Wendy Laura Belcher

How to write an academic book review.

This article “Writing the Academic Book Review” was originally written by Belcher to aid participants in a workshop sponsored by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center in February 2003 and to encourage book review submissions to  Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies . Book reviews in the field of Chicano studies can be sent to  the journal; for information, see the  new submissions page. The article was updated in 2015. Cite as Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2003. “Writing the Academic Book Review.” Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. Last Modified 2015. Retrieved from https://www.wendybelcher.com/writing-advice/how-to-write-book-review/ on [month year]. See also the best-selling book of advice on writing, now in its second edition: Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success.

Why Write a Book Review?

Writing book reviews is not only the easiest and quickest route to publication, it is a good way to improve your writing skills, develop your analytical skills, learn how the journal publishing process works, and get to know editors. Since some libraries can’t buy books unless they have been reviewed and many individuals won’t buy books unless they have read a review, reviewing books can definitely advance your field. Indeed, scholars in smaller fields sometimes get together and assign books for review so that every book published in their field is reviewed somewhere. Just remember that book reviews do not “count” as much on a curriculum vitae as an academic essay. If you are doing more than two book reviews a year, you may be spending too much time on book reviews and not enough on your other writing.

Choosing a Book

Think about what kind of book would be most useful to you in writing your dissertation, finalizing a paper for publication, or passing your exams. Since book reviews do take time, like any writing, it is best to chose a book that will work for you twice, as a publication and as research. Alternatively, some recommend that graduate students focus on reviewing textbooks or anthologies, since such reviews take less background knowledge and editors can find it difficult to find people willing to do such reviews. Although the traditional book review is of one book, editors will often welcome book reviews that address two or more related books–called a review essay.

Choose a book that (1) is in your field, (2) is on a topic for which you have sound background knowledge, (3) has been published in the past two or three years, and (4) has been published by a reputable publisher (i.e., any press affiliated with a university or large commercial presses).

Books on hot topics are often of special interest to editors. It can also be rewarding to pick an obscure but useful book in order to bring attention to it. To avoid complications, it is best not to review books written by your advisor, spouse, or ex!

To identify a suitable book in your field:

Once you have identified several books, locate copies and skim them. Pick the book that seems the strongest. Do not pick a book that has major problems or with which you disagree violently. As a graduate student, you do not have the protection of tenure and may one day be evaluated by the person whose book you put to the ax. If you really feel strongly that you must write a negative review of a certain book, go ahead and write the review. Academia is, after all, quite oedipal and young scholars do sometimes make their reputations by deflating those who came before them. Just realize that going on record in such a public way may have consequences.

Choosing a Journal

Identify several leading journals in your field that publish book reviews. One way to do this is to search an on-line article database or something like Book Review Digest , if your library has access. Using several key words from your field, limit your search to book reviews and note the journals where the results were published.

Before starting to write your review, contact the book review editor of one of the journals. This is important standard practice; in particular because most journals do not accept unsolicited reviews. You do not want to write an entire review of a book and send it to a journal, only to be told that they don’t accept unsolicited reviews or that a review of that very book is to appear in the next issue.

So, send a short e-mail to book review editors at prospective journals (most journals have websites with such information) identifying the book you would like to review and your qualifications for reviewing it. This e-mail need not be longer than two sentences: “I am writing to find out if you would welcome a review from me of [ Book Title ], edited by [editor] and published in 2012 by [pubisher]. I am currently writing my dissertation at Stanford on the history of the field of [name of a field related to book].”

Another reason why you want to contact the book review editor is that they often can get you the book for free. Publishers frequently send books for review straight to journals or, if the book editor directly contacts them, straight to you. Of course, you don’t need to wait for the book to start your review if you have access to a library copy. If you get a free book, make sure to write the review. A book review editor will never send you another book if you don’t deliver on the first.

If the book review editor says yes, they would like a review of the book from you, make sure to ask if the journal has any book review submission guidelines. In particular, you want to make sure you understand how long their book reviews tend to be.

If the book review editor says the book is already under review, move on to your next journal choice or ask the editor if they have any books on the topic that they would like reviewed. You are under no obligation to review a book they suggest, just make sure to get back to them with a decision. It is perfectly acceptable to say “Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve decided to focus on writing my prospectus/dissertation.”

