The Art of Writing Book Reviews

As book-lovers, most of us readers also love to review the books we read. Reviews not only help to record our experience of the book, but also help the reading community in deciding what books to read and why. But that is only as long as a book review is done right.

The first book I reviewed or rather attempted to review was Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’. This was five years ago; when I did not much know the technicalities. A reader who was a regular book reviewer then, commented saying,

“This isn’t a review.”

After so many years, when I stumbled past my review again, I know why she said so.

As reviewers, we have our own styles and there are certain things that need to remain consistent, as a rule of the thumb. Today, although I am a professional reviewer, there are things I learn every single day and then imbibe them in my reviews. Needless to say, these come from people I have known who read and review books, religiously, and are gems in the art of book-reviewing.

To begin with, I approached book-lovers I have been following for years. They were kind enough to share their tricks of the trade with me and that is what this post is about. This is an attempt to learn and pass on the knowledge on the art of doing a book review the right way. Once you’re done reading, I am sure you’ll go back to looking at book reviews differently. Feel free to visit their book blogs; I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

Bookworm, Suraj, who reviews books over at Books n Myself believes,

Both as a reviewer and a reader, I think one should avoid putting the blurb of the book in
the review because Goodreads/Amazon is the place for that. A summary in your own words (of course, without any spoilers) would be great. This intro thing is important because sometimes the book turns out to be something else from what the blurb promises it to be.
I always try to include my favourite lines from the text in my review. This acts as a sort of sample of the author’s writing style. And this is much better than describing the writing style with some adjectives. Both the things are actually complementary.

Steve, who is an avid reader and reviewer over at Book to the Future says,

My own particular brand of book reviewing is not intent on giving anything of the plot away (unless it is already stated in the blurb (although sometimes I edit that so the reader can have a better experience of learning about the book. For me the key is how the book affects the reader emotionally, as well as pointing out themes and overarching ideas without talking about anything that will infringe the reader’s pleasure when they discover it for themselves. I usually only add quotes if I really enjoy them and give a good sense of either the author’s style.

Reviewer, Drew, who reviews books and movies over at Drew Martin Writes explains,

My reviews, both books and films, are spoiler-free. I’m not trying to prove to a teacher that I did an assignment. I’m a writer, and a try to be creative in how I do my reviews. If I find fault with a book, I’ll explain why and give the reasons I didn’t like it, couldn’t finish it. If I liked it, I want my enjoyment to come through in the praise I give. The main thing I think, is to not so much do a “review,” but give a recommendation. If I list issues I have, then people can say, yeah, that will be an issue for me too. The reverse is also true, and I think that’s what I’m after more. If I really like something, really enjoy something, I want to try to turn other people onto it. If I give them a “play-by-play” breakdown, even if it’s a work everybody’s familiar with, in my mind when I see a review like that, I’m like, “ok, I don’t have to bother with this.” It’s so easy for someone to review a book or film and spoil the experience. I try to set the stage, maybe give a synopsis, but at the end of the day, I’m reviewing my experience with the work more than the work itself. That’s the type of review I want to read. Don’t tell me what’s going to happen. Tell me why or why not to have the experience myself, and that’s what I try to do and do it in a creative way.

Liz Dexter, who offers plethora of writing services over at shares,

So I’d just say tell the truth but be kind; don’t be mean unnecessarily. Also, if you are going to criticize the spelling and grammar in a book, be SURE to spell the author’s name correctly…
Yup, happened to me.

Readers, what do you think? Are there any tested ways of writing good book reviews? Go ahead, share your thoughts and tips. I’m all ears!

Happy writing, till we meet next. Until then, carpe diem! 🙂


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