The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Book Review

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Book Review

Since many readers won’t buy a book until they read its review, there is a lot of work left to book reviewers. And if you decided to become one of them, now it’s time to learn how to do it right. It’s not just about writing a summary – it’s also a way to start a discussion and give readers all the information they need to know to decide whether they want to read it or not. As a reviewer, it’s going to be your job to introduce a book properly. With a step-by-step guide, you will find it easier to do.

1. Read the whole book

Take a few days to read the book you are going to review. Try to understand the deepest sense of every sentence and every thought the author is trying to convey. If necessary, read some chapters more than once. Put down all the major thoughts this book is provoking as they might be hard to remember later. When reading, don’t think about your upcoming review all the time – try to perceive the book from the reader’s perspective, imagine their emotions and impressions about this book, the lesson they are going to learn from it. Look into those aspects that can provoke discussions among the readers. Ideally, you should read the book twice – the first time for understanding the plot, and the second time for thinking about your review.

2. Analyze the genre

Analyze the genre

After you read the book, think about its genre. Is it a bright example in its genre or is it a mixture of different genres? If the book does not belong to the genre it is claimed to, did the author do it on purpose and unintentionally? Describe the points that make this book a bright example of its genre and those that make it differ. Is the book adding some new information to an existing genre or is the author probably extending its norms? You should think and analyze how this can affect readers and their perception of the book. It is generally accepted that two-thirds of the review should be dedicated to the major ideas outlined by the author.

3. Figure out what the key message is

Every book has a lesson in it, no matter whether it’s a scientific literature or fiction. This lesson is not always obvious and you should read between the lines to get it. There can be more than one lesson in a book and your job as a reviewer to uncover them all. Analyze the preface that can frequently guide you to the clue. If there are some quotes in it, they are most probably referring to the main idea of the book. It might have some author’s personal experience, and it might be used to find the clue too.

4. Analyze how easy it is for a reader to find the clue

Analyze how easy it is for a reader to find the clue

If you manage to read the book more than once, you might notice there are certain elements you didn’t understand for the first time. Most probably, readers will lack some understanding too. Are there any gaps in descriptions, any missing parts or things that are too difficult to comprehend? Or probably there are some timeframe gaps found in the plot? If the book is quite hard to understand and some plot elements are really confusing, prepare readers for that – they will most probably read the book just once.

5. Think critically

Book review is not about criticizing the author. Yet, critical analysis is important, so you’d better be direct. Describe how skillfully the author achieved his/her writing goals. If there are some elements that lack development or if some chapters are boring compared to others, critique it. If you need to support your statements with evidence, provide quotes from the book or even passages. It gives readers a better understanding of the book’s writing style and voice. Usually, one-third of the review should be dedicated to a critical analysis of the book.

6. Mind your review structure

Mind your review structure

When writing your review, you should follow some generally-accepted norms and structure. It starts with a heading that includes a title, author, publisher, a place and date of publication, and a number of pages. Then write an introduction that will encourage readers to find out more about the book. It is sometimes easier to write introduction after you finish your review. The next part of your review is the book summary. Begin with the words like, “[This author] writes about…”. “[This essay] is about…” “[This book] is the story of…” Don’t mention the ending of the book and don’t give any important details that the author doesn’t want readers to know too early. The last part of your review body is your critical analysis. Then conclude with your personal impressions about the book. Indicate its strengths and weaknesses and whether you would recommend it or not.

7. Ask for feedback

If there is someone who can read your review and give you their honest opinion, it would help you a lot. If they say your review lacks some details or does not provoke any interest in the book, you should consider rewriting it and adding some more supportive details.


Book review writing is much different than any other type of writing. You don’t have to sell the book – your major task is to help the reader understand whether this book is a good option for them or not. Hopefully, you will manage to write a compelling in-depth review with the help of this guide. Have any questions or suggestions? Please leave them in the comments.