The article that you are reading now is aimed at helping you write a review of a book or a critical essay on a certain piece of writing. Here are some tips, as well as a detailed plan to organize the writing process. Following these rules will help you accomplish such kind of task quickly and easily.
A review: What is so special about it?
The essence of a review is to present the estimation of a piece of writing, episode, or fact from a critical point of view. In fact, there are no boundaries for a critical review. It can be used in various fields of science, art, cinema, music, etc. People tend to express their opinion about everything in this world. In this article, we will consider reviews of books and all that is connected with that.
First of all, a review is to create a dispute. What makes a book review different from other writings of that kind is that it presents an opinion of a reviewer about a book, not just sums up the plot. Such kind of work gives you an opportunity to communicate with the reader and the author through the text of your review. You may express your admiration with the book you write about or, on the contrary, criticize it. Remember that you are to express your thoughts about the book as clear and objective as possible. Note that, in terms of structure, book reviews are quite similar to some other types of reviews and have the same parts, such as a thesis statement, body paragraph, and the conclusion.
Though, writing a book review is not as simple as it may seem. In most cases, such types of writing are quite short. When it comes to printing them in various periodicals, their word count is about 1000. However, sometimes there are exceptions which often concern commentaries. Despite the differences in mood, stylistic devices, and the choice of words, there are some widespread similarities between them. They may vary from time to time, but they can be easily found in most of the writings of that kind.
- Summary of the plot should be as short as possible. Dwell upon the topic of the book, and the main points of the plot.
- Evaluate the contents of the book. In this part, focus on the feelings and thoughts the book actually evokes in you. Was it effective in revealing the main idea of the text? Did you learn anything from reading this book? Does the information presented in the book have a great importance for the reader?
- Think over the audience’s reaction of on the book. Did the author manage to cope with the task of catching the reader’s attention? Does the book have a potential to be considered a great piece of writing? Did it influence the world of literature? If yes/no – why?
Mastering the art of writing a book review: Three examples
Writing a review may seem really scary to some students, especially when they have little or no experience working with this kind of assignment. This is especially difficult when it comes to writing reviews on famous books that are really acclaimed by readers and critics. The main thing is that you have to present your personal opinion about a certain book in a way that will catch your audience’s attention. You don’t have to be as talented as the author of the original book to do that. No one really expects that. All you have to do is think over the material you work with and to present a reasonable critic of it. It doesn’t matter if you like or dislike the book. Try to be as objective as possible. Praise the good aspects of the book and criticize the weak ones. Each of your statements has to be logical and rational. Support your theses with vivid examples.
Look through a review written about the book theme of which concerns brewing beer in medieval times.
Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 is dedicated to describing the life and work of women who brewed beer and ale in England. For some reason, beer and ale appeared to be significant parts of an English ratio, unlike milk, wine or water. Brewing beer was not supposed to be hard work, and it didn’t require people to have special skills to perform this job. So ale brewing was a part of women’s household activities. As the times passed by, that technology of brewing made the whole process easier and less expensive. The tradition grew into the business which resulted in dismissing women from working in this field.
This review gives us a good summary of the plot and general information about the story that is written there. Though, the author of this review fails to present his/her personal opinion about the book and does not give any evaluation. It is not clear if the author recommends the book or tries to save the reader from dealing with it. In other words, we have a review which is all about the summary of the text, but not the analysis.
Here is another example that is written quite differently:
Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 failed in every way. I expected to learn something new about the drinking traditions in England: what people drank, sung and did. No information of that kind can be found in the book. There is information about the economic aspects of ale brewing in England, but it fails either to catch the reader’s attention or to make the book interesting for the reader. No private details of the women described in the book can be found in the text. Eight endless parts of the book turn the whole process of reading into pure, slow, and unstoppable torture.
In this example, the author of a review gives his/her own opinion of the book, the expectations that were confounded, and hints to the audience that the book is unworthy reading. Despite that, it is absolutely clear that the author of the review did it with an evident lack of analysis. It looks like we deal with a comment on the book but not a review. No judgment here is reasonable, and all the criticism is pointless. It sounds like we don’t have an evaluation of the book here, but simply a disappointment of the person who failed in his choice of a book to read.
And finally, the third variant of the same book review.
Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 takes the questions of feminism on a new level. It gives us a clear vision of a patriarchic system that doesn’t change throughout the time. It shows a story where women are dragged out of economic aspects and of activities they initially were involved into. There are many reasons for such situation which hide in religion and politics. The book can be recommended to those people who feel supportive of feminists’ movement. It illustrates patriarchic dictatorship through depicting how women were thrown aside from the business they initially helped to craft.
This review is way better and more professional than the previous ones. It has the author’s opinion, a brief summary of the content and certain recommendations to the readers. The audience now knows what to expect from this piece of literature and the author’s idea of the book. Specific advice that this review contains makes all the recommendation highly effective. Moreover, such review can provoke readers to debate about the idea of the book. It gives a certain argument which will certainly find support with ones and contradictions with others. What is more, it is vivid that a book is worth reading no matter if the final impression of it will be good or bad.
