On Book Reviews

Most of us have probably seen at least a few book reviews if we’ve looked up any books online. Some of them are short, some of them are so long it’s like reading a novel. Until I started becoming more involved in the book community, I had no idea how important those reviews truly are. Reviews affect more than just potential readers. They show booksellers which books people are paying attention to and give bookstore employees a better idea of what books they might want to recommend to customers. Reviews can have a dramatic impact on whether a bookseller will keep a book in stock or not, which in turn affects how many people will be able to buy that particular book. If you like a book, it is hugely important to write a review.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I may have a slight bias when it comes to talking about reviews. Being an author myself, of course I’m always hoping people will write reviews on my book. But I also really hope this post can help other writers, and potential reviewers. So now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the next topic: how do you write a review?

Book reviews can feel kind of overwhelming and confusion at first. What should you write? How honest should you be in your review? What if other people disagree with your opinion? All of these are totally valid and normal questions when starting out. For this particular post, I’m going to focus mostly on the first question, but I will say that it’s always important to remember that other people are going to be reading your post (including perhaps the actual author themselves. Honesty is always a good idea, but don’t be mean with your review. Constructive criticism goes much further than crass insults and bashing. People might not agree with you, in fact I can guarantee there will be at least a couple who disagree. But that’s one of the beauties of books: no two people have the exact same interpretation when they read. All you can do is try to be as polite as possible.

So, what do you write? Well, remember in school when you learned about Who, What, When, and Where? (Yes, I know How should be in there too, but I decided to ignore it for this post.) I find that helpful to remember when I’m thinking of what to put in that little review box.

Who: In this case, the “who” is the book itself. Most of the time you don’t need to put the name of the book because it will be listed on the page itself. So that part is really easy.

What: What did you think of the book? Did you like it? Hate it? Feel totally bored? Sometimes this is only one sentence. And in some cases, you might only feel like writing the “What” section and skip everything else. That’s totally ok. Reviews can be as long or as short as you want them to be.

When: When did you read this book? Did you just finish it an hour ago, or is this a review of a book you read ten years ago? As with the “Who,” you might not need to put this, but it’s always important to keep in mind as you write, especially if it’s been a few years since you read the book.

Where: What’s the setting? Is this book set in modern day France, or an unknown planet in another solar system? Giving a brief description of the setting can help people get a better idea of what the book is about right off the bat. This is also a good place to add a few sentences about what the book is actually about. There’s no need to go into a huge amount of detail, since there’s usually a description of the book on the page your review will be on. But a brief note about the plot  can be really helpful to potential readers.

Why: Why did you feel the way you did about the book? What did you like, or dislike, about it? Were the characters hilarious and entertaining, was the plot confusing and disjointed? If you put nothing else in your review, the “What” and “Why” are the two most important parts. They the meat of your review and the part people usually care about the most. But just like with the “What” section, your reasons can be one or two sentences if you don’t feel like going into great detail.

So that’s my two cents on book reviews. I’m by no means an expert at this and there are definitely people who have been reviewing much longer with more success than I can lay claim to. But I’d like to think after over two years of serious blogging/reviewing, and nearly twenty six years of devouring books, I have some good insights to share.

As always, feel free to share your own opinions! What do you think about when writing a review? What sorts of tips have you found helpful?


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