Reading the Book

It is best, when writing a book review, to be an active reader of the book. Sit at a desk with pen and paper in hand. As you read, stop frequently to summarize the argument, to note particularly clear statements of the book’s argument or purpose, and to describe your own responses. If you have read in this active way, putting together the book review should be quick and straightforward. Some people prefer to read at the computer, but if you’re a good typist, you often start typing up long quotes from the book instead of analyzing it. Paper and pen provides a little friction to prevent such drifting.

Take particular note of the title (does the book deliver what the title suggests it is going to deliver?), the table of contents (does the book cover all the ground it says it will?), the preface (often the richest source of information about the book), and the index (is it accurate, broad, deep?).

Some questions to keep in mind as you are reading:

It can be worthwhile to do an on-line search to get a sense for the author’s history, other books, university appointments, graduate advisor, and so on. This can provide you with useful context..

Making a Plan

Book reviews are usually 600 to 2,000 words in length. It is best to aim for about 1,000 words, as you can say a fair amount in 1,000 words without getting bogged down. There’s no point in making a book review into a 20-page masterpiece since the time would have been better spent on an academic essay that would count for more on your c.v.

Some say a review should be written in a month: two weeks reading the book, one week planning your review, and one week writing it.

Although many don’t write an outline for an essay, you should really try to outline your book review before you write it. This will keep you on task and stop you from straying into writing an academic essay.

Classic book review structure is as follows:

Writing the Review

Once you’ve read the book, try to spend no more than one or two weeks writing the review. Allowing a great deal of time to fall between reading the book and writing about it is unfair to you and the author. The point of writing something short like a book review is to do it quickly. Sending a publication to a journal is always scary, sitting on the review won’t make it less so.

Avoiding Five Common Pitfalls

For further advice about writing for publication, see Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success by Wendy Laura Belcher (University of Chicago Press, 2019).

Writing the Academic Book Review

I no longer teach this course , but you might want to think about teaching it, so I provide the information here.

This workshop aids students in actually writing and publishing a book review for a peer-reviewed journal. At the first session, students receive instruction on why graduate students should (or should not) write book reviews, how to choose a book for review, how to chose a journal for submission, how to read a book for review, how to plan and structure a book review, and five common pitfalls of reviewing. Students also form small groups to discuss the book each plans to review.At the second meeting, students bring a draft of their book review for exchange and feedback. At the third meeting, students arrive with a final version of their essay to submit to an editor for publication.

This workshop is sometimes offered by a particular journal with the editors serving on a panel the first night to provide students with specific advice for submitting reviews to their journal. I did such a workshop for Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies , with the editors Chon A. Noriega and Alicia Gaspar de Alba.

Session 1, Week 1

Session 2, Week 10

Session 3, Week 16

How to Write a Book Review

book review format for students

A book review allows students to illustrate the author's intentions of writing the piece, as well as create a criticism of the book — as a whole. In other words, form an opinion of the author's presented ideas. Check out this guide from EssayPro — dissertation writing service to learn how to write a book review successfully.

What Is a Book Review?

You may prosper, “what is a book review?”. Book reviews are commonly assigned students to allow them to show a clear understanding of the novel. And to check if the students have actually read the book. The essay format is highly important for your consideration, take a look at the book review format below.

Book reviews are assigned to allow students to present their own opinion regarding the author’s ideas included in the book or passage. They are a form of literary criticism that analyzes the author’s ideas, writing techniques, and quality. A book analysis is entirely opinion-based, in relevance to the book. They are good practice for those who wish to become editors, due to the fact, editing requires a lot of criticism.

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Book Review Template

The book review format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion.

How to Write a Book Review: Step-By-Step

Writing a book review is something that can be done with every novel. Book reviews can apply to all novels, no matter the genre. Some genres may be harder than others. On the other hand, the book review format remains the same. Take a look at these step-by-step instructions from our professional writers to learn how to write a book review in-depth.

write a book review

Step 1: Planning

Create an essay outline which includes all of the main points you wish to summarise in your book analysis. Include information about the characters, details of the plot, and some other important parts of your chosen novel. Reserve a body paragraph for each point you wish to talk about.

