Writing a book review can be done by anyone (so long as you’ve actually read the book in question). They can be as short as “I liked it” to as long as a full essay about the ups and downs of the specific book, and the quality of book reviews differs as much as the books themselves. The most important thing to remember, though, is even if you didn’t like the book, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, it just means it’s a bad fit for you. Someone else may have also read the book and loved it, so remember to always be kind with your opinions and think about why you didn’t like it, rather than pushing your view on others.
In this article, I am going to outline my own process for writing a book review. This is just something I’ve found works for me and gets all my points across. You may have a different method of writing reviews.
Read the Book
This goes without saying, but I’ve actually come across people who write a book review without even reading the book first. You may look at this and wonder what’s the point? and I can honestly say that I don’t know. I’ve seen glowing book reviews manufactured to “help” the author, and I’ve seen rants about how horrid a book is because of an opinion formed from just looking at the cover of a book. A few people even write “troll reviews”, one example being the entirety of The Bee Movie script (which actually happened to me once).
These reviews are frustrating not only to readers, who want to know if the book is worth reading but especially to authors, who rely on book reviews to entice potential customers into buying their books. Good book reviews are important because it helps the right kind of person find the book. While yes, every author wants as many people to read their book as possible, I think it’s most important for the people reading the book to be the ones who will most enjoy it. If the content of a specific book isn’t to a reader’s liking, of course they’ll think that the book is bad. That’s where good book reviews come in handy. They let the reader know—beyond just the title, cover, and description—what the book is about and if it’s worth reading.
When I pick up a new book, I’ll also start a new document for a book review, just so I can make notes as I’m reading to refer to when I’m done. Every review I write has a standard skeleton, starting with an introduction, then the main points I talk about, then a conclusion. Here they are:
First and foremost, I begin each book review with the title and author of the book, then my rating out of five stars. I think I might change my rating system for the new year, but for now, I keep it within the standard system of one to five. I also typically include a quick note about it.
1 star – Did not finish; I didn’t like it at all.
2 stars – It was okay, but there was something about the book that made me stop reading.
3 stars – I liked it, but there was something about the book that could’ve been improved.
4 stars – I liked it; it was good. (My typical response. I didn’t love the book, but there was nothing I thought needed to be fixed.)
5 stars – I absolutely loved it/changed my life. (This is very rare. I hardly ever give 5-star reviews unless the book absolutely blew me away.)
After the rating, I’ll include a short introduction, usually about how I found the book or what initially made me want to read the book. This part is always next to the cover image of the book that I bought (the specific edition). I’ll also include when I started reading the book and when I finished reading the book, and a link for readers to purchase their own copy.
The tagline is that snappy one-line comment you have about the book. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that a potential buyer will look at. It is also usually the deciding factor for whether the buyer reads the rest of your review.
My own approach to this is usually something I really liked or didn’t like about the book, or something important about the content. For example, one tagline was “Space Pirates!” because that was the main premise of the book that I didn’t quite realize before reading, and another (for a series) was “Third Book, Third Big Battle” because every book in the series ended the same way and I found it boring and unoriginal.
Description & Opening Opinion
After the tagline, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the book in my own words. It’s similar to rewriting the blurb that you would find on the back cover or on the inside of the dust jacket. The tricky part of this section is to avoid big spoilers!
Sometimes, if I have something important to say about the book, I will directly follow the description with that. This may be explaining my views going into a book, or something that I have the potential to rant about. This only happens sometimes, so some of my reviews won’t include this part.
Characters & Relationships
Something I always try to talk about, though, is the “cast” of the book. This isn’t just my favourite and least favourite. I try to talk about the characters based on their growth throughout the book, how they interact with other characters, how well they play their individual role, and so on. I’ll also rate relationships based on whether I think they’re healthy or not, wanting to point out if there are problems that could be avoided or fixed. However, I am not an expert in relationships, so this is to be taken with a grain of salt.
Writing Style & Quality
Another thing I try to talk about is the style and quality of the writing. I’ll include any warnings the book has (foul language, violence, sexual content, etc.), and who I think the book is written for. Sometimes the intended audience doesn’t match the content of the book, and other times it’s spot on. I’ll usually make a note of it if there is a discrepancy. From there, I’ll talk about my opinion about whether the book is good quality or bad quality. I may bring up things like inconsistencies, grammatical or spelling errors, or other things within the text that either make it great or mediocre in my eyes.
Finally, my conclusion. This is where I will say whether I recommend this book or not (if it’s three stars or higher, I typically recommend it). I will also include who specifically I think would enjoy this book.
Posting a Review
Depending on how many books I’ve been reading and how many articles I have written, the completed book review may sit in a folder somewhere until it gets to the day when I can post it. I post my reviews on my blog first and foremost, and (if I remember) I’ll also post them on my Goodreads account. For ARC or Review books, authors sometimes request that you post a review on a specific website, like Amazon. In that case, I would also post my review to those places.
Always remember that your review is meant to help the right people find the right books. Most writers spend a lot of time, effort, and money on bringing their stories to life, so don’t use your book review to rip into them. If you didn’t like it, explain why. Help people understand who you are as a person and why this book wasn’t for you—because it may be just the book for them.
I hope this helps you when you’re writing your own book reviews. Remember that this is just my personal method, and after writing a few reviews, you might find your own rhythm of what you want to talk about and what you don’t. Good luck!