Book Review Writing

Book reviews are academic papers that evaluate written works. They present a small summary of the text and its major elements as well as provide a critical analysis of advantages and drawbacks of the work.

Some students do not realize the difference between book reviews and book reports, though these assignments are not identical. In book reports, a writer should focus on the description of what occurred. One should summarize major plot ideas, settings, characters, symbols, etc. High school students usually have to write rather short book reports taking 250-500 words only. If you want to find a sample of book report writing, please check OWL resource, namely a section “Writing a Book Report.”

From the other side, book reviews are usually assigned as college or university home task. However, one can also see book review writing in professional works: academic journals, newspapers, and magazines. A word count requirement for book reviews takes 500-750 words, but surely, your assignment might include other numbers. In a book review, a writer should focus specifically on the fact if he/she enjoyed reading the book, if it should be recommended to others, etc.

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Before Reading the Text

Before reading the assigned text, please have a look at the checklist below. It will help you arrange ideas in writing:

  • Author: What do you know about the author? Can you recall some other written works? Did he/she win any awards for writing? Can you name the author’s tone and typical style of writing?
  • Genre: What genre does this book refer to (fiction, nonfiction, romance, fantasy, etc.)? Can you identify the purpose of writing? Who might be the possible audience?
  • Title: Is the title connected with the rest of the text? Is there any implied or hidden meaning? Does it represent the author’s main idea? Do you consider the title to be compelling?
  • Preface/Introduction/Table of Contents: Did the author present any additional information about the text in preface or introduction? Is there a passage composed by the “guest author”? Explain how the book is arranged (refer to the text division – chapters, sections, etc.).
  • Book Jacket/Cover/Printing: Usually book jackets are compared with small reviews. Did you find any interesting information that made you read this book? Did you find any illustrations that attract readers’ attention? Do the page cut, binding, or typescript contribute to the overall perception of the book?

While Reading the Text

During the reading stage, you should think carefully how to organize your summary part.

You should always take some notes not to overlook the key information:

  • Characters: Name the major characters in the text. Do they affect the story line?
  • Themes/Motifs/Style: What motifs and themes you consider to be the most obvious while reading? Why do they make such an effect? Does the author’s style of writing is clear and logical? Does it make you re-read some parts twice to comprehend information?
  • Argument: Describe author’s argumentation. Did you find relevant examples in support of author’s claims? Does argumentation comply with the purpose of writing?
  • Key Ideas: Distinguish the main idea of the text. Do you find it groundbreaking, interesting, or dull?
  • Quotes: Did you write down any compelling quotes? Do they demonstrate author’s writing talent to make the reader amused?

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The Writing Stage

Start your piece of writing with a brief summary of the text. However, do not provide an abundance of unnecessary details. In a book review, you can dedicate several sentences or a small paragraph just to refresh readers’ mind about the actions in the book. While reviewing any book, you should simply state the basic idea and the key argument.

The rest of your book review should be dedicated to your opinion on the book.

Please have a look at the major points to be included in your review writing:

  • State some facts about a background: Always focus on the audience that has not read the book. For this reasons, you should present a small summary of the book, state the main points, enumerate the main characters, etc. Do you think that author’s manner of writing helped him/her reach the intended audience? Do you think that some readers will not understand the main idea or will think that the text is too easy?
  • Key characters: In book review writing, you should focus on the most significant points. Remember that you will not be able to speak about every character or theme. Do you agree with actions of all major characters? Do you think that an author should have reconsidered some characters?
  • Organization: Do not forget about a critical evaluation of the text, which should take the biggest part of your review. Therefore, make sure that your summary is brief and concise. You should find a perfect match (proportion) between summary writing and evaluation. You can consult with your teacher about the word count frames dedicated to summary and review writing.
  • Personal evaluation: You can focus on one or several points from the book. What characters, settings, themes, or motifs influenced you the most? Did the author appeal to your reasoning or emotions? What worked well for your comprehension of the text?
  • Publisher and price: Some book reviews also include information about the price and publishing house. Moreover, you can also add the year of publication and ISBN.


If you have already completed a book review, carefully follow the checklist below:

  • Check the spelling of the book title, author’s name, some terms (if you introduced any), character names, and publisher name. Proofread your paper.
  • Try to get distracted from what you have written and analyze your text from a reader’s perspective. Did you include too many summarizing ideas? Do you have a clear argument?
  • Check the number and validity of direct quotes. Did you properly explain every citation? Do they help to understand your standpoint?

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