Consider these points before writing:

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Step 2: Introduction

Presumably, you have chosen your book. To begin, mention the book title and author’s name. Talk about the cover of the book. Write a thesis statement regarding the fictitious story or non-fictional novel. Which briefly describes the quoted material in the book review.

Step 3: Body

Choose a specific chapter or scenario to summarise. Include about 3 quotes in the body. Create summaries of each quote in your own words. It is also encouraged to include your own point-of-view and the way you interpret the quote. It is highly important to have one quote per paragraph.

Step 4: Conclusion

Write a summary of the summarised quotations and explanations, included in the body paragraphs. After doing so, finish book analysis with a concluding sentence to show the bigger picture of the book. Think to yourself, “Is it worth reading?”, and answer the question in black and white. However, write in-between the lines. Avoid stating “I like/dislike this book.”

Step 5: Rate the Book (Optional)

After writing a book review, you may want to include a rating. Including a star-rating provides further insight into the quality of the book, to your readers. Book reviews with star-ratings can be more effective, compared to those which don’t. Though, this is entirely optional.

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Writing a Book Review: Video Guide

Writing tips.

Here is the list of tips for the book review:

tips for book review

Writing a book review is something worth thinking about. Professors commonly assign this form of an assignment to students to enable them to express a grasp of a novel. Following the book review format is highly useful for beginners, as well as reading step-by-step instructions. Writing tips is also useful for people who are new to this essay type. If you need a custom writing , ask Essaypro 'write paper for me' and we'll give you a hand asap!

We also recommend that everyone read the article about essay topics . It will help broaden your horizons in writing a book review as well as other papers.

Book Review Examples

Referring to a book review example is highly useful to those who wish to get a clearer understanding of how to review a book. Take a look at our examples written by our professional writers. Click on the button to open the book review examples and feel free to use them as a reference.

Book review

Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’

Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a novel aimed at youngsters. The plot, itself, is not American humor, but that of Great Britain. In terms of sarcasm, and British-related jokes. The novel illustrates a fair mix of the relationships between the human-like animals, and wildlife. The narrative acts as an important milestone in post-Victorian children’s literature.

Book Review

Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’

Dr. John’s ‘Pollution’ consists of 3 major parts. The first part is all about the polluted ocean. The second being about the pollution of the sky. The third part is an in-depth study of how humans can resolve these issues. The book is a piece of non-fiction that focuses on modern-day pollution ordeals faced by both animals and humans on Planet Earth. It also focuses on climate change, being the result of the global pollution ordeal.

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book review format for students

Writing a Book Review

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This resource discusses book reviews and how to write them.

Book reviews typically evaluate recently-written works. They offer a brief description of the text’s key points and often provide a short appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the work.

Readers sometimes confuse book reviews with book reports, but the two are not identical. Book reports commonly describe what happens in a work; their focus is primarily on giving an account of the major plot, characters, and/or main idea of the work. Most often, book reports are a K-12 assignment and range from 250 to 500 words. If you are looking to write a book report, please see the OWL resource, Writing a Book Report.

By contrast, book reviews are most often a college assignment, but they also appear in many professional works: magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. They typically range from 500-750 words, but may be longer or shorter. A book review gives readers a sneak peek at what a book is like, whether or not the reviewer enjoyed it, and details on purchasing the book.

Before You Read

Before you begin to read, consider the elements you will need to included in your review. The following items may help:

As You Read

As you read, determine how you will structure the summary portion or background structure of your review. Be ready to take notes on the book’s key points, characters, and/or themes.

When You Are Ready to Write

Begin with a short summary or background of the work, but do not give too much away. Many reviews limit themselves only to the first couple of chapters or lead the reader up to the rising action of the work. Reviewers of nonfiction texts will provide the basic idea of the book’s argument without too much detailed.

The final portion of your review will detail your opinion of the work. When you are ready to begin your review, consider the following:

When making the final touches to your review, carefully verify the following:

Book Review Writing

Book Review Format

Cathy A.

