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How to write a book review – where to start?

Book are an important part of our lives and culture. We grow up with them, we are read to them as children, we learn how to read through them and we impart knowledge through them. Yet in the age of the Kindle and internet, it may seem as it is difficult to know how to properly write about them. How to express one’s feelings about your favourite book in a way that other people can read and maybe you will open a whole world of new possibilities for them.

Knowing how to write about literature is an important and vital skill in the modern world as it can open a great deal of doors for you. Through writing reviews of books your own literary talents may be discovered – writing a book review may enable you to get your poetry published or it might just help you meet friends who you will cherish for the rest of your life. Therefore, not knowing how to write a book review can be something that may inhibit you. However, that is where this article will help – it will guide you through the process of writing a book review and help you to understand how to properly express your thoughts and opinions on whatever work of literature you want.

 

When learning how to a book review it is important to understand that it doesn’t matter if you aren’t confident about using metaphors or similes in every other sentence. To write a book review doesn’t mean you have to be the next Dickens, anyone can write one once they are shown how to. So never feel as if you can’t write one simply because of a lack of experience.

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When writing a review of anything, whether it is a book or a TV series, it is important to ask yourself the questions – “What should I include?” It can be tricky to discern what is necessary to include and what may spoil elements of the story for the person reading the review or may make them feel as if they know enough already to not bother experiencing the piece for themselves. Therefore, it is vital that you’re clear about what to include in your review and what not to include in it.

  • Plot details. Details of the plot of the novel you’re reviewing are important because this helps allow the reader to understand what sort of story it is you are reviewing. Plot details also allow the reader to have a taste of what the book is like and whether the plot interests them enough for them to go out and buy a copy of the book. Of course, this shouldn’t mean that you should give away any major elements of the plot –in other words you should write an outline rather than an explicit summary of everything that happens in the book. If you are reviewing a nonfiction book, however, you will refer to parts of the contents of the book – for instance, if you are reviewing an autobiography you would say something like “Joe Blogg’s autobiography gives a vivid and detailed description of his time as a toilet attendant and reveals what it was like to unblock cubicle number six during the football riots of 1987.” This allows the reader to know a certain amount of the contents of the book without them feeling as if they have read everything and don’t need to actually read it.
  • The style of writing. When writing a book review it is important to comment on the way that the writer has created the book and one of the best ways to do this is to comment on the style of writing. For instance, if the book is a pastiche you can compare it to the novels it is satirising or drawing inspiration from and mention whether you think it is an accurate replication of the original writer’s style. If it is a travelogue then you can talk about the description of the places that the author visits – how they portray the scenery, what emotions you as the reader felt when reading the book. This allows to further connect your reader with the author of the book – if they feel like they can understand the style of the author then it will help them decide whether they want to read the book or not; whether the style of writing is effective and interesting enough to draw them in.
  • The characters. If you are writing about a novel or a fictional book, then it is worth mentioning the characters that are in it. This can help your reader understand what type of people inhabit the book you are reviewing – whether they are likeable, whether you can feel empathy with them and above all if they are engaging. This will allow your reader to understand the world in which the book is set and to fully grasp how the characters work in relation to the main plot and what their impact is on it. It also helps to explain the writer’s motive as you can analysis the characters and therefore analysis the writer – for instance, if you were writing about David Copperfield you could comment on how Copperfield is a version of Charles Dickens and use that as a means of commenting on the autobiographical elements of the novel.

When writing a book review it is important to think of the tone of the review. This will vary between the different types of books that you may review but the tone of the review should at least partly reflect the tone of the book. If it is a humorous book then try to bring some of that out into your review – it will help the reader to fully understand what the book is like and get a sense of whether it is dramatic, funny or somewhere in between. Don’t try to write like the author of the book however, this will only complicate the process of writing the review. Try to give your reader a flavour of what the book is like and not give them your attempt at recreating it – this will only make it more difficult for yourself and more confusing for them.

Now one thing that you must consider when writing a review is length. How long should your review be? This will obviously depend on the word count you may be allowed if you are publishing the review on a website or for a newspaper. However, whatever your word count make sure that you stick to it. Don’t try to beef up your review with information that is not necessary to review the book as this will only annoy the reader and they may stop reading it. It is important to keep your writing tight and concise so that you can explore all the areas of the book you want to in the most clear and uncomplicated way possible.

It is also worth remembering that less is often more with reviews. If you can write as much as you want to try not to get ahead of yourself and include all sorts of supplementary information such as how could came to find the book, the process of purchasing it or anything like that. The reader doesn’t need to know that you bought it at six pm in a book shop in Billinge that you’d never been to before. Keep the focus on the book and your opinions on it and nothing else.

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