Analyze This

How to write a good book review

A book review is “not a retelling,” emphasizes Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC), nor is it “a book report or a summary.” Instead, they explain in How to Write a Book Review, it is “a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, not a retelling. It should focus on the book’s purpose, content, and authority.

“It is a reaction paper,” adds LAVC, “in which strengths and weaknesses of the material are analyzed. It should include a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluate how well (in the opinion of the reviewer) the author has succeeded, and present evidence to support this evaluation.”

Noting that “There is no right way to write a book review.” and that “Book reviews are highly personal and reflect the opinions of the reviewer,” the school presents these suggested standard procedures for writing a book review:

  1. Write a statement giving essential information about the book: title, author, first copyright date, type of book, general subject matter, special features (maps, color plates, etc.), price and ISBN.
  2. State the author’s purpose in writing the book. Sometimes authors state their purpose in the preface or the first chapter. When they do not, you may arrive at an understanding of the book’s purpose by asking yourself these questions:
  • Why did the author write on this subject rather than on some other subject?
  • From what point of view is the work written?
  • Was the author trying to give information, to explain something technical, to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?
  • What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? (Use outside sources to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.) Knowledge of the genre means understanding the art form. and how it functions.
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the author’s style? Is it formal or informal? Evaluate the quality of the writing style by using some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, correct use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, fluidity. Does it suit the intended audience?
  • Scan the Table of Contents, it can help understand how the book is organized and will aid in determining the author’s main ideas and how they are developed – chronologically, topically, etc.
  • How did the book affect you? Were any previous ideas you had on the subject changed, abandoned, or reinforced due to this book? How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda? What personal experiences you’ve had relate to the subject?
  • How well has the book achieved its goal?
  • Would you recommend this book or article to others? Why?

To learn the next seven steps in the procedure as well as special considerations for reviewing a work of fiction, biography, history, or poetry, visit How to Write a Book Review.

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