Knowing how to write a book review is helpful for students and people wanting to write book reviews for a consumer market. A book review is similar to a book report in that the important information in a book is summarized for someone who hasn’t read it. The difference is that a book review also has qualitative judgments about a book that would not be found in a book report. Those who read book reviews want to know the opinions of the writers that read and evaluated the information contained in the book.
This guide to writing a book review will include the purpose of a book review and tips for good writing. A book review is not the same as a book report, and the distinction will be made between the two.
Book Report vs. Book Review
It is important to know the difference between a book report and a book review. If your teacher assigns a book review and you turn in a book report, your grade will probably not be very good. Following is an explanation of the two:
- A book report is a summary and its structure is simpler than a book review. It gives information about the author and his background to help the reader understand a bit about the author’s perspective. It also gives a brief summary of the story and may include details about the plot, characters, and setting. It is an objective re-telling of the story.
- A book review, on the other hand, is an in-depth analysis of the text; an examination of its contents. Its purpose is not to rehash the story, but to evaluate the value of it and recommend the book to the reader, or not. A book review gives the opinions of the writer and includes his personal views. A review will include an analysis of the author’s intent, thematic elements, and symbolism.
Writing a Book Review
A good book review will:
- Point out strengths and weaknesses in the book
- Looks at what the author intended to do and whether or not he did it
- Be between 50 and 1,500 words
The following is a guide to writing a book review; but, you need to know that they are just suggestions to think about.
- Write down a summary of essential information, like title, author, copyright date, kind of book, price, subject matter of the book, and special features.
- State the reason the author wrote the book.
- Consider from what point of view the book was written.
- Decide what the author was trying to accomplish.
- Determine what kind of book is it, and who is the intended audience.
- Discuss the author’s style of writing and look at his cohesion, clarity, flow of the text, and use of precise words.
- Think about how you were affected by the book and if any of your opinions or feelings change because of it.
- Decide if the book met its goal and whether or not you would recommend it to others and why.
- State the main topic of the book and the author’s treatment of it. Also explain the development of the thesis, using quotes or references.
- Discuss the author’s descriptions and narration, pointing out whether he explained facts or tried to persuade the readers of the validity of an issue.
- Analyze whether or not the book suited its intended audience and if it was interesting and thorough.
- You may challenge his opinions and explain why you disagree with them. Include any information about the author that would establish his authority or that would be relevant to the review.
Summarize with your overall conclusions by restating the thesis and touching on the main points. You may include quotes or references here, but do not put in any new material.
Tips for Different Genres
Here are a few tips that relate to some of the different genres of books: fiction, biography, and non-fiction.
When reviewing fiction, analyze the author’s treatment of the characters, plot, setting, and dialogue. Specifically:
- How interesting is the plot? Does it have many clichéd parts or does it come across as more original? Are there unresolved issues in the plot? Can the author sustain the plot throughout the book? Is the plot confusing?
- How believable are the characters? Do you care about them? Can you tell them apart or do they all sound the same, especially in dialogue?
- How does this book compare to other books in the same genre?
- How well does the author create mood through setting? Can the action be visualized?
- If there is humor, does it work?
- Is the narration consistent throughout?
Explain what style of writing was used and if the setting had a bearing on the story.
In a biography, look at what aspects of the person were emphasized and how the subject matter was organized. Discuss the point of view of the author and if he showed extensive knowledge of the person.
When you write a review on a non-fiction book, you need to explore the way the material was organized and if the author’s writing was focused. Specifically:
- Is the book interesting?
- Which parts are most interesting or informative?
- How accurate is the information in the book?
- How objective is the information in the book? Is it supposed to be objective?
- How thorough has the author been in his or her research?
- How useful is the information presented in the book?
- How does this book compare to other books in the same genre?
Find out if the book is a revision and compare it to earlier books. You may want to look at the sources which were used and the point of view of the author.
Beyond the Classroom
Besides classroom assignments, book reviews are found in newspapers, magazines, on the Internet, so learning how to write a book review can actually net a writer some money.
