Literacy Ideas

How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide

how to write a book review high school

How to write a book review: A complete guide for students and teachers

What is a book review.

how to write a book review | what is a Book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

Traditionally, book reviews are written evaluations of a recently published book in any genre. Usually, around the 500 to 700-word mark, they offer a brief description of a text’s main elements while appraising the work’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Published book reviews can appear in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. They provide the reader with an overview of the book itself and indicate whether or not the reviewer would recommend the book to the reader.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A BOOK REVIEW?

There was a time when book reviews were a regular appearance in every quality newspaper and many periodicals. They were essential elements in whether or not a book would sell well. A review from a heavyweight critic could often be the deciding factor in whether a book became a bestseller or a damp squib. In the last few decades, however, the book review’s influence has waned considerably, with many potential book buyers preferring to consult customer reviews on Amazon, or sites like Goodreads, before buying. As a result, the book review’s appearance in newspapers, journals, and digital media has become less frequent.

WHY BOTHER TEACHING STUDENTS TO WRITE BOOK REVIEWS AT ALL?

Even in the heyday of the book review’s influence, few of the students who learned the craft of writing a book review went on to become literary critics! The real value of crafting a well-written book review for a student does not lie in their ability to impact book sales. Understanding how to produce a well-written book review helps students to:

●     Engage critically with a text

●     Critically evaluate a text

●     Respond personally to a range of different writing genres

●     Improve their own reading, writing, and thinking skills.

Not to Be Confused with a Book Report!

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BOOK REVIEW AND A BOOK REPORT?

book_reviews_vs_book_reports.jpg

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are clear differences in both the purpose and the format of the two genres. Generally speaking, book reports aim to give a more detailed outline of what occurs in a book. A book report on a work of fiction will tend to give a comprehensive account of the characters, major plot lines, and themes contained in the book. Book reports are usually written around the K-12 age range, while book reviews tend not to be undertaken by those at the younger end of this age range due to the need for the higher-level critical skills required in writing them. At their highest expression, book reviews are written at the college level and by professional critics.

Learn how to write a book review step by step with our complete guide for students and teachers by first familiarizing yourself with the structure and features.

BOOK REVIEW STRUCTURE

ANALYZE Evaluate the book with a critical mind.

THOROUGHNESS The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Review the book as a WHOLE.

COMPARE Where appropriate compare to similar texts and genres.

THUMBS UP OR DOWN? You are going to have to inevitably recommend or reject this book to potential readers.

BE CONSISTENT Take a stance and stick with it throughout your review.

FEATURES OF A BOOK REVIEW

PAST TENSE You are writing about a book you have already read.

EMOTIVE LANGUAGE Whatever your stance or opinion be passionate about it. Your audience will thank you for it.

VOICE Both active and passive voice are used in recounts.

A COMPLETE UNIT ON REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF TEXTS

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⭐ Make  MOVIES A MEANINGFUL PART OF YOUR CURRICULUM  with this engaging collection of tasks and tools your students will love. ⭐ All the hard work is done for you with  NO PREPARATION REQUIRED.

This collection of  21 INDEPENDENT TASKS  and  GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS  takes students beyond the hype, special effects and trailers to look at visual literacy from several perspectives offering DEEP LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES by watching a  SERIES, DOCUMENTARY, FILM, and even  VIDEO GAMES.

ELEMENTS OF A BOOK REVIEW

As with any of the genres of writing that we teach our students, a book review can be helpfully explained in terms of criteria. While there is much to the ‘art’ of writing, there is also, thankfully, a lot of the nuts and bolts that can be listed too. Have students consider the following elements prior to writing:

●     Title: Often, the title of the book review will correspond to the title of the text itself, but there may also be some examination of the title’s relevance. How does it fit into the purpose of the work as a whole? Does it convey a message or reveal larger themes explored within the work?

●     Author: Within the book review, there may be some discussion of who the author is and what they have written before, especially if it relates to the current work being reviewed. There may be some mention of the author’s style and what they are best known for. If the author has received any awards or prizes, this may also be mentioned within the body of the review.