A Complete Book Review Format Guide For Students

Published on: May 29, 2019

Last updated on: Jan 23, 2023

Book Review Format

On This Page On This Page

Book reviews at first may not seem like an interesting task but this assignment holds a high academic value. Writing a  book review  is very easy if you plan ahead and follow a guide throughout.

A book review allows students to illustrate and analyze ideas in a book. Book reviews are a form of literary criticism that analyzes the author’s ideas, writing style, and quality.

Book review writing is a good practice to develop critical thinking and writing skills. It also helps students to learn how to critically evaluate a piece of writing and support given ideas with facts and examples.

If you are new to this form of assignment, our blog about the book review format for students is all you need. Here you will find the basic guidelines and sample book review format for your better understanding.

How to Write a Book Review Format?

The format of a book review allows students to provide an in-depth analysis of the book. However, it all depends on how you are writing your book review but there are some general guidelines that you need to follow.

If you follow the proper guidelines, it will show that you have understood the main theme and ideas of the book.

Before heading to the book review essay format, please remember book reviews are different from book reports. A  book report  is simpler in structure than a book review and also does not require an in-depth analysis of the text.

Here are some important guidelines that you can follow if you don’t know how to format a book review.

Clarify the purpose of the story and summarize the plot by answering the following questions.

With these academic book review format guidelines, you will be able to write an excellent book review. However, if you are still not sure, refer to the following sections and know what a perfect college book review format is.

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Book Review Template

A book review is the first impression of the whole story and the narration of the book. A typical book review template includes an introduction, body, and conclusion with the following information:

Here is a perfect template for you to make the most interesting textbook review format. You can use this template to write a book review of a book that you have read.

Book Review Examples

Writing a book review is a very common writing assignment. Teachers might ask you to write a review of a book you have read recently.

In order to illustrate what a book review is, we have provided you with interesting critical  book review examples  for your reference.

APA Book Review Format Example

For writing a book review in APA format, refer to the following book review apa format example. This will help you learn how to use APA writing guidelines and referencing style.

MLA Book Review Format Example

If your teacher instructs you to use MLA style and you have no idea how to format your book, read this MLA format book review.

You can use this critical book review format example as a model for formatting your paper.

Book Review Format for School Students

Here are some book review format examples that middle and high school students can use to learn about this type of writing.

Book Review Format for Grade 2

Book Review Format for Class 10

Book Review Format for College Students

Book Review Format PDF

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Book Review Writing Tips

Here are some expert writing tips that you should keep in mind while writing a book format:

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Writing a Book Review

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A critical book review is a thoughtful discussion of a text’s contents, strengths, and limitations. A book review should reflect your capacity to read critically and to evaluate an author’s arguments and evidence. Compose your review as you would any essay, with an argument supported by evidence, and a clear, logical structure.  

Initial Steps

Organizing the Review

Questions to Consider

Although you should not use the following questions as some sort of laundry list of “things to include” (dull for us all), you may wish to consider them as you prepare and write your review.  

Analysis of Content

Evaluation of Content

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Book Reviews

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you write a book review, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective on a text. It offers a process and suggests some strategies for writing book reviews.

What is a review?

A review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This handout will focus on book reviews. For a similar assignment, see our handout on literature reviews .

Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews need to be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:

Becoming an expert reviewer: three short examples

Reviewing can be a daunting task. Someone has asked for your opinion about something that you may feel unqualified to evaluate. Who are you to criticize Toni Morrison’s new book if you’ve never written a novel yourself, much less won a Nobel Prize? The point is that someone—a professor, a journal editor, peers in a study group—wants to know what you think about a particular work. You may not be (or feel like) an expert, but you need to pretend to be one for your particular audience. Nobody expects you to be the intellectual equal of the work’s creator, but your careful observations can provide you with the raw material to make reasoned judgments. Tactfully voicing agreement and disagreement, praise and criticism, is a valuable, challenging skill, and like many forms of writing, reviews require you to provide concrete evidence for your assertions.

