A book review is a critical review that gives an analysis, description and evaluation of a book. There are no fixed rules regarding how to write a book review because the format will depend on the context in which the book review is being written and the personal perspective of the reader. The style of a book review will also change depending on the type of book. However, there are some general guidelines for writing a good book review.
What you should know before you write a book review
- General ideas and genre of the book you are going to review
To write a good and critical book review, you should have a general background knowledge and understanding of the topic being discussed in the book. If you want to be more familiar with the topic, it is a good idea to read some related sources first.
- The intended audience
You should know who the intended audience is in order to evaluate whether the book is suitable for the readers and if the content is useful and worth reading for those readers.
While in some cases you will not be given any guidelines for your review, sometimes, there will be specific guidelines that you need to follow. If you do have guidelines, you should study them thoroughly before you start reviewing the book.
Write a book review
A book review usually consists of three main parts.
The introduction normally includes general information about the book such as the full title of the book, the author’s name, type of the book, general subject, publisher, place and date of publication, first copyright date, edition, special features (maps, illustrations, etc.), price and ISBN.
2. Brief summary of the book and your opinion
Although you will write a brief summary of the book in the review, you should note that it is not necessary to relate all of the main ideas from the book. You may begin with the descriptive review of the book followed by your opinions on the book, how the book affects you and your ideas and if the author achieves his or her purpose in communicating the messages. You can also provide an evaluation of the book regarding whether the style and quality of writing are at an acceptable standard, and whether the information is accurate and presented in an organised way.
In the conclusion, you might tell the reader whether you recommend the book or not. You can give your final evaluation or restate your main ideas here. However, you must not introduce any new information in your conclusion.
A revision is necessary when you finish writing a book review. To gain perspective, you should not revise it right away. It would be better to leave it at least for a few days before you re-read it and make some amendments if needed. You might ask someone to read your review and ask for their opinions and use them in your revision. A careful edit is always recommended to check for consistency of style, as well as any errors in grammar, punctuation or syntax that you may have missed on the initial writing of the review.
• When reading a book to write a review, take notes as you go so you don’t miss a point. You can also note some quotations from the book to be used in your review, but be sure not to overuse quotations in your writing.
• If you are reviewing fiction, be careful not to reveal the ending or any important plot developments in your review.
Updated 19 May 2023
Emily Finlay, PhD, AE (IPeD)