How to Write a Book Review: Writing Guide, Structure & Examples

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A book review is a critical evaluation of a book that provides a brief summary and  discusses its strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of a book review is to help readers decide whether or not to read the book. You should provide insight into the book's content and assess its significance.

Writing a book review is an essential skill that every student must possess. In particular, your teacher may require you to prepare a book review to widen your knowledge of a subject matter or let you practice evaluating ideas critically.

Follow this article to discover how to review a book and complete such projects easily. Even if you have never written reviews before, with our step-by-step guidelines, you will understand the basics. Book reviews examples are also offered to bolster your grasp of key points. As a book review writer, you might use our recommendations to express your opinion and make your writing shine. Let’s get started!

What Is a Book Review: Definition

A book review is a detailed assessment of text based on content, plot and writing style. It involves thoroughly describing, analyzing, and evaluating what a text means. Reviews often assess writing quality, topic importance and coverage. Most book reviews are brief and generally include 500-1000 words. However, factors such as your assignment length, manuscript complexity, and overall purpose of an evaluation may lead to longer or shorter papers.

Students are mainly asked to write a book review as practice in carefully reading, examining, and forming an informed opinion on a volume’s context and author’s views. Unlike a book critique, reviews are more focused on plot summary and recommendations rather than providing critical analysis.

The real value of crafting good book review essays for students is that they enhance critical thinking, writing, and interpretation skills. Commentary is a vital aspect of this task as this enables you to enter into discussion and dialogue with a novelist and other readers.

Purpose of a Book Review

Features of Book Reviews

Formulating book reviews is an important task, as it requires appraising another person’s work. This may have a significant influence on readers because it guides their verdict on whether to consider the text. Thus, knowing how to write a good book review is essential. These components are what makes a good book review:

  1. Provide a summary of a manuscript. Offer an overview of its purpose, argument, and perspective. Also, describe your topic and scope. This is an excellent way to introduce your review, as it offers context. Nonetheless, avoid giving too much information by keeping it nice and short.
  2. Offer critical evaluation. Assess the key elements such as themes, plot, character, and overall development, depending on the genre. Identify strong points, weaknesses, and how effective an author is in building their work.
  3. Give a rating. Recommend whether or not people should value it for its overall quality and authenticity. You can offer your general score using conventional techniques such as “seven out of ten”.

Book Review Outline

It is a good idea to start your paper by writing an outline of a book review. A decent layout usually begins with a heading or bibliographic data specifying the full title, publication place and date, author, and publisher.

The second part of the structure of a book review is an introduction, consisting of a brief overview of the text, its purpose or audience, and your thesis statement or key observation. 

The next section of your book review template is the body in which you describe the analysis and assessment of the manuscript. Here, describe its contents, argument, presentation, and evidence before offering your evaluation.

A conclusion section follows where you tie together all raised points and offer your comments about the work. Finally, include a citation page for what you reviewed and any other sources used. 

Here is a book review outline example:

  1. Introduction
    1. Discuss the cover and title
    2. Mention the author and date of publication
    3. Present a thesis statement focusing on the central points
  2. Body
    1. Provide a brief plot summary
    2. Make a critical evaluation
      1. Present your main point
      2. Include supporting quotations
      3. Discuss the quotes and symbolism
  3. Conclusion
    1. Wrap up your key points
    2. Share your final opinion
    3. Give recommendations

Things to Consider Before Writing a Book Review

As with all other essay genres that students complete, writing a book review requires considering several components. Therefore, if you are interested in knowing how to write a book review, make sure you attend to these aspects before beginning:

  1. Author Within your book review essay, you must discuss who the novelist is and their previous works concerning your analysis. For example, you can identify the author’s style, prizes or rewards, and what they are popular for.
  2. Genre Book reviews also include a genre. Examples are history, romance, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and science fiction, among others. This helps you recognize the work’s audience and overall purpose.
  3. Title In most cases, your heading corresponds to a text’s label. However, you can go further by examining how relevant a headline is to the work’s purpose. Maybe it conveys a specific message or reveals important themes.
  4. Main theme and ideas Your book review must highlight its central points. Evaluate how they are explored. Are they examined deeply or trivially? Besides, assess if it includes any repetitive motifs.
  5. Argument What is the author’s main argument or assumptions and conclusions? What evidence is used to support these claims? Also, identify if they are valid.
  6. Writing style Here, explore the major aspects of an author’s style, such as word choice and dialogue setup. Explain or assess how it fits into the broader literary domain.
  7. Plot Writing an academic book review also requires that you locate the main catalyst of the work’s contents or story. Describe any subplots and explain what happens as the action rises.
  8. Characters You should also recognize the main characters and their motivations. Additionally, explain if they are empathetic or convincingly drawn.
  9. Literary devices What techniques of analysis are used? Examples include allusions, sense appeal, quotations, imagery, metaphor, personification, characterization, dialogue, symbolism, etc.
  10. Quotations You can include short quotes as examples to get your points across when writing book reviews. This allows your reader to see exactly what you are talking about. Practice carefulness and avoid long quotes as they suppress your analysis and take up large spaces. Check our guide on how to cite a quote if you have questions.