Consider the following brief book review written for a history course on medieval Europe by a student who is fascinated with beer:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600, investigates how women used to brew and sell the majority of ale drunk in England. Historically, ale and beer (not milk, wine, or water) were important elements of the English diet. Ale brewing was low-skill and low status labor that was complimentary to women’s domestic responsibilities. In the early fifteenth century, brewers began to make ale with hops, and they called this new drink “beer.” This technique allowed brewers to produce their beverages at a lower cost and to sell it more easily, although women generally stopped brewing once the business became more profitable.

The student describes the subject of the book and provides an accurate summary of its contents. But the reader does not learn some key information expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book and its argument, and whether or not the student would recommend the book. As a critical assessment, a book review should focus on opinions, not facts and details. Summary should be kept to a minimum, and specific details should serve to illustrate arguments.

Now consider a review of the same book written by a slightly more opinionated student:

Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 was a colossal disappointment. I wanted to know about the rituals surrounding drinking in medieval England: the songs, the games, the parties. Bennett provided none of that information. I liked how the book showed ale and beer brewing as an economic activity, but the reader gets lost in the details of prices and wages. I was more interested in the private lives of the women brewsters. The book was divided into eight long chapters, and I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to read it.

There’s no shortage of judgments in this review! But the student does not display a working knowledge of the book’s argument. The reader has a sense of what the student expected of the book, but no sense of what the author herself set out to prove. Although the student gives several reasons for the negative review, those examples do not clearly relate to each other as part of an overall evaluation—in other words, in support of a specific thesis. This review is indeed an assessment, but not a critical one.

Here is one final review of the same book:

One of feminism’s paradoxes—one that challenges many of its optimistic histories—is how patriarchy remains persistent over time. While Judith Bennett’s Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 recognizes medieval women as historical actors through their ale brewing, it also shows that female agency had its limits with the advent of beer. I had assumed that those limits were religious and political, but Bennett shows how a “patriarchal equilibrium” shut women out of economic life as well. Her analysis of women’s wages in ale and beer production proves that a change in women’s work does not equate to a change in working women’s status. Contemporary feminists and historians alike should read Bennett’s book and think twice when they crack open their next brewsky.

This student’s review avoids the problems of the previous two examples. It combines balanced opinion and concrete example, a critical assessment based on an explicitly stated rationale, and a recommendation to a potential audience. The reader gets a sense of what the book’s author intended to demonstrate. Moreover, the student refers to an argument about feminist history in general that places the book in a specific genre and that reaches out to a general audience. The example of analyzing wages illustrates an argument, the analysis engages significant intellectual debates, and the reasons for the overall positive review are plainly visible. The review offers criteria, opinions, and support with which the reader can agree or disagree.

Developing an assessment: before you write

There is no definitive method to writing a review, although some critical thinking about the work at hand is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a review is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, and making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft. See our handout on argument .

What follows is a series of questions to focus your thinking as you dig into the work at hand. While the questions specifically consider book reviews, you can easily transpose them to an analysis of performances, exhibitions, and other review subjects. Don’t feel obligated to address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to the book in question.

Beyond the internal workings of the book, you may also consider some information about the author and the circumstances of the text’s production:

Writing the review

Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Check out our handout on thesis statements . Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis.

Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review. What follows is just one of many ways to organize a review.

Introduction

Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your review differently depending on the argument and audience. The Writing Center’s handout on introductions can help you find an approach that works. In general, you should include:

Summary of content

This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.

The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book reviews for colleagues—to prepare for comprehensive exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as a class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty to explore more subtle points and to emphasize your own argument. See our handout on summary for more tips.

Analysis and evaluation of the book

Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly. You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book. If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review remains in the spotlight. Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.

Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis. This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do they all add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions can help you make a final assessment.

Finally, a few general considerations:

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Drewry, John. 1974. Writing Book Reviews. Boston: Greenwood Press.

Hoge, James. 1987. Literary Reviewing. Charlottesville: University Virginia of Press.

Sova, Dawn, and Harry Teitelbaum. 2002. How to Write Book Reports , 4th ed. Lawrenceville, NY: Thomson/Arco.

