How to write a book review

underliningJust saw a nice post on Read.Learn.Write which goes into the methodology of writing book reviews, using my novel On the Holloway Road as a model.

I’ve never really thought about a method for writing reviews before – I tend to just give my response to the book in whatever form seems natural. That’s probably because the reviews started as my own way of keeping track of what I was reading and analysing it to improve my understanding, and although other people now read them, the style is still quite personal and informal.

Still, I do employ most of the steps outlined in the post:

  1. Read slowly
  2. Take notes
  3. Deconstruct the book to figure out what works
  4. Figure out what you would have done differently
  5. Decide on a rating system

Well, I don’t use a rating system on this site, because I find it very difficult to slot books into neat little categories. Plus I think that if the review has done its job, it should be obvious what I thought of it, and I don’t really see what giving a score out of five or ten really adds. When I post the reviews on sites like Goodreads or Amazon and am forced to choose a star rating, I usually vacillate, and when I look back at my overall ratings, they don’t make a lot of sense – sometimes a book with a 4-star rating is actually one I enjoyed more than another which only got 3 stars, probably because of my differing moods at the time of scoring.

But the others make sense to me. I think it’s designed for people who are just starting to write reviews – clearly there’s a lot more you could say about reviewing, and a lot more depth you could go into if you wanted to pursue it further. But as a basic five-step process, this seems pretty sound to me.

How about you? Do you follow a particular process when writing book reviews? Do you agree with the five-step process, or are there things you would add in or take out?

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Joseph Dante
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I feel the same way about rating books. For the last book I reviewed, I was forced to give a rating out of 10, so I settled on an 8.5 just to show that I enjoyed it overall. When it comes to all the book cataloging websites, I simply avoid doing it. I feel like the scores are so arbitrary anyway – as you said, the review should speak for itself.

litlove
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I am also anti-star ratings. It seems illogical to me to write a nuanced, detailed review and then judge the book on a scale of one to five. I still love writing reviews although I’d be hard pressed to say what my method is. I suppose while I’m reading I just listen out for the things that pull hard on my attention, and for the places where something really happens (not just plot). I’m thinking about the shape of the book, and its moral universe. If I’m stuck with a book, I think about the characters, and how each one… Read more »

Charlie
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I’d say that’s a good list, and I like that it’s not too detailed. My process is pretty similar, though in addition to those five I tend to hone in on themes that I picked up on (whether purposely written into the book or not). I probably go into detail too much sometimes, but it’s a style that works for me. “De-constructing what you would have done differently” is very important to writing an objective review, or as objective as a review is ever going to get (I don’t believe a review can ever be completely unbiased). It stops it… Read more »

Vishy
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Interesting 5-step process, Andrew! I agree with the first step, but the other four seem like hard work. I occasionally take notes when I read. I highlight my favourite passages when I read and I browse through them before I write my review.

Sadye
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Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found
a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.

There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!
LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

Paige
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Why people still use to read news papers when in this technological world everything is
accessible on web?