Book reviews come in a variety of lengths, from 50 - 100 word blurbs to lengthy essays. They are similar to movie reviews in that the reviewer needs to establish credibility and then explain the book’s merits before people will trust the reviewer’s opinion and decide to read or purchase the book.
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Guide to Writing a Book Review
By YourDictionaryKnowing how to write a book review is helpful for students and people wanting to write book reviews for a consumer market. A book review is similar to a book report in that the important information in a book is summarized for someone who hasn’t read it. The difference is that a book review also has qualitative judgments about a book that would not be found in a book report. Those who read book reviews want to know the opinions of the writers that read and evaluated the information contained in the book.This guide to writing a book review will include the purpose of a book review and tips for good writing. A book review is not the same as a book report, and the distinction will be made between the two.
I. Writing an Executive Summary
Read the Entire Document
This may go without saying, but it is critically important that you read your entire research study thoroughly from start to finish before beginning to write the executive summary. Take notes as you go along, highlighting important statements of fact, key findings, and recommended courses of action. This will better prepare you for how to organize and summarize your study. Remember this is not a brief abstract of 300 words or less but, essentially, a mini-paper of your paper, with a focus on recommendations.
Isolate the Major Points Within the Original Document
Choose which parts of the document are the most important to those who will read it. These points must be included within the executive summary in order to provide a thorough and complete explanation of what the document is trying to convey.
Separate the Main Sections
Closely examine each section of the original document and discern the main differences in each. After you have a firm understanding about what each section offers in respect to the other sections, write a few sentences for each section describing the main ideas.Although the format may vary, the main sections of an executive summary likely will include the following:
- The opening statement, brief background information,
- The purpose of research study,
- Method of data gathering and analysis,
- Overview of findings, and,
- A description of each recommendation, accompanied by a justification. Note that the recommendations are sometimes quoted verbatim from the research study.
Combine the Information
Use the information gathered to combine them into an executive summary that is no longer than 10% of the original document. Be concise! The purpose is to provide a brief explanation of the entire document with a focus on the recommendations that have emerged from your research. How you word this will likely differ depending on your audience and what they care most about. If necessary, selectively incorporate bullet points for emphasis and brevity.
Re-read the Executive Summary
After you've completed your executive summary, let it sit for a while before coming back to re-read it. Check to make sure that the summary will make sense as a separate document from the full research study. By taking some time before re-reading it, you allow yourself to see the summary with unbiased eyes.
II. Common Mistakes to Avoid
Length of the Executive Summary
As a general rule, the correct length of an executive summary is that it meets the criteria of no more pages than 10% of the number of pages in the original document, with an upper limit of no more than ten pages. This requirement keeps the document short enough to be read by your audience, but long enough to allow it to be a complete, stand-alone synopsis.
Cutting and Pasting
With the exception of specific recommendations made in the study, do not simply cut and paste whole sections of the original document into the executive summary. You should paraphrase information from the longer document. Avoid taking up space with excessive subtitles and lists, unless they are absolutely necessary for the reader to have a complete understanding of the original document.
Consider the Audience
Although unlikely to be required by your professor, there is the possibility that more than one executive summary will have to be written for a given document [e.g., one for policy-makers, one for private industry, one for philanthropists]. This may only necessitate the rewriting of the conclusion, but it could require rewriting the entire summary in order to fit the needs of the reader. If necessary, be sure to consider the types of audiences who may benefit from your study and make adjustments accordingly.
Clarity in Writing
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is related to the clarity of your executive summary. Always note that your audience [or audiences] are likely seeing your research study for the first time. The best way to avoid a disorganized or cluttered executive summary is to write it after the study is completed. Always follow the same strategies for proofreading that you would for any research paper.
Use Strong and Positive Language
Don’t weaken your executive summary with passive, imprecise language. The executive summary is a stand-alone document intended to convince the reader to make a decision concerning whether to implement the recommendations you make. Once convinced, it is assumed that the full document will provide the details needed to implement the recommendations. Although you should resist the tempation to pad your summary with pleas or biased statements, do pay particular attention to ensuring that a sense of urgency is created in the implications, recommendations, and conclusions presented in the executive summary. Be sure to target readers who are likely to implement the recommendations.
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