Thursday, June 13, 2013

What is a Book Review?

Today, we welcome guest blogger Ann Knowles to WIP. Ann has coordinated book reviews for The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network for numerous years, and I asked if she would write an article about writing book reviews.

What is a book review?
A book review is a description, analysis, and evaluation of a book. It reflects your opinion of the book, how you feel about the book’s purpose, content and authority. It talks about the quality, meaning and significance of the book as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

When people read your review, they can decide for themselves if it’s worth their money and time to read the book. Therefore, it is valuable not only to readers looking for books, but also to the author who is trying to promote the book in a positive way.

A book review is not:
  • a summary of the book that reveals the plot and climax. No one wants to read a book if they already know the story so take caution not to give away too many details about the book.
  • a book report like you did in high school
  • an opportunity to expound on your relationship to the author. The review is about the                              book.

How to Write a Book Review

Before you write your review, ask yourself “What would I have wanted to know before I read the book?”

Steps to writing a book review:

1. Write a bibliographical statement, giving important information about the book: title, author,      copyright date, type of book, general subject matter, special features, price and ISBN. (If you are leaving this review on a site like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or CBD, this information is already provided. But if you’re writing the review for a blog post, newsletter, newspaper, or magazine, you’ll need to provide as much information as you can to avoid any confusion about the book being reviewed.

            2. State the author’s purpose in writing the book. Look in the preface or first chapter to find this
                 information. If you don’t find it there, ask yourself some questions:
                        a. Who is the intended audience?
                        b. What is the genre, and how does the book fit into it?
                        c. Why did the author write on this subject?
                        d. Did the author try to give information, explain something technical, or convince the reader of something?
                        e. How did the book affect you? Did you change your ideas because of it? How did it fit in
                            with your worldview? Did it bring up old memories?
                        f. Did the book achieve its purpose? Would you recommend it to a friend?

            3. Comment on how the author tells the story and keeps you interested.

            4. Research the author online through biographical information, reputation, qualifications and
                experience. This allows you to establish the authority of the author.

            5. Depending on the type of book, you may need to comment on cover, layout and any pictures or 
maps that helped you understand the book better.

            6. Check the back matter: index, endnotes, bibliography. Is the material accurate and useful?

            7. Briefly summarize and comment on the author’s ideas and main points. Use quotations from the book to support your statements.

     8. Be detailed and specific, without giving away the plot. There is no set length for a book review. The publisher usually sets the number of words. Online they are usually 150-300 words, but in a magazine, they may be as much as 500 words.

Any time you read a good book, take the time to write a review on at least one of the Web sites like,,, Remember you are doing a service for the writer and the reader.

Ann Knowles – Freelance Writer, Editor, Speaker, and Workshop Leader – After thirty-two years in the classroom, Ann launched a new career in writing and editing. She is passionate about helping others improve their writing skills. Contact her at

1 comment:

Shaun Tabatt said...

Very helpful post. Thanks Ann!

Shaun Tabatt
Cross Focused Reviews