Walford, A.J. 1986. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

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How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide

book review format for students

How to write a book review: A complete guide for students and teachers

What is a book review.

how to write a book review | what is a Book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

Traditionally, book reviews are written evaluations of a recently published book in any genre. Usually, around the 500 to 700-word mark, they offer a brief description of a text’s main elements while appraising the work’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Published book reviews can appear in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. They provide the reader with an overview of the book itself and indicate whether or not the reviewer would recommend the book to the reader.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A BOOK REVIEW?

There was a time when book reviews were a regular appearance in every quality newspaper and many periodicals. They were essential elements in whether or not a book would sell well. A review from a heavyweight critic could often be the deciding factor in whether a book became a bestseller or a damp squib. In the last few decades, however, the book review’s influence has waned considerably, with many potential book buyers preferring to consult customer reviews on Amazon, or sites like Goodreads, before buying. As a result, the book review’s appearance in newspapers, journals, and digital media has become less frequent.

WHY BOTHER TEACHING STUDENTS TO WRITE BOOK REVIEWS AT ALL?

Even in the heyday of the book review’s influence, few of the students who learned the craft of writing a book review went on to become literary critics! The real value of crafting a well-written book review for a student does not lie in their ability to impact book sales. Understanding how to produce a well-written book review helps students to:

●     Engage critically with a text

●     Critically evaluate a text

●     Respond personally to a range of different writing genres

●     Improve their own reading, writing, and thinking skills.

Not to Be Confused with a Book Report!

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BOOK REVIEW AND A BOOK REPORT?

book_reviews_vs_book_reports.jpg

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are clear differences in both the purpose and the format of the two genres. Generally speaking, book reports aim to give a more detailed outline of what occurs in a book. A book report on a work of fiction will tend to give a comprehensive account of the characters, major plot lines, and themes contained in the book. Book reports are usually written around the K-12 age range, while book reviews tend not to be undertaken by those at the younger end of this age range due to the need for the higher-level critical skills required in writing them. At their highest expression, book reviews are written at the college level and by professional critics.

Learn how to write a book review step by step with our complete guide for students and teachers by first familiarizing yourself with the structure and features.

BOOK REVIEW STRUCTURE

ANALYZE Evaluate the book with a critical mind.

THOROUGHNESS The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Review the book as a WHOLE.

COMPARE Where appropriate compare to similar texts and genres.

THUMBS UP OR DOWN? You are going to have to inevitably recommend or reject this book to potential readers.

BE CONSISTENT Take a stance and stick with it throughout your review.

FEATURES OF A BOOK REVIEW

PAST TENSE You are writing about a book you have already read.

EMOTIVE LANGUAGE Whatever your stance or opinion be passionate about it. Your audience will thank you for it.

VOICE Both active and passive voice are used in recounts.

A COMPLETE UNIT ON REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF TEXTS

how to write a book review | movie response unit | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

⭐ Make  MOVIES A MEANINGFUL PART OF YOUR CURRICULUM  with this engaging collection of tasks and tools your students will love. ⭐ All the hard work is done for you with  NO PREPARATION REQUIRED.

This collection of  21 INDEPENDENT TASKS  and  GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS  takes students beyond the hype, special effects and trailers to look at visual literacy from several perspectives offering DEEP LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES by watching a  SERIES, DOCUMENTARY, FILM, and even  VIDEO GAMES.

ELEMENTS OF A BOOK REVIEW

As with any of the genres of writing that we teach our students, a book review can be helpfully explained in terms of criteria. While there is much to the ‘art’ of writing, there is also, thankfully, a lot of the nuts and bolts that can be listed too. Have students consider the following elements prior to writing:

●     Title: Often, the title of the book review will correspond to the title of the text itself, but there may also be some examination of the title’s relevance. How does it fit into the purpose of the work as a whole? Does it convey a message or reveal larger themes explored within the work?

●     Author: Within the book review, there may be some discussion of who the author is and what they have written before, especially if it relates to the current work being reviewed. There may be some mention of the author’s style and what they are best known for. If the author has received any awards or prizes, this may also be mentioned within the body of the review.

●     Genre: A book review will identify the genre that the book belongs to, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry, romance, science-fiction, history etc. The genre will likely tie in too with who the intended audience for the book is and what the overall purpose of the work is.

