Writing A Good Book Review
A lot of people seem to ask, and want to know how to write a good book review. Lots of questions are asked and answered on the internet, like ‘how long’, ‘how many paragraphs’ and ‘what should the paragraphs be on’. As a book review based blog, I think I’m pretty apt to try to answer these questions. A lot of it is personal, but I’ll try to outline at least the basics here.
The basic model I use for this site contains five to six paragraphs, and it is as follows:
1. Intro: Here I outline the title of the book, the author and maybe why I’m reading it. If you have a particular reason for reviewing the book, put it here (although ‘For My Homework’ isn’t worth writing). I might put in something about the author, whether it’s a new book, or perhaps something that I specifically liked or disliked about the book.
2. Plot Summary: Pretty basic really; you’re going to outline what goes on in the story, introduce some of the main characters and elements. It’s generally done so that no plot details that will spoil the book should be given. People don’t like that. I usually write what happens at the start of the book, and name some of the other key points. DO NOT review the plot here.
3. Plot Review: Here you should think about (and by think about, write down) how good the plot was. Some of the key questions are ‘was there much going on’, ‘was the plot fast paced or subdued’, ‘did you enjoy the plot’, ‘was the plot a good length, or was it all over too quickly’ or ‘was the plot difficult to follow’. This section is really important, as the plot is what drives a story. Make sure you don’t go back to describing what happens in the plot.
4. About The Characters: Here you write about the characters in the book. You should write whether they were interesting or not, if you particularly liked any of them or not ( little bit on your favourite character never goes amiss). You may find, whilst you are reading a book, that the characters don’t really fit with the plot, they may feel slightly out-of-place. If so, say so!
5. Optional Extras: Bit of a fickle one this. If there’s something you feel is worth saying about a book that doesn’t fit into the above, dedicate this paragraph to it. For example, if there are any strong themes in the book, write about them here (as in my Snuff review). Maybe the author has a very distinct writing style (as in my 11/22/63 review), it’s all good to put here.
6. Round Off: Now you need to sum up what you though of the book. Make sure you comment on things you enjoyed and didn’t enjoy . If you feel like it, put a numerical value on the book (x/10). I don’t particularly like doing this, but I do it because I know it gives people an easy way of seeing what I thought of the book.
If you look at any of the reviews on my site, you’ll be able to pick out this framework!
Now there’s a question, eh? A lot of people seem to think this is the most important part of the review. NoNoNo. Truth is, it’s as long as it needs to be, depending on how much you have to say about the book. However, I know that is immensely unhelpful. So, take a look at my reviews. They’re between 500 and 1000 words long (closer to, and sometimes exceeding the latter). If you really loved or hated a book, you can fly through 1000 words praising or vilifying it. If you really don’t care for it, you’ll probably b bored by 400. Don’t push it, do what you’re comfortable with (unless of course, it’s an assignment with a word target). It also depends on your purpose. Mine is to give people detailed info on books, so. I’m in it to tell people what’s worth upending the piggy bank for. Thus, I have to make sure I’m giving enough information to people so that they can make their own choice. My advice: head for 500 words. If you write 100 per paragraph (which really isn’t much), you’ll easily reach 500. If you work at an average of ten words per line, that’s a very respectful two A4 pages.
I always like to use language from the book itself in my review. “Surely it makes no sense to people who haven’t read the book?” you may ask. It doesn’t, and that’s the point, it makes people interested as to what you mean. They’ll want to know what you mean by ‘poundcake’ (a recurring term in 11/22/63). Don’t make it so you’re excluding people who haven’t read the books though, they won’t appreciate that.
I apologise if this sounds boring, but it’s vital. The way you write must reflect on who is going to be reading your book review. For me, it’s anybody who looks at my blog, but more specifically fictional book readers, as they’re the ones that are going to be interested. Due to the fact that I know little about my audience, and that I am not conforming to any set of rules, I can afford to be fairly jovial. I use rhetorics, and occasionally words like ‘crap’ (although I endeavour not to do this often). If you’re writing a book review as part of a coursework, you must use a higher register (formality), and not write as though your audience is your friend.
This is not an official set of guidelines by any standard. These are just the things I do subconsciously through experience when writing a review. This style of reviewing books I have simply developed through actually doing it, which is the way to get good at anything. All of this technique and so forth can be observed in any of my reviews on site. If you have any questions please comment.