●     Genre: A book review will identify the genre that the book belongs to, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry, romance, science-fiction, history etc. The genre will likely tie in too with who the intended audience for the book is and what the overall purpose of the work is.

●     Book Jacket / Cover: Often, a book’s cover will contain artwork that is worthy of comment. It may contain interesting details related to the text that contribute to, or detract from, the work as a whole.

●     Structure: The book’s structure will often be heavily informed by the genre it is in. Have students exam how the book is organized prior to writing their review. Does it contain a preface from a guest editor, for example? Is it written in sections or chapters? Does it contain a table of contents, index, glossary etc? While all these details may not make it into the review itself, taking a look at how the book is structured may reveal some interesting aspects.

●     Publisher and Price: A book review will usually contain details of who publishes the book and its cost. A review will often provide details of where the book is available too.

how to write a book review | writing a book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

BOOK REVIEW KEY ELEMENTS

As students read and engage with the work they will review, they will develop a sense of the shape their review will take. This will begin with the summary. Encourage students to take notes during the reading of the work that will help them in writing the summary that will form an essential part of their review. Aspects of the book they may wish to take notes on in a work of fiction may include:

●     Characters: Who are the main characters? What are their motivations? Are they convincingly drawn? Or are they empathetic characters?

●     Themes: What are the main themes of the work? Are there recurring motifs in the work? Is the exploration of the themes deep or surface only?

●     Style: What are the key aspects of the writer’s style? How does it fit into the wider literary world?

●     Plot: What is the story’s main catalyst? What happens in the rising action? What are the story’s subplots? 

A book review will generally begin with a short summary of the work itself. However, it is important not to give too much away, remind students – no spoilers, please! For nonfiction works, this may be a summary of the main arguments of the work, again, without giving too much detail away. In a work of fiction, a book review will often summarise up to the rising action of the piece without going beyond to reveal too much!

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The summary should also provide some orientation for the reader. Given the nature of the purpose of a review, it is important that students’ consider their intended audience in the writing of their review. Readers will most likely not have read the book in question and will require some orientation. This is often achieved through introductions to the main characters, themes, primary arguments etc. This will help the reader to gauge whether or not the book is of interest to them.

Once your student has summarized the work, it is time to ‘review’ in earnest. At this point, the student should begin to detail their own opinion of the book. To do this well they should:

i. Make It Personal

Often when teaching essay writing we will talk to our students about the importance of climbing up and down the ladder of abstraction. Just as it is helpful to explore large, more abstract concepts in an essay by bringing it down to Earth, in a book review, it is important that students can relate the characters, themes, ideas etc to their own lives.

Book reviews are meant to be subjective. They are opinion pieces, and opinions grow out of our experiences of life. Encourage students to link the work they are writing about to their own personal life within the body of the review. By making this personal connection to the work, students contextualize their opinions for the readers and help them to understand whether the book will be of interest to them or not in the process.

ii. Make It Universal

Just as it is important to climb down the ladder of abstraction to show how the work relates to individual life, it is important to climb upwards on the ladder too. Students should endeavor to show how the ideas explored in the book relate to the wider world. The may be in the form of the universality of the underlying themes in a work of fiction or, for example, the international implications for arguments expressed in a work of nonfiction.

iii. Support Opinions with Evidence

A book review is a subjective piece of writing by its very nature. However, just because it is subjective does not mean that opinions do not need to be justified. Make sure students understand how to back up their opinions with various forms of evidence, for example, quotations, statistics, and the use of primary and secondary sources.

EDIT AND REVISE YOUR BOOK REVIEW

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As with any writing genre, encourage students to polish things up with review and revision at the end. Encourage them to proofread and check for accurate spelling throughout, with particular attention to the author’s name, character names, publisher etc. 

It is good practice too for students to double-check their use of evidence. Are statements supported? Are the statistics used correctly? Are the quotations from the text accurate? Mistakes such as these uncorrected can do great damage to the value of a book review as they can undermine the reader’s confidence in the writer’s judgement.

