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How to Write a Professional Book Review

So you’ve been assigned a book review and you’re freaking out as you’re not exactly sure how to do a great one. Sure, it’s a common exercise to be given in lots of classes, but not a lot of time was ever spent on actually showing people how to write one well. Never fear, as here we’re going to outline some easy and manageable steps to get that book review nailed down and to an A-standard!

Before we start, here are some important points to remember:

  • A book review is not meant to be a summary: you must include your own insight on the story, events and characters portrayed.
  • A brief description is necessary to set the context for your critique; keep it short and use it to include the title and general subject of the book.
  • Like in many academic assignments, the construction of the argument is important: support positive or negative opinions with solid reasoning.
  • Let the flow of your argument intertwine with the flow of the book itself, like you are providing a running commentary of a movie or sports event.

Step 1: Map the challenge

In your notes, make an outline of the book, its central thesis and points you liked or disliked. Be as detailed as you need to be as this will be your quick reference guide to the direction your review is going. Pay particular attention to characters, common themes and key ideas.

Step 2: Plan your argument

Whether you wish to criticize, eulogize or present the good sides and bad equally, the key to a good review is explaining why. After you have an outline, decide what your opinion and plan of action is. Structure your points to support your argument in a concise and convincing manner. Quotes are a very effective way of achieving this, so try to find ones to match each point.

Step 3: Beginning your review

Introduce the book, stating the author and title. Then proceed to give a brief overview of the genre, the general plot or idea of the book and main character introductions. Remember to keep things short and relevant; though you are writing for someone who hasn’t read the book, don’t get side-tracked by minor details that aren’t important.

Step 4: Establish your opinion

Here is where you’ll set out your view on the book, the essence of the assignment. You can start with something simple like “I thought the work was excellent” or “While the author’s intentions were admirable, the book itself fell flat”. Follow this up with a couple of sentences to lead into the next section of your review.

Step 5: Expand your thesis

Now you will have the opportunity to develop your points and reinforce them with your supporting evidence. Ideally you will want at least 2 to 4 areas to focus on, depending on the expected word count and how in-depth your support and analysis will be. This is where you can bring in the relevant quotes that you picked out earlier.

Step 6: Conclusion

After you have laid out your reasoning, you should sum up your initial argument about the book and express your opinion on whether the author achieved their purpose. It is also important to state whether you would recommend the book to others and why.

Not so tough after all!

If you follow this step-by-step guide, the process of breaking down and analyzing any particular book should be a lot easier. When given a book review, it can seem like a monumental and complicated task, but by taking each piece on its own, you’ll find it can actually be quite an easy and even enjoyable task!