Evaluation of the book: Getting ready to write
When it comes to writing a book review, no certain rules actually exist. The main thing that you have to think over is your own opinion of the book. The whole process can be divided into two parts. The first is shaping your opinion of the book itself. The second one is presenting your review in the most suitable form. Each part has its own value, so try to be as attentive as possible.
Make a list of questions, directly related to the book you will be reviewing. One of the most widespread tactics is to take similar attitude from reviews on various films, exhibitions, and other similar topics. There is no point in trying to use all the questions while writing your analysis, though some of them may push your creativity in the right direction.
- What is the idea of the book under consideration? In case the writer tries to deliver a certain thesis within his text, write about it. Consider if this idea is relevant to the society you live in. Was the author successful in delivering his/her ideas to the audience?
- What is the main theme of the book? Was the author precise enough in writing the book? Did the author give a clear picture of the issues that the book touches upon? Was the author reasonable in his approach while writing the book?
- Does the author support his/her ideas enough? If yes/no –why?
- Think whether the author managed to present a good book to the reader. Was he/she successful or not? Can this book contradict any other books of the same kind? Did the author make you change your mind about something or not?
- Is the book well-structured? Write about the scheme of the book, its structure, and its main parts. Is it well-organized? Is the structure reasonable enough?
- Did the book influence you? Is the book worth reading by the wide audience? Don’t forget to write about the author and the time when the book was written. This may add information that will allow the reader to fully understand the work.
- The author. Write about the author’s life. Consider such issues as his/her origin, nationality, political views, tastes, and interests. Was the author a participator of the events he/she writes about? How did the reality influence his/her works?
- The genre. Dwell on the genre of the book. Does it appear to be a bright representative of a particular genre? Does the book bring something new into it? Can one consider the given book ‘classics’? Be attentive with using certain expressions like ‘the best’ or ‘the only.’ This only works in cases when you are an expert in this or that genre, which makes it practical for you to not make such statements.
The process of writing
When the initial stage of creating a book review is finished, try to bring all the information to the logical point where you can think over the process of shaping it into a complete text. Think about the main idea of your review.
It should be as rational as possible. Keep in mind all the academic requirements but don’t forget that you are presenting your own impression of the book. Think about the goal you have. Some may want to popularize the book and to make the audience interested in it. Others may want to make the author of the book known to a greater number of people. This requires the review to be logical, well-written and carefully shaped. There is an example of organizing the structure of a review below.
The practice shows that most of the reviews are not very long. So, writers try to catch the reader’s attention with certain “hooks” at the beginning of the text. In fact, you can follow this practice, or you can choose your own way. This depends on the type of a book you have got at hand. In most cases, the introduction consists of:
- The author’s name, the title of the book, and the main topic of it.
- The origins of the author, the genres he/she works in, the importance of the author’s books within the given genre.
- The background of the book and your evaluation of it. This will help your audience to make a clear understanding of how you see the book. The context of your review should channel your audience’s thinking process in the right direction. This is a great chance to include your personal view on certain events and situations while presenting a work of another essay writer.
- The idea of the book. In the case of fiction books, this may be a bit problematic, as some of them don’t have a certain idea and exist just as a tool of entertainment. If you write a book review on a work of that kind, write about how original it is and what is important about this book in the world of literature.
- Your own opinion of the book.
Summing up the content
Don’t make this part too long. Your main goal is to analyze the text. Moreover, allusions to the text are inevitable, when you deal with the analysis. So, different parts of the text will certainly appear within your book review.
Be careful with using parts of the original text in your review. The total percentage of the summary depends on the type of audience you write your review for. In some cases, when you deal with literature that your audience is unfamiliar with, pay more attention to summing up the material from the book.
Studying and estimating the book
Every good book review that presents a decent analysis should be well-organized and structured. Be attentive about your review into paragraphs and the information you present in them. Each paragraph should be logically related to a certain aspect of the text. Also, don’t get too fond of quotations from the original text to leave more space for your own ideas. In case you need to compare a given book with others, try to make this part as brief as possible. Remember that evaluating the book is your ultimate goal in the given assignment. One may find these rules too strict to follow, but they are very helpful and serve as useful tips if you want to create a perfect book review.
This is the part where you sum up all the information about the book. Try to avoid presenting new ideas in this part to keep your analysis away from the information overload. Adding extra theses is only possible when they can broaden the logical aspects of your conclusion about the book. Focus your attention on the quality of the text, its pros, and cons. Make it clear if your review is positive or negative.
Within the analysis
To sum it all up, here are several additional tips:
- Remember that you are not the author of the book at hand. In case it didn’t give you something that you wanted, it is not the reason to be too critical about it. Focus on its strong sides and weak sides, but respect the author’s work.
- Pay attention to the choice of words. The proper language creates a certain mood within your review, just like it does in the book. Try to find the right words to make your review more definite.
- Don’t be afraid of criticizing the weak parts of the book. As long as it is a book review, it is an absolutely appropriate thing to do. However, as you criticize something in the book, be sure that your criticism is supported by the evidence.
- Write about the importance of the book for the readers and for the world of literature in general. Depending on the task, you can either acclaim the book or question its value. Though, remember that writing any book takes a lot of time, no matter if it is good or not. Be careful with the level of your criticism and try to judge the author fairly.