The discipline of writing book reviews offers students opportunities to develop their writing skills and exercise their critical faculties. Book reviews can be valuable standalone activities or serve as a part of a series of activities engaging with a central text. They can also serve as an effective springboard into later discussion work based on the ideas and issues explored in a particular book. Though the book review does not hold the sway it once did in the mind’s of the reading public, it still serves as an effective teaching tool in our classrooms today.

how to write a book review | LITERACY IDEAS FRONT PAGE 1 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

BOOK REVIEW GRAPHIC ORGANIZER (TEMPLATE)

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101 DIGITAL & PRINT GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS FOR ALL CURRICULUM AREAS

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Introduce your students to 21st-century learning with this GROWING BUNDLE OF 101 EDITABLE & PRINTABLE GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS. ✌ NO PREP REQUIRED!!! ✌ Go paperless, and let your students express their knowledge and creativity through the power of technology and collaboration inside and outside the classroom with ease.

Whilst you don’t have to have a 1:1 or BYOD classroom to benefit from this bundle, it has been purpose-built to deliver through platforms such as ✔ GOOGLE CLASSROOM, ✔ OFFICE 365, ✔ or any CLOUD-BASED LEARNING PLATFORM.

Book and Movie review writing examples (Student Writing Samples)

Below are a collection of student writing samples of book reviews.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to both read the movie or book review in detail but also the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the key elements of writing a text review

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of book review writing.

We would recommend reading the example either a year above and below, as well as the grade you are currently working with to gain a broader appreciation of this text type .

how to write a book review | book review year 3 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

BOOK REVIEW VIDEO TUTORIALS

how to write a book review | 2 book review tutorial28129 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

OTHER GREAT ARTICLES RELATED TO BOOK REVIEWS

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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.

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How to write a book review

Author Luisa Plaja offers her top tips for how to write a brilliant review of the latest book you read - whether you liked it or not.

how to write a book review high school

Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

If you're stuck on what to say in a review, it can help to imagine you're talking to someone who's asking you whether they should read the book.

1. Start with a couple of sentences describing what the book is about

But without giving any spoilers or revealing plot twists! As a general rule, try to avoid writing in detail about anything that happens from about the middle of the book onwards. If the book is part of a series, it can be useful to mention this, and whether you think you'd need to have read other books in the series to enjoy this one.

2. Discuss what you particularly liked about the book

Focus on your thoughts and feelings about the story and the way it was told. You could try answering a couple of the following questions:

3. Mention anything you disliked about the book

Talk about why you think it didn't work for you. For example:

4. Round up your review

Summarise some of your thoughts on the book by suggesting the type of reader you'd recommend the book to. For example: younger readers, older readers, fans of relationship drama/mystery stories/comedy. Are there any books or series you would compare it to?

5. You can give the book a rating, for example a mark out of five or ten, if you like!

Luisa Plaja loves words and books, and she used to edit the book review site Chicklish. Her novels for teenagers include Split by a Kiss, Swapped by a Kiss and Kiss Date Love Hate. She lives in Devon, England, and has two young children.

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Foolproof Guide to Writing a Book Review

man writing a book review

Writing a book review is easy if you have a clear guide to the process. With step-by-step instructions and important tips, you’ll be able to write a non-fiction or fiction book review - even if you’ve never done it before. A book review is not the same as a book report , so you’ll have to draw on your own opinions about the book.

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. The biggest difference between the two is that a book report is objective, while a book review is not. There are a few other differences:

How to Write a Book Review in Six Steps

Before you begin your review, you should have a clear idea of the expectations. Your specific assignment will offer a guideline, but, in general, a good book review will:

1. Start by Assessing the Book

Before you begin writing, take some time to assess the book. If you made notes while reading, look them over. If not, flip back through the book and review. Don’t start writing yet, but ask yourself some important questions about the text and jot down notes:

2. Create a Thesis Statement

Look over your notes and think about your answers to the questions above. What do you think about the book? Write a thesis statement that will be the main idea of your review. It will be an opinion. Consider these examples:

3. Write an Introduction

You can start with a short quote or anecdote about the book or any other type of hook to capture the reader’s attention . Then be sure to include essential information like title, author, and kind of book. In the introduction, also cover the thesis statement the author used or the main theme of a work of fiction. Finally, include your own thesis statement.

