can mention books that are similar to the one you are reviewing so that people can get a better picture. 

Although not necessary, many reviewers give some ratings like three-stars or a score usually out of 5 or then to summarize the impact of the book. This rarely provides a good measure to evaluate the book but there is no harm in putting it in the review. I’d suggest putting a score out of ten as it is more precise. 

How to write a book review
The share of content in a book review. Image: Wordsverse

A book review template 

In a summarized way, here is the general template for a book review. 

Introduction about the book

Description of the book, its title, background, etc.

Author name, the subtitle of the book.

Thesis including the summary of the book.

Description of elements of the book 

Body of your review: You can use about 3 quotations from the book 

Mention your review, your account of the book.

Every unique point must be in a separate paragraph 

Concluded with the verdict 

Opinion

Rating (optional)

Things to keep in mind while writing book reviews

While writing book reviews, it is important that you keep it focused, l precise and streamlined. This is why I have mentioned about putting only about 3 quotes from the book. Do not go off on a tangent while writing about the book. Do no go writing a paragraph about the author’s biography. Keep everything short and precise expect the body where you put your review in. Your review must be elaborate. 

Another thing to avoid is being rude. If you did not like the book, don’t be harsh to it. The book, however bad it was, took some time and effort to be made. When you mention some shortcomings of the book, always give the reason for it. Never just mention the things you disliked about the book. The same goes for the praises as well. 

Also make sure you proofread your piece before you finalize your draft. This goes not just for book reviews but for any literary work. You don’t want to be a critique trying to point out errors, who’s himself/herself full of errors. That would be ironic.

Never get preachy while reviewing the book. People can sense that tone and dislike it, making your review a personal essay rather than something useful for the masses. One way to avoid being preachy is by trying to learn from the book rather than judging it. This will help you put a genuine account of the book. 

Can you review a book if you haven’t written one?

A frequent question that pops up is how can someone review a book if they haven’t written a book yet. While it is true that trying to write a book sheds a lot of light on the process and helps you write a better review, it is not necessary. Just like you don’t need to be a music artist to like or dislike music. 

A pile of books
Read a lot. Image: Unsplash

But what you need to do is read. Read as much as you can because if you aren’t an avid reader, you cannot review any book. Not because there is a law that requires you to read books before you review them, it is just that you lack the insight to understand the complexities of stories. Reading gives you that insight. So read as much as you can. Here is why reading is much more important than watching something. 

This was how to write a book review. Keep in mind that this is a skill. You have to keep reading and writing to polish this skill and the more you read, the more you’ll see. 

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