I’m a book lover and I leave book reviews all of the time on lots of different platforms. I like to promote the books I love, so I share them on social media etc.
I read all kinds of books, not just books in the genres I write in, I also read a lot of books by independent authors. Some are fantastic and some not so fantastic.
The important thing here is that all the books I read deserve honest, non-biased, and creative reviews.
Lately I’ve been feeling like the book reviews I’ve left are too short and don’t express what they should.
I’m not just after leaving long detailed reviews, I think that’s boring. I want my reviews to be awesome!
One of my goals for this year is to write great book reviews and start sharing them on my blog. So I went in search of information on how to get it right.
This list might seem basic and obvious but there’s more to it than just bullet-points. There’s some good advice here if you’re interested. Here’s what I’ve learned…
The 7 Stages of Writing a Great Book Review
- Develop an assessment of the book before you start your review.
- Remember that creativity is important.
- Introduce the book.
- Outline its theme and plot.
- Highlight parts of the book.
- Give a detailed, but brief, evaluation.
- Give your closing statement.
Assess What You’ve Read
Obviously a review isn’t just summarizing the content of a book. If you want to get better at writing reviews, like I do, then it’s time to start taking some notes while you read.
You’ll want to note important aspects of the book and ideas or thoughts you have as you read. If you’re not taking notes, chances are you won’t remember most of those things and you’ll be missing out on some awesome aspects people might appreciate.
Creativity Is Important
Writing a book review is above all a creative act, so focus as much attention on style as on substance. In fact, if your writing style is witty and charming, people are more likely to accept your opinions.
Introduce the Book
Begin with a brief summary of the book. This is probably the best way to introduce any review because it gives context. But make sure to not go into too much detail. Keep it short and sweet. Be sure to add a picture of the book cover for a blog or social media post.
- What is the genre of the book?
- What is the intended audience?
- How does the book compare to other works of literature?
Outline the Theme and Plot
Your review should include critical aspects and an analysis of how they’ve been developed. Be sure not to give too much away though, no spoilers.
Break this down with character, world-building, themes, and plot. This might vary between books, and genres.
- How does the book relate to our culture, or to the past? Does it teach anything?
- Try make an argument about why the narrative is interesting or compelling.
- Does the author convey a message, a worldview, an agenda?
Dedicate a paragraph to each of these important aspects, discussing how well the author dealt with it, along with what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy.
Highlight Specific Parts of the Book
Giving a sneak peek into the book by highlighting specific parts is a great way to illustrate your review. Again, no spoilers please.
You can also include brief quotes as examples. This is a great idea, because it gives examples for everything that you’re saying! If your review talks about a character being particularly witty, a witty line from the character lets your readers see exactly what kind of witty character you’re dealing with here. Keep it short, lengthy quotes can take up too much space and overpower your review.
Evaluate What You’ve Read
Don’t just focus on outlining your opinions about the book. Instead try to develop an understanding of why you think it’s good or bad. Don’t get into too many details. Just give a quick summary of your impression.
- Do you find the author’s point of view beautiful, racist, scary, persuasive, etc.?
- Think “pros and cons.” There are always both.
- Don’t waste people’s time nitpicking over tiny details
It’s okay to mention what you didn’t like about a book, there’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, just don’t lean towards biased criticism. Mention the pros second. By mentioning the pros and cons of a book your readers can trust you’re leaving an honest review and the author might benefit from it as well.
Now is the time for details. Discuss the things that you felt could have been done better. Here are some ways to start your discussion:
- I felt that the story was weak in the area of…
- The story would have been better for me if…
- I would have enjoyed the story more if…
- I was disappointed/concerned by…
Why put the cons before the pros? Well, because I like leaving on a positive note, and people remember best what they read last. It seems kindest to the author to point out flaws, then follow up with compliments.
What did you really like about the story? What would make you recommend the story to others? Here are some ways to start your discussion:
- The story was especially strong in the area of…
- I especially enjoyed/appreciated…
- I was captivated/riveted/excited when…
- The biggest appeal for me was…
Be honest but also be respectful. Many authors do read your reviews of their books.
Like your introduction, keep your conclusion short and sweet! It should bring up the main points of your review, along with your overall opinion of the book.
Wait, there’s more…
Don’t forget, if you’re sharing your book review on your blog or on social media, you should include a point of purchase link and a link to the authors website.
I think the hardest part of reviewing books this way will be mentioning the “cons” of what I’ve read. It just seems mean. So I’ll have to put on my brave pants!
If you learn better from examples, I found the following article super helpful!
Please share any tips you have for how to write a book review in the comments.