4. Give a Short Summary of the Book

Next, create a summary of the book to give your reader some background. Talk about what happens over the course of the book. This should offer context, but it’s not the main part of a book review. Keep it to one or two paragraphs unless you’re writing a very long piece.

5. Provide Your Analysis

Now it’s time for the main part of your book review: backing up your opinion. Your thesis statement is your own view, but you’ll need to share why you think what you do. Look to your notes here; you already have the information you need. Add details from the text, such as the point of view of the book, the characters, and the important themes.

Also discuss the following as they relate to your thesis:

6. End With a Strong Conclusion

Just like an essay, a book review needs a strong conclusion. Restate your thesis statement and summarize by touching on the main points. You may include quotes or references here, but do not put in any new material.

Tips for Fiction and Non

Your approach to writing a book review will be different, depending on whether you are writing about fiction or nonfiction. Keep these guidelines in mind to help.

Fiction Book Reviews

When reviewing fiction, analyze the author's treatment of the characters, plot, setting, and dialogue. Specifically, ask yourself these questions as you write:

Nonfiction Book Reviews

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. Ask yourself these questions:

Beyond the Classroom

Besides classroom assignments, book reviews are found in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and more. Learning how to write a book review is a great way to learn about reflective writing , and it’s a useful skill for anyone who enjoys reading.

how to write a book review high school

How To Write A Book Review: 6 Steps To Take

Whether you’re a student, a novice blogger, or just someone looking to become a more active user of Goodreads, writing a book review is an important skill to have! Here are six steps for how to write a book review for school and beyond. 

How To Write A Book Review in 6 Steps

1. Begin with a brief summary of the book

This is probably the best way to introduce any review because it gives context. But make sure to not go into too much detail. Keep it short and sweet since an official summary can be found through a quick google search!

2. Pick out the most important aspects of the book

I usually break this down with character, world-building, themes, and plot. But this might vary between books, genres, and your tastes!

Dedicate a paragraph to each of these important aspects, discussing how well the author dealt with it, along with what you enjoyed and what you didn’t enjoy.

3. Include brief quotes as examples

Including quotes is always a great idea, because it gives examples for everything that you’re saying! If your review talks about a character being particularly witty, a witty line from the character lets your readers see exactly what kind of witty character you’re dealing with here.

But be careful: lengthy quotes can take up big chunks of space and overpower your review. Short quotes will usually get your points across while letting your work shine through.

4. Write a conclusion that summarises everything

Like your introduction, keep your conclusion short and sweet! It should bring up the main points of your review, along with your overall opinion of the book.

5. Find similar books

A great way to wrap up a review is to find similar books to the one you’re reviewing. So you can say, “if you were a fan of X book, I think you’ll definitely like this one!”

You can also be more specific, looking at the exact things that might make two books similar. So you can suggest something like…“if you liked that the main character in X book was a kick-ass superhero, then you’ll love the main character of this book!”

6. Give it a star rating

A star rating is obviously encouraged in a lot of review sites, but they’re not necessary! If you do want to give a star rating, you can go the conventional “out of five/ten” route. You could also try something slightly less conventional, and break down your star-rating into different categories for character/plot/world-building, etc.

Now go forth and review! And share any tips you have for how to write a book review in the comments.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Book Reviews

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you write a book review, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective on a text. It offers a process and suggests some strategies for writing book reviews.

What is a review?

A review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This handout will focus on book reviews. For a similar assignment, see our handout on literature reviews .

Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews need to be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:

Becoming an expert reviewer: three short examples

Reviewing can be a daunting task. Someone has asked for your opinion about something that you may feel unqualified to evaluate. Who are you to criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve never written a novel yourself, much less won a Nobel Prize? The point is that someone—a professor, a journal editor, peers in a study group—wants to know what you think about a particular work. You may not be (or feel like) an expert, but you need to pretend to be one for your particular audience. Nobody expects you to be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, but your careful observations can provide you with the raw material to make reasoned judgments. Tactfully voicing agreement and disagreement, praise and criticism, is a valuable, challenging skill, and like many forms of writing, reviews require you to provide concrete evidence for your assertions.