Questions to Ask While Reading a Book

An initial step before starting to write your book review is engaging in the active reading of what will be evaluated. Do it once or a couple of times to understand what it is about. Composing an academic book review without going through this phase is unwise because it is like going to an exam without studying a course or unit. Ask yourself these questions as you dig into the manuscript:

  1. What is its genre?
  2. Do you know anything about who wrote it?
  3. Can you identify the main themes? Are they conveyed well?
  4. What is the main argument?
  5. What is the exact topic or subject?
  6. How are the arguments supported and structured?
  7. Can you identify how the events and characters relate to the subject matter?
  8. Does it contain a major conflict? How does this develop throughout the work?
  9. The author was trying to accomplish what?
  10. How has it helped you understand the topic? How do you feel about the text?

How to Write a Book Review Step-By-Step

Once you have answered the aforementioned questions and made assessments and observations, it is time to start writing analysis. To do this, you must be familiar with how to write a book review. Specifically, you should understand what to do, beginning from assessing the report to composing your review up to writing a conclusion. Below is a step-by-step description of how to do a book review:

1. Read a Book and Take Notes

The first phase of composing a book review involves reading it and taking notes on key points. Start by attending closely to the preface and introduction sections because most authors describe the reasons for writing, their views, and the perspectives of any contributors here. Consider the structure and table of contents to get a quick overview of what is inside.

In addition, look at any graphics to gain insights into what strategies are used to enhance meanings and which kinds of readers are targeted. Go through the summaries and abstracts to understand an author’s viewpoint. Note down your observations, including the logic of what is presented, organization, and structure.

Writing Notes for a Book Review While Reading

Additionally, identify if the information is new or developed based on previous works and existing ideas. Assessment should also include your view about how simple or hard it is to get a novelist’s standpoint and why. These transcripts will enable you to review a book effectively by revealing how distinctive it is and to what extent the author conveyed its motive. Learn more about how to write an academic book review in the sections below.

2. Develop an Outline of a Book Review

Writing an outline for a book review before constructing the actual piece helps ensure your work fulfills its goals. This is the basis of your entire task as it includes the major points you will address and gives you a reference point as you complete your schoolwork.

A professional book review structure consists of at least five paragraphs. The main elements are the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Your academic book review template must cover all the primary arguments to be discussed, such as plot details, characters, themes, and other essential parts. Below you can see an example of how a book review can be outlined. Check best practices on how to outline an essay or review to organize your work properly. 

Example of a Book Review Outline

3. Write a Book Review Introduction

Start your book review with an anecdote or hook that conveys your argument succinctly. However, you can begin differently based on your audience and argument. Generally, you must include the author’s name, manuscript title, and primary theme. Besides, identify the work’s context in your book review introduction as this informs your claim.

Also, offer relevant information about who the writer is and their stand in their field. Moreover, if you are not conversant with how to write a review of a book, remember that your thesis and that of the text are stated here.

How to Write a Book Review Introduction Example

Below is an introduction of a book review example. Examine it carefully and critically to deepen your understanding of composing this section.

John Boyne’s novel, The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, is based on real events during the Second World War. Published in 2006, it offers excellent information to teenagers who want to expand their historical knowledge. The novel follows a nine-year-old youngster, Bruno, whose father works as a Nazi soldier at the Auschwitz concentration camp. The story’s unfolding reveals what a curious boy lived during this desperate period in Germany.

4. Include a Brief Plot Summary

Next, write a book review summary to provide your audience with some background. Focus on pertinent events that occur throughout it, as this gives context. Be cautious here by not revealing the climax or ending because this does not form a major part of your analysis as you write your book review. Thus, keep this section short and brief, probably not more than two paragraphs, unless you are preparing an extended piece.

