CAREER ADVANCEMENT / JUN. 02, 2014
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How to Write a Book Review

A book review is an evaluation, critical analysis and description of the quality, significance and meaning of a book. It should place emphasis on the book’s content, authority and purpose.

There is no particular right way of writing a book review. Such reviews are very personal and present the reviewer’s opinions. Depending on the reasons for reviewing, a book review can be anything from 50 words up to 1500 words long.

The following are the steps to follow in writing a book review.  

1. Read the book

Before writing a book review, make sure you have read it comprehensively and that you understand its contents. Remember that you are not just writing a summary but a critical analysis. Check the table of contents to understand how the book has been organized. This will help you identify how the author’s ideas main ideas have been developed. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why did the author write the book?
  • What is the book’s general genre or field?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Does the author use a formal or informal style?      

2. State the thesis and theme of the book

The theme refers to the topic or subject. It expresses a particular aspect of the general topic. The thesis refers to the author’s opinion about something important, the author’s generalization of the theme, the arguments the author wants to prove or the book’s philosophical conclusion. Express it in one declarative sentence without any figurative language.

3. Explain the technique of development i.e. how the author explains the thesis

Use specific quotations and references to support your remarks. Generally, authors use one of the following techniques, either exclusively or in combination.

  • Description – The author presents events and scenes in word pictures, offering details which appeals to the reader’s senses.
  • Narration – Here, the author gives an account of events, usually in chronological order. However, in fiction writing, the chronological order might not be used so as to enhance the plot. In narration, the emphasis is on telling a story as it happened.
  • Exposition – The author uses analysis and explanation to clarify an idea or present a subject. Exposition offers facts about an issue or a subject as impartially and as clearly as possible. The main aim is to explain.
  • Argument – Here, the author applies tactics of persuasion to verify a truth or prove its falsity. The main aim is to convince the reader to believe or disbelieve something.

4. Evaluate the book

This is important aspect of learning how to write a book review. You need to evaluate the book for accuracy, interest, importance, thoroughness, objectivity and usefulness to the intended audience. Examine the author’s main opinions and arguments. Do you agree or disagree? Why? Analyze if any conclusions made can be logically derived from the evidence. Look at the issues raised and possibilities suggested by the book. What problems have been left unsolved and what has the author omitted? Compare the book with others written on similar subjects by different authors. Does the book refute previous opinions or is it just a reworking of earlier publications?

5. Critical Analysis

Critical analysis should comprise the bulk of a book review. Discuss whether the author handled the subject matter appropriately for the target audience. Critically analyze the concluding chapter. Is the author’s summary convincing? The following are some questions to consider.

  • Did the book achieve its purpose?
  • How has the book contributed to the field?
  • Was the subject matter handled objectively?
  • Is there omission of any evidence or facts?
  • Is there any data supporting the author’s thesis statement?
  • Can the data be interpreted in different ways?
  • Is the writing style effective and clear?
  • Does the book bring up topics or issues for discussion?

Writing a book review is a skill that can be easily learnt. If you follow the above mentioned points, you will be able to write great reviews in no time.

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