Book Review Styles

The question: ‘How do I write a book review?’ is quite a common one. It’s also not a question that can be answered easily, as there are many varying styles of book reviewing.

When I wrote my first book review – article, a few years ago, it was purely because I enjoyed the book so much that I just wanted to tell everyone. I didn’t write it with the mindset that it was a book review, although it was in theory. The article I wrote wasn’t even entitled ‘Book Review of….’. In my mind it was just my personal opinion of a book that I felt other readers would derive great pleasure from reading. It included:
  • the names of the book and author,
  • book and author awards,
  • publisher details,
  • the basic book description - similar to the inside flap cover of a hardback,
  • excerpts from the book - those parts that left an impression in the skill of the writer, or because of the content itself.
  • the reasons I liked the book - most important for readers to consider whether it may appeal to them also.

As I’ve recently read quite a few new releases and revisited old treasured books that I would like to write about, I decided to do some research on the subject of writing book reviews. I was unable to find a set of universal guide lines by which to review books, but through reading articles and website material on the subject, in addition to breaking down the words ‘book review’ at Dictionary.com, I arrived at a satisfactory conclusion.

  • Book Review: a critical review of a book (usually a recently published book).
  • Review: a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation
  • Critical: involving a skilful judgment as to the truth, merit, etc.; judicial; a critical analysis.
  • Evaluation: to judge or assess the worth of; appraise
  • Appraisal: an estimate or considered opinion of the nature, quality, importance, etc.

Academic Style
An article from the University of Sydney (Howto Write a Book Review by Hans Pols) lists a series of specific questions that the reviewer needs to address, although concludes that writing a book review is usually structured in three parts (and not unlike an article):-
  • An introductory paragraph.
  • The body of the review.
  • A conclusion.
Pols also notes: - ‘Keep in mind: book reviews contain a brief summary of the content of a book. The main focus of the review is on analysis and evaluation’.

Professional Style
The Writing with Writers, website (Rodman Philbrick) sets out a system for book reviewing with a series of helpful tips. In Step 3 of this system Philbrick writes: - ‘Every book review is different, but each successful review includes a couple of key elements. As you think about what you want to say in your review, complete these challenges:-
  • Describe the setting of the book.
  • Describe the book’s main characters.
  • Give your reader a taste of the plot (but don’t give the surprises away).

In my considered opinion, there are no rigid guidelines for writing book reviews, instead only different styles of reviewing. These review styles differ according to whether it is an academic, professional or a personal review.

As well as the styles mentioned above, a book review style can be as simple as, the book’s details, what you liked, what you disliked, and a conclusion. Book reviews (personal) are essentially certain information about a book that you choose to write about, and personal opinion. 

If you would like to see my book reviews, please visit my new blog:

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