Do you hold certain opinions about a book that you’d like to share with others?
Do you wish to review a book but don’t know how to go about it?
If your answers are in the affirmative, then you are in the right place.
Here are some useful tips on how to create an effective book review.
1. START BY READING THE BOOK
You should know that a book review is an opportunity for you to give a critical analysis of the book so that others know what to expect.
An effective book review recounts what is on the page, examines how the book attempted to achieve its goal, and offers any comments or arguments from a distinct point of view.
So, what other tip should take precedence over reading of the book itself?
The kind of reading being discussed here isn’t one which only helps you to determine whether the book is interesting or not. If you are to do this effectively, you need to pay attention to and take notes of important things like the author’s writing style, the book’s genre, the major arguments/ themes of the book, and so on.
You may even need to reread the book to fully grasp some of these things.
2. HOOK YOUR READERS WITH A CATCHY SENTENCE
After reading the book to your heart’s content, the next step is for you to start writing. But you don’t want to put readers off right from your very first sentence; you don’t want to go through the carefulness of the first step only for readers to scroll past your work with strange looks on their faces. So there’s need for a hook. The catchy sentence is a pithy line that grabs your reader’s attention. It is what makes them think twice before scrolling past your review.
A historical moment, an anecdote, a surprising or intriguing statement, and declarative statements are all possible openings. Whatever your opening sentences are, make sure they are directly related to your critical response to the book and are brief and to the point.
Below are examples:
To think that someone who has experienced – firsthand – the brutalities of war wrote a book as interesting as this is quite unbelievable.
Kahlil Gibran’s insanity encompasses the rationales of sane men. How then could he be considered mad?
Note: Beginning a review with a hyperbolic sentiment is highly discouraged, for the reader will be suspicious of your judgment even before the first paragraph ends. You need to bring down those extravagant claims popping in your head (as a result of excitement or reverence) and make sure they are clear and defensible.
3. GIVE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BOOK
Share a general information about the book that readers should be aware of. The title and author are obvious choices. You may also include the publisher, the year of publication, the number of pages, and so on. It’s entirely up to you. But make it a point to mention whether the book is part of a series and whether previous books in the series are required before reading the book.
Although convention requires that it comes first, it is my practice to save this part for the last paragraph.
4. SUMMARIZE THE BOOK
You need to give a synopsis of the plot so that your readers get a inkling of what the book is about. If it is a non-fiction, you should focus on weaving a description of the book’s structure, argument, and theme within a critical analysis (Like this). You could also do this for fiction if you like. However you write it, don’t give away the ending of the book or reveal important details. Advisably, don’t go into details about what happens from the middle of the book.
It is also important to note here that reviewers are of different opinions as to how to write the blurb. Some say the plot should be weaved into the analysis, some feel you could simply regurgitate the premise of the book, some promote writing it under a heading; others do not. Just know that you can do it however you like if you’re writing for your blog or writing for a website that doesn’t require a specific format.
A plus: The Book Lady of BellaNaija is very good at weaving the book summary into her analysis. You will find great examples in her work.
5. WRITE YOUR TAKE ON THE BOOK
This part forms the most important part of your review, because it is where the critical analysis takes place. It is where you evaluate the book based on your observations in step 1 above.
Let your readers know everything you like and/or dislike about the book. For example, you may discuss how successfully the book accomplished its aim, how it relates to other books on the topic, specific aspects that were not persuasive or needed development, and any personal experiences you’ve had with the book’s subject. This would help them make personal choices about reading the book or not. You may even dedicate a paragraph to explore each of these points. But remember to cite examples/ quotes from the book itself. You can’t afford to be all talk and no show.
Something like this:
…However, the story may be lacking in the representation and the sustainability of certain characters. For one, Bryson was ALMOST introduced as a pervert, and throughout the story, the bulk of his thoughts were focused on getting under Misty’s skirt.
All attempts to merge this obsession with true love didn’t seem real to me. At a point, I felt his kind gestures were pushed by his lust, and, despite that he was a major character, I didn’t particularly care for him. His Misty-obsessed schtik got irritating after a while…
Note: Some experts find it egotistical to use the personal pronoun “I” in your analysis. They believe it is self-aggrandizing and needs to be avoided. But if using a generic term affects your flow, then you may have to stick to the personal pronoun.
This is where you discuss whether or not you’d recommend the book to others. If yes, what category of persons and why. You may also decide to give the book a rating here.
Note: The recommendation could also be weaved in the critical analysis. It doesn’t really need its own paragraph. Also, you don’t really have to go “I recommend this book blah blah blah.”
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
1. Don’t bore your readers with a lengthy review. Just because you can write 4,500 words doesn’t mean you should. Make sure every word counts.
2. Fancy words are good, but don’t confuse readers in your desperate need to flaunt your mastery of the language. If they have to reread your sentences again and again before they get the point, then the review is of no use.
3. Express your honest opinion but don’t be mean about it. Remember that these authors are human too, and they must have spent time and emptied their hearts into writing the book. Be nice and subtle in your criticism.
4. Be sure to reread and revise your review. You may even leave it for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes. Also double check spellings and quotes and what have you.
5. The aim of a book review is to criticize, so don’t drop your pen without doing that (no matter how graceful the author made writing seem). However, avoid baseless and nonsensical arguments.
If you’d like to add a thing or two, it’d be most appreciated. Please visit Abdulmalik’s website http://www.akinyemiabdulmalik.com.ng for more articles, essays and book reviews. Thank you very much.
About the Blogger
AbdulMalik is a Physicist with a strong affinity for creative writing. In 2016, he bagged the second prize for the GIC national essay competition. Many of his articles and poems have been published in national dailies and magazines. He is currently working on his debut novel and blogs at akinyemiabdulmalik.com.ng
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