Consider the following brief book review written for a history course on medieval Europe by a student who is fascinated with beer:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600, investigates how women used to brew and sell the majority of ale drunk in England. Historically, ale and beer (not milk, wine, or water) were important elements of the English diet. Ale brewing was low-skill and low status labor that was complimentary to women’s domestic responsibilities. In the early fifteenth century, brewers began to make ale with hops, and they called this new drink “beer.” This technique allowed brewers to produce their beverages at a lower cost and to sell it more easily, although women generally stopped brewing once the business became more profitable.

The student describes the subject of the book and provides an accurate summary of its contents. But the reader does not learn some key information expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book and its argument, and whether or not the student would recommend the book. As a critical assessment, a book review should focus on opinions, not facts and details. Summary should be kept to a minimum, and specific details should serve to illustrate arguments.

Now consider a review of the same book written by a slightly more opinionated student:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 was a colossal disappointment. I wanted to know about the rituals surrounding drinking in medieval England: the songs, the games, the parties. Bennett provided none of that information. I liked how the book showed ale and beer brewing as an economic activity, but the reader gets lost in the details of prices and wages. I was more interested in the private lives of the women brewsters. The book was divided into eight long chapters, and I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to read it.

There’s no shortage of judgments in this review! But the student does not display a working knowledge of the book’s argument. The reader has a sense of what the student expected of the book, but no sense of what the author herself set out to prove. Although the student gives several reasons for the negative review, those examples do not clearly relate to each other as part of an overall evaluation—in other words, in support of a specific thesis. This review is indeed an assessment, but not a critical one.

Here is one final review of the same book:

One of feminism’s paradoxes—one that challenges many of its optimistic histories—is how patriarchy remains persistent over time. While Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 recognizes medieval women as historical actors through their ale brewing, it also shows that female agency had its limits with the advent of beer. I had assumed that those limits were religious and political, but Bennett shows how a “patriarchal equilibrium” shut women out of economic life as well. Her analysis of women’s wages in ale and beer production proves that a change in women’s work does not equate to a change in working women’s status. Contemporary feminists and historians alike should read Bennett’s book and think twice when they crack open their next brewsky.

This student’s review avoids the problems of the previous two examples. It combines balanced opinion and concrete example, a critical assessment based on an explicitly stated rationale, and a recommendation to a potential audience. The reader gets a sense of what the book’s author intended to demonstrate. Moreover, the student refers to an argument about feminist history in general that places the book in a specific genre and that reaches out to a general audience. The example of analyzing wages illustrates an argument, the analysis engages significant intellectual debates, and the reasons for the overall positive review are plainly visible. The review offers criteria, opinions, and support with which the reader can agree or disagree.

Developing an assessment: before you write

There is no definitive method to writing a review, although some critical thinking about the work at hand is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a review is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, and making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft. See our handout on argument .

What follows is a series of questions to focus your thinking as you dig into the work at hand. While the questions specifically consider book reviews, you can easily transpose them to an analysis of performances, exhibitions, and other review subjects. Don’t feel obligated to address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to the book in question.

Beyond the internal workings of the book, you may also consider some information about the author and the circumstances of the text’s production:

Writing the review

Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Check out our handout on thesis statements . Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis.

Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review. What follows is just one of many ways to organize a review.

Introduction

Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your review differently depending on the argument and audience. The Writing Center’s handout on introductions can help you find an approach that works. In general, you should include:

Summary of content

This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.

The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book reviews for colleagues—to prepare for comprehensive exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as a class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty to explore more subtle points and to emphasize your own argument. See our handout on summary for more tips.

Analysis and evaluation of the book

Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly. You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book. If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review remains in the spotlight. Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.

Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis. This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do they all add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions can help you make a final assessment.

Finally, a few general considerations:

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Drewry, John. 1974. Writing Book Reviews. Boston: Greenwood Press.

Hoge, James. 1987. Literary Reviewing. Charlottesville: University Virginia of Press.

Sova, Dawn, and Harry Teitelbaum. 2002. How to Write Book Reports , 4th ed. Lawrenceville, NY: Thomson/Arco.

Walford, A.J. 1986. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

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Writing a Book Review

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A critical book review is a thoughtful discussion of a text’s contents, strengths, and limitations. A book review should reflect your capacity to read critically and to evaluate an author’s arguments and evidence. Compose your review as you would any essay, with an argument supported by evidence, and a clear, logical structure.  