●     Book Jacket / Cover: Often, a book’s cover will contain artwork that is worthy of comment. It may contain interesting details related to the text that contribute to, or detract from, the work as a whole.

●     Structure: The book’s structure will often be heavily informed by the genre it is in. Have students exam how the book is organized prior to writing their review. Does it contain a preface from a guest editor, for example? Is it written in sections or chapters? Does it contain a table of contents, index, glossary etc? While all these details may not make it into the review itself, taking a look at how the book is structured may reveal some interesting aspects.

●     Publisher and Price: A book review will usually contain details of who publishes the book and its cost. A review will often provide details of where the book is available too.

how to write a book review | writing a book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

BOOK REVIEW KEY ELEMENTS

As students read and engage with the work they will review, they will develop a sense of the shape their review will take. This will begin with the summary. Encourage students to take notes during the reading of the work that will help them in writing the summary that will form an essential part of their review. Aspects of the book they may wish to take notes on in a work of fiction may include:

●     Characters: Who are the main characters? What are their motivations? Are they convincingly drawn? Or are they empathetic characters?

●     Themes: What are the main themes of the work? Are there recurring motifs in the work? Is the exploration of the themes deep or surface only?

●     Style: What are the key aspects of the writer’s style? How does it fit into the wider literary world?

●     Plot: What is the story’s main catalyst? What happens in the rising action? What are the story’s subplots? 

A book review will generally begin with a short summary of the work itself. However, it is important not to give too much away, remind students – no spoilers, please! For nonfiction works, this may be a summary of the main arguments of the work, again, without giving too much detail away. In a work of fiction, a book review will often summarise up to the rising action of the piece without going beyond to reveal too much!

how to write a book review | 9 text response | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

The summary should also provide some orientation for the reader. Given the nature of the purpose of a review, it is important that students’ consider their intended audience in the writing of their review. Readers will most likely not have read the book in question and will require some orientation. This is often achieved through introductions to the main characters, themes, primary arguments etc. This will help the reader to gauge whether or not the book is of interest to them.

Once your student has summarized the work, it is time to ‘review’ in earnest. At this point, the student should begin to detail their own opinion of the book. To do this well they should:

i. Make It Personal

Often when teaching essay writing we will talk to our students about the importance of climbing up and down the ladder of abstraction. Just as it is helpful to explore large, more abstract concepts in an essay by bringing it down to Earth, in a book review, it is important that students can relate the characters, themes, ideas etc to their own lives.

Book reviews are meant to be subjective. They are opinion pieces, and opinions grow out of our experiences of life. Encourage students to link the work they are writing about to their own personal life within the body of the review. By making this personal connection to the work, students contextualize their opinions for the readers and help them to understand whether the book will be of interest to them or not in the process.

ii. Make It Universal

Just as it is important to climb down the ladder of abstraction to show how the work relates to individual life, it is important to climb upwards on the ladder too. Students should endeavor to show how the ideas explored in the book relate to the wider world. The may be in the form of the universality of the underlying themes in a work of fiction or, for example, the international implications for arguments expressed in a work of nonfiction.

iii. Support Opinions with Evidence

A book review is a subjective piece of writing by its very nature. However, just because it is subjective does not mean that opinions do not need to be justified. Make sure students understand how to back up their opinions with various forms of evidence, for example, quotations, statistics, and the use of primary and secondary sources.

EDIT AND REVISE YOUR BOOK REVIEW

how to write a book review | 9 1 proof read Book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

As with any writing genre, encourage students to polish things up with review and revision at the end. Encourage them to proofread and check for accurate spelling throughout, with particular attention to the author’s name, character names, publisher etc. 

It is good practice too for students to double-check their use of evidence. Are statements supported? Are the statistics used correctly? Are the quotations from the text accurate? Mistakes such as these uncorrected can do great damage to the value of a book review as they can undermine the reader’s confidence in the writer’s judgement.

The discipline of writing book reviews offers students opportunities to develop their writing skills and exercise their critical faculties. Book reviews can be valuable standalone activities or serve as a part of a series of activities engaging with a central text. They can also serve as an effective springboard into later discussion work based on the ideas and issues explored in a particular book. Though the book review does not hold