Remember to prioritize your evaluation part. Your audience can also influence the necessary amount of synopsis. For example, if they have not read the work, you may need to offer a good summary. Nonetheless, if they have already gone through it, you can make a book review by examining more subtle arguments and highlighting your claim.

Example of Book Review Summary

Have a look at this example of a good book review summary:

Bruno, a nine-year-old boy, lives in a large house with his parents, sister, and maid during WW2 in Berlin. One day they all move to rural Poland occupied by Nazis after his father is promoted. Bruno identifies a concentration camp close to where they live but thinks it is a farm. A private tutor is allowed to teach him and his sister antisemitism and Nazi propaganda, but he struggles to understand lessons. He later befriends another young boy who lives on another side of a barbed wire fence.

5. Make an Assessment and Critique a Book

This is the main portion of a book review and includes your judgment and appraisal of what you read. You formulated a thesis at the beginning of the book review paper, which represents your view. Now, explain your reasoning. This is also a time for considering your notes and adding details from the manuscript, such as key themes, characters, and the author’s point of view. Here is how to write a book review essay for this segment:

  • Which writing style is used? Emphasize precise usage of words and sentences, text flow, clarity, and cohesion.
  • Describe how it affected you and if it changed any of your feelings or opinions.
  • Explain whether the author met their purpose, if others should read the work, and why.
  • Did the author describe facts or attempt to persuade the audience regarding the validity of a specific issue?
  • Was it suitable for the intended readers? How interesting was it?

Book Evaluation Example

This example gives you an idea of how to write a book evaluation:

The novel is an excellent revelation for all as it describes the Holocaust events and terrors objectively. Its narration from two perspectives simultaneously was very entertaining. For example, initially, it involved a story from Bruno’s view in the course of the war, including which hardships were endured. Then, the same character was also used in telling a story from the view of being held in a Nazi camp. Here, the examination focuses on how prisoners were treated and the horrible conditions they lived in.

6. Make a Book Recommendation

After evaluating and critiquing the text, it is now time to reveal your thoughts about it. Writing a good book review requires that you identify or explain in this section how suitable it is to your audience. In other words, who will be interested in reading this work?

Also, explain in your book review assignment whether you liked or disliked it and why. Ascertain which type of people would love it because not every text is right for everyone. Even if you disliked it, this does not mean that the manuscript is not appealing to others. Therefore, make your review of a book useful by helping people discover it. Besides, identify any surprises you encountered.

Book Recommendation Example

The following sample demonstrates how to write a book recommendation:

Being majorly fictional, this text contains numerous factual elements and describes a lot of ideas and themes requiring mature individuals to deduce and understand properly. Therefore, I do not recommend it to youngsters under 12 years old. However, if you want to gain better insights into the dark events of the Second World War, then this is a perfect copy for you. Its only downside is that the novel does not offer adequate details about events and themes.

7. Write a Conclusion of a Book Review

Your knowledge of how to write book reviews will be incomplete without understanding this section. In particular, you need a strong ending, just like any other writing task you have done previously. So, you have a basic idea about how to write a conclusion for a book review. Specifically, make your final appraisal without introducing new evidence. Nonetheless, you can include new thoughts that go beyond the manuscript if they extend your argument’s logic.

In this part, you need to balance what you wrote and found into a single assessment. Ask yourself, what do all summaries and analyses add up to? Also, identify if additional research is required on the topic now that the text is written. Remember to highlight the work’s contribution to its field. Ensure to leave your audience with a well-justified and articulated final evaluation.

Book Review Conclusion Example

Still stuck or need a sample to jog your memory? Look at this example of a book review conclusion:

While the author’s style is plain and natural, there are some weaknesses and errors in how he develops his work. However, this does not stop the author from answering many questions and offering valuable views into the horrors of WWII for young people. His argument is vitally crucial when understanding and coming to terms with the Holocaust. No teenager in the world should go without being exposed to these disastrous events.

Book Review Format

When professors assign tasks, they often require you to comply with a specified design. You may also be left to select an appropriate layout from major styles such as Chicago, APA, or MLA. If you are not asked to use any one particular citation, keep in mind that the format of book reviews depends on your discipline. Therefore, find out how to format a book review from your school department. 