Initial Steps

Organizing the Review

Questions to Consider

Although you should not use the following questions as some sort of laundry list of “things to include” (dull for us all), you may wish to consider them as you prepare and write your review.  

Analysis of Content

Evaluation of Content

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Book Review Writing

Introduction.

If you love to read, at some point you will want to share a book you love with others. You may already do this by talking about books with friends. If you want to share your ideas with more people than your circle of friends, the way you do that is by writing a review. By publishing the reviews you write, you can share your ideas about books with other readers around the world.

It's natural for young readers to confuse book reviews with book reports, yet writing a book review is a very different process from writing a book report. Book reports focus on the plot of the book. Frequently, the purpose of book reports is to demonstrate that the books were read, and they are often done for an assignment.

A book review is a totally different task. A book review's purpose is to help people decide whether or not the book would interest them enough to read it. Reviews are a sneak peek at a book, not a summary. Like wonderful smells wafting from a kitchen, book reviews lure readers to want to taste the book themselves.

This guide is designed to help you become a strong book reviewer, a reader who can read a book and then cook up a review designed to whet the reading appetites of other book lovers.

Form: What should the review look like?

How long should it be.

The first question we usually ask when writing something is "How long should it be?" The best answer is "As long as it takes," but that's a frustrating answer. A general guideline is that the longer the book, the longer the review, and a review shouldn't be fewer than 100 words or so. For a long book, the review may be 500 words or even more.

If a review is too short, the review may not be able to fulfill its purpose. Too long, and the review may stray into too much plot summary or lose the reader's interest.

The best guide is to focus less on how long to write and more on fulfilling the purpose of the review.

How Do You Create A Title?

The title of the review should convey your overall impression and not be overly general. Strong titles include these examples:

Weak titles may look like this:

The Storm Whale cover

How Should It Begin?

Although many reviews begin with a short summary of the book (This book is about…), there are other options as well, so feel free to vary the way you begin your reviews.

In an introductory summary, be careful not to tell too much. If you retell the entire story, the reader won't feel the need to read it him/herself, and no one appreciates a spoiler (telling the end). Here are some examples of summaries reviewers from The New York Times have written:

"A new picture book tells a magically simple tale of a lonely boy, a stranded whale and a dad who rises to the occasion."

"In this middle-grade novel, a girl finds a way forward after the loss of her mother."

"Reared by ghosts, werewolves and other residents of the hillside cemetery he calls home, an orphan named Nobody Owens wonders how he will manage to survive among the living having learned all his lessons from the dead. And the man Jack — who killed the rest of Nobody's family — is itching to finish the job."

"In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South." Other ways to begin a review include:

Process: What should I write about?

Deciding what to say about the book can be challenging. Use the following ideas as a guide, but remember that you should not put all of this into a single review — that would make for a very long review! Choose the things that fit this particular book best.

General Information What the reader ought to know

Plot What happens?

Writing about the plot is the trickiest part of a review because you want to give the reader a feel for what the book is about without spoiling the book for future readers. The most important thing to remember is that you must never give away the ending. No one likes a spoiler.

One possibility for doing this is to set up the premise (A brother and a sister find themselves lost in the woods at the mercy of an evil witch. Will they be able to outsmart her and escape?). Another possibility is to set up the major conflict in the book and leave it unresolved (Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part or He didn't know what he stood to lose or Finding your purpose in life can be as easy as finding a true friend.)

Try to avoid using the tired phrase "This book is about…" Instead, just jump right in (The stuffed rabbit wanted more than anything to live in the big old house with the wild oak trees.)

The Storm Whale cover

Characters Who lives in the book?

Reviews should answer questions about the characters in fiction books or non-fiction books about people. Some possible questions to answer include:

Theme What is the book about at its heart?

What is the book really about? This isn't the plot, but rather the ideas behind the story. Is it about the triumph of good over evil or friendship or love or hope? Some common themes include: change, desire to escape, facing a challenge, heroism, the quest for power, and human weaknesses.

