How to Write a Book Review: Your Essential Guide

how to write a book review

You must book it! More than 2.4 million new books were published in 2021 alone. That’s four books every minute.

If you want to make a living in literature, you should consider becoming a book critic. Yet you can’t just pick up a pen and paper and write a book review. You need to study how to write a book review first. 

What should you do before you start to write? What should your review focus on? How can you develop your voice as a book critic? 

Answer these questions and you can start writing a book review the right way in no time. Here is your quick book review guide.

Read the Book

Before you write a book review, you need to read the book itself. Read the text as you would with any other text, and don’t worry about what your review will be like. 

You can take notes on what the story is like and what the author is doing in terms of form and style. You can write these notes on a sheet of paper or in the book itself. If you want to add quotes to your book review, you can put sticky notes on the pages to mark where the quotes are. 

You may want to research the book a little. Read about the author, their background, and what their previous works are like. Understand what the book’s influences are and read excerpts from the influences. 

Parse Out the Most Important Aspects

Every book is different. Some books are plot-heavy and focused on interesting developments or twists. Other books are character studies with dynamic character arcs or experimental works that focus on new forms of writing.

When you’re done reading the book, pinpoint what the purpose of the book is. Then break down the techniques that the author uses to flesh out their purpose. Think about whether the book has a deeper message and if the book proved that message. 

Summarize the Book

Your book review should include a brief summary of what the book is about. The summary should be only a few sentences long, and it should give the reader a sense of the big picture. 

Do not give away any spoilers or plot twists. Mentioning that your book has a plot twist can give away the surprise as well. Try to focus your summary on what happened during the first half of the book and what the premise is about. 

Mention whether the book is conventional or experimental. You can also make comparisons to the author’s previous works if you have read them. 

Balance Likes and Dislikes

You may like or dislike your book overall. You should mention your overall opinions about the book you read, but you must go into detail about what you liked and disliked. 

After you write your summary, you can mention whether you think the book achieved its purpose. You can then break down the author’s techniques, discussing how they develop characters and plot points. 

If you’re struggling to think of what to write about, you should ask yourself a few questions. “Who was the best character, and what was so great about them?” is a common question that many reviews answer. “What emotions did the book create?” is another important one. 

You can start with your positive thoughts and then proceed to your negative ones. You can also break your review down by concept. You can write about how the plot develops, describe your positive and negative feelings about it, and then discuss the characters. 

If you have mainly positive or negative feelings about your book, you can focus your review on that. But do try to write about something you dislike or like. 

Find Good Examples

While you are describing your thoughts, you should include specific examples. When you talk about characters, use their names and mention their nicknames. Include lines of dialogue so the reader has a sense of how they speak and behave. 

When you write about the author’s use of imagery, include at least one powerful image. You can keep the quote short, but using the quote indicates to your reader that you have prepared for your book review. If the book has a website like, you can provide the URL.

Write to Inform and Entertain

Your review should give your reader an understanding of what the book is like. They should know whether or not they should buy the book based on your thoughts. 

But your review shouldn’t be dry or boring. You should use action verbs to make your language more exciting. You can be funny, making jokes about what the book is trying to do. 

If you have an emotional attachment to the book, you should acknowledge that. Talk about how the book makes you feel and how your personal background relates to the content. You can tell a story about how you read the book or how your friends responded to it. 

Figure Out How to Write a Book Review

You can master how to write a book review today. You should take your time reading the book and taking notes. Figure out what the most important qualities of your book are and find examples you can turn to. 

Summarize the book, then dive into your likes and dislikes. Try to write a balanced review, but stay honest with your reader. Write enough information that they know what the book is about, but be entertaining. 

Book reviews are more complicated than you think. Read more guides on writing book reviews by following our coverage.

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