Do not forget to format your citations accordingly. We advise reading more articles on how to cite a book in APA or MLA, should you need any help.

Book Review Examples

Examples of book reviews are provided below. Click on each one and explore sample templates in more detail. Please, take your time to read all samples since they highlight some key components of writing this type of work. Also, understand that a particular academic book review example is intended to help you practice your analysis skills, enhance your writing skills, and develop your knowledge of reviewing books.

Example of book review essay 1

How Democratic Is the Constitution by Robert Dahl
History and Anthropology
Paper type:
Essay (Any Type)
5.94 MB

Sample book review 2

Book Review: Monster and A Wish After Midnight
Paper type:
Essay (Any Type)
4.54 MB

Book review essay example 3

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Paper type:
Essay (Any Type)
2.64 MB

Tips on How to Write Book Review

Your approach to composing a book review will vary and depend on what type of work and genre you are analyzing. However, when assessing a text, focus on how an author treats dialogue, setting, plot, and characters. In addition to viewing a book review sample for extra ideas, keep these tips in mind:

  • Characters Are they believable, different, or similar during dialogue? Can you tell one from another?
  • Plot Is it interesting enough? Does it emerge as original or has numerous dull parts? Identify if it has unresolved issues or is confusing. Remember that you do not know how to write a great book review if you cannot understand the plot.
  • Comparison Think about other works in the same genre. How does this volume compare to theirs?
  • Setting Can you visualize or imagine the described action? How is the setting used to create a mood?
  • Writing style What style is used in developing the text? Is there a consistent style throughout?

Book Review Writing Checklist

Here is a checklist about how to write a book review for school or college. Use it to examine your book review or get another student or peer to assist you:

  • Essential biographical details are provided.
  • My introduction is interesting.
  • I have identified the author and text title/type in my introduction.
  • I stated what the work is about and offered adequate background information.
  • I mentioned the book’s thesis and stated my claim.
  • I described key points in the body, such as summary, purpose, arguments, intended audience, layout, organization, and sources.
  • I backed up my description with evidence or quotations.
  • I critically evaluated key areas.
  • I discussed all strengths and weaknesses and summarized them.
  • I included my rating and recommendations.
  • I restated my thesis and offered a memorable ending.

Final Thoughts on How to Write a Book Review

This article described the whole process of reviewing a book. Completing these types of tasks should not be complicated or demanding if you follow the discussed guidelines and tips comprehensively.

Cement your understanding by checking out how to write a book review example from a list of samples provided previously. Pay attention to how key ideas from this guide are implemented. Also, don’t forget to explore all the examples of good book reviews for a complete overview. There is no need for you to seek more information outside once you have read all the segments. Just start writing your assignment.

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FAQ About Book Reviews

1. What is the purpose of a book review?

Book reviews usually inform readers about a specific volume’s purpose, argument, and quality. They also explain how it fits into the existing literature. This can be helpful to others who have not read the work so that they can choose whether to go through it or if it’s worth their time and effort.

2. What to include in a book review?

The elements of a book review include a citation, introduction, relevance and intended audience, a brief plot summary or main arguments, critique, evaluation and importance, recommendation, and conclusion. The review offers a critical analysis, assessment, and connection to other relevant works. A reviewer also provides personal views and recommendations.

3. How to start a book review?

Start a book review by reading the work to understand elements such as writing style, plot, characters, literary devices, and the main argument. Then, summarize the major claims made throughout the manuscript by explicitly stating them in your introduction. Also, offer relevant context for your analysis and declare your thesis.

4. How to end a book review?

Finish your book review by giving your overall impression of the work. Conclude and summarize the strengths and weaknesses you found, demonstrate how useful the text is, identify its contribution to the wider field, and offer your recommendations. In addition, mention the type of audience who will benefit from reading it.

5. How long should a book review be?

Traditionally, a book review is usually about 500-1000 words long. However, be sure to have a clear idea regarding your assignment expectations since specific tasks mostly have guidelines. In general, however, most evaluations will not exceed 1000 words.

6. What to avoid when writing a book review?

These are what to avoid when writing your book review:

  • Retelling a story without an in-depth analysis.
  • Summarizing the text only without critical evaluation.
  • Using imprecise language.
  • Providing harsh evaluations rather than constructive assessments.
  • Not using evidence to back up your views.
Article posted on:Feb 20, 2023
Article updated on:Apr 19, 2024


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