Sometimes a book will have a moral — a lesson to learn. If so, the theme is usually connected to that moral. As you write about the theme, try to identify what makes the book worth reading. What will the reader think about long after the book is finished? Ask yourself if there any particular lines in the book that strike you as meaningful.

Setting Where are we?

The setting is the time and place the story occurs. When you write about the setting in a review, include more than just the location. Some things to consider:

The Storm Whale cover

Opinion & Analysis What do you really think?

This is where the reviewer shares his/her reactions to the book that go beyond the essential points described above. You may spend half of the review on this section. Some possible questions to address include:

Are there parts that are simply not believable, even allowing for the reader's understanding that it is fiction or even fantasy?

Special situations: Nonfiction and young reviewers

Some of the tips and ideas above work best for fiction, and some of it is a little too complicated for very young reviewers.

Nonfiction What to do if it's real

When reviewing a book of nonfiction, you will want to consider these questions:

Young Reviewers Keeping it simple

Reviewing a book can be fun, and it's not hard at all. Just ask yourself these questions:

Remember! Don't give away the ending. Let's keep that a surprise.

General Tips & Ideas

Use a few quotes or phrases (keep them short) from the book to illustrate the points you make about the book. If there are illustrations, be sure to comment on those. Are they well done? Has the illustrator done other well-known books?

Make sure you include a conclusion to the review — don't leave it hanging. The conclusion can be just one sentence (Overall, this book is a terrific choice for those who…).

You can use the transition word handout at the end of the Writer's Toolbox to find ideas for words to connect the ideas in your review. If you would like to read some well-written reviews, look for reviews of books for young people at The New York Times or National Public Radio .

Rating Books How to award stars?

Most places you post reviews ask you to rate the book using a star system, typically in a range of from one to five stars. In your rating, you should consider how the book compares to other books like it. Don't compare a long novel to a short poetry book — that's not a valid comparison.

It's important to remember that it's not asking you to only give five stars to the very best books ever written.

How to Write a Book Review

how to write a book review high school

A book review allows students to illustrate the author's intentions of writing the piece, as well as create a criticism of the book — as a whole. In other words, form an opinion of the author's presented ideas. Check out this guide from EssayPro — dissertation writing service to learn how to write a book review successfully.

What Is a Book Review?

You may prosper, “what is a book review?”. Book reviews are commonly assigned students to allow them to show a clear understanding of the novel. And to check if the students have actually read the book. The essay format is highly important for your consideration, take a look at the book review format below.

Book reviews are assigned to allow students to present their own opinion regarding the author’s ideas included in the book or passage. They are a form of literary criticism that analyzes the author’s ideas, writing techniques, and quality. A book analysis is entirely opinion-based, in relevance to the book. They are good practice for those who wish to become editors, due to the fact, editing requires a lot of criticism.

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Book Review Template

The book review format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.

How to Write a Book Review: Step-By-Step

Writing a book review is something that can be done with every novel. Book reviews can apply to all novels, no matter the genre. Some genres may be harder than others. On the other hand, the book review format remains the same. Take a look at these step-by-step instructions from our professional writers to learn how to write a book review in-depth.

write a book review

Step 1: Planning

Create an essay outline which includes all of the main points you wish to summarise in your book analysis. Include information about the characters, details of the plot, and some other important parts of your chosen novel. Reserve a body paragraph for each point you wish to talk about.

Consider these points before writing:

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Step 2: Introduction

Presumably, you have chosen your book. To begin, mention the book title and author’s name. Talk about the cover of the book. Write a thesis statement regarding the fictitious story or non-fictional novel. Which briefly describes the quoted material in the book review.

Step 3: Body

Choose a specific chapter or scenario to summarise. Include about 3 quotes in the body. Create summaries of each quote in your own words. It is also encouraged to include your own point-of-view and the way you interpret the quote. It is highly important to have one quote per paragraph.

Step 4: Conclusion

Write a summary of the summarised quotations and explanations, included in the body paragraphs. After doing so, finish book analysis with a concluding sentence to show the bigger picture of the book. Think to yourself, “Is it worth reading?”, and answer the question in black and white. However, write in-between the lines. Avoid stating “I like/dislike this book.”

