Thursday, September 26, 2013



Writing a book review requires the basics of who, what, when, where, how and why.  The first question to be answered is why should a reader of the review read the book you are reviewing -- or not?  To go about answering this question, follow these suggestions...

1. Read the book. A lot of review writers think they can get around this, but it’s not worth it. Readers can generally tell if the writer has read the book. If necessary, also read ABOUT the book. If the book needs a context to make sense to the reader of the review, read a little bit of history about the environment or the writer.

2. Assemble your ideas. Instead of just sitting down and telling yourself to start writing, take the time to think about the book overall. See what sticks in your mind as good and bad about the book -- the pacing, the plot, the allegories and metaphors... Make lists of what you responded to and didn’t. Keep your audience in mind. It may be that things you liked will not appeal to them, and if you know your audience well, you can recommend something that you personally did not enjoy because reading the book will have some value to them.

3. Start writing. Don’t write the review immediately, but write a few sentences. Try to boil the book down to a very simple three-sentence paragraph. A synopsis of the book is essential to a review, but you don’t want the plot to take up half of the review text! Write an outline or write an opening and a closing. Try to say what you liked most or least about the book in one sentence.

4. Write the body of the review. Now that you have thought about the larger theme of the review, write the meat of the review. Write an opening sentence or two, then move to the summary of the book’s events. If necessary, after that write briefly about the context of the book or the writer and why they may matter. Finally, get into what matters: What you thought. Identify what was good and bad, but more important, tell the audience why. Tell the audience whether you recommend the book or not and for what reason.  Basically, you have to justify why you have reacted to the book in the manner you did.

 5. Summarize with blurbs. A modern audience (particularly online) require information stripped down to very simple sentences. Your review can be much more effective if you write up blurbs in advance instead of making an editor do it. Give a few bullet points with pros and cons and end with a recommendation -- or not.

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