Step 5: Rate the Book (Optional)

After writing a book review, you may want to include a rating. Including a star-rating provides further insight into the quality of the book, to your readers. Book reviews with star-ratings can be more effective, compared to those which don’t. Though, this is entirely optional.

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Writing a Book Review: Video Guide

Writing tips.

Here is the list of tips for the book review:

tips for book review

Writing a book review is something worth thinking about. Professors commonly assign this form of an assignment to students to enable them to express a grasp of a novel. Following the book review format is highly useful for beginners, as well as reading step-by-step instructions. Writing tips is also useful for people who are new to this essay type. If you need a custom writing , ask Essaypro 'write paper for me' and we'll give you a hand asap!

We also recommend that everyone read the article about essay topics . It will help broaden your horizons in writing a book review as well as other papers.

Book Review Examples

Referring to a book review example is highly useful to those who wish to get a clearer understanding of how to review a book. Take a look at our examples written by our professional writers. Click on the button to open the book review examples and feel free to use them as a reference.

Book review

Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’

Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a novel aimed at youngsters. The plot, itself, is not American humor, but that of Great Britain. In terms of sarcasm, and British-related jokes. The novel illustrates a fair mix of the relationships between the human-like animals, and wildlife. The narrative acts as an important milestone in post-Victorian children’s literature.

Book Review

Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’

Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’ consists of 3 major parts. The first part is all about the polluted ocean. The second being about the pollution of the sky. The third part is an in-depth study of how humans can resolve these issues. The book is a piece of non-fiction that focuses on modern-day pollution ordeals faced by both animals and humans on Planet Earth. It also focuses on climate change, being the result of the global pollution ordeal.

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Writing a Book Review

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This resource discusses book reviews and how to write them.

Book reviews typically evaluate recently-written works. They offer a brief description of the text’s key points and often provide a short appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the work.

Readers sometimes confuse book reviews with book reports, but the two are not identical. Book reports commonly describe what happens in a work; their focus is primarily on giving an account of the major plot, characters, and/or main idea of the work. Most often, book reports are a K-12 assignment and range from 250 to 500 words. If you are looking to write a book report, please see the OWL resource, Writing a Book Report.

By contrast, book reviews are most often a college assignment, but they also appear in many professional works: magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. They typically range from 500-750 words, but may be longer or shorter. A book review gives readers a sneak peek at what a book is like, whether or not the reviewer enjoyed it, and details on purchasing the book.

Before You Read

Before you begin to read, consider the elements you will need to included in your review. The following items may help:

As You Read

As you read, determine how you will structure the summary portion or background structure of your review. Be ready to take notes on the book’s key points, characters, and/or themes.

When You Are Ready to Write

Begin with a short summary or background of the work, but do not give too much away. Many reviews limit themselves only to the first couple of chapters or lead the reader up to the rising action of the work. Reviewers of nonfiction texts will provide the basic idea of the book’s argument without too much detailed.

The final portion of your review will detail your opinion of the work. When you are ready to begin your review, consider the following:

When making the final touches to your review, carefully verify the following:

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COMMENTS

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    ANALYZE Evaluate the book with a critical mind. THOROUGHNESS The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Review the book as a WHOLE. COMPARE Where

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    How to write a book review · 1. Start with a couple of sentences describing what the book is about · 2. Discuss what you particularly liked about the book · 3.

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    1. Begin with a brief summary of the book · 2. Pick out the most important aspects of the book · 3. Include brief quotes as examples · 4. Write a

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    The name of the author and the book title and the main theme. · Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry

  7. Writing Resources

    Organizing the Review · All reviews begin with bibliographic information: the author's name, the book's full title, place of publication, publisher, edition

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    What kind of book is it? (Picture book? · Does the book belong to a series? · How long is the book? · Is there anything that would be helpful for the reader to

  9. How to Write a Book Review: Definition, Structure, Examples

    Book Review Template · Use about 3 quotations from the author's novel. · Summarise the quotations in your own words. · Mention your own point-of-

  10. Writing a Book Review

    Begin with a short summary or background of the work, but do not give too much away. Many reviews limit themselves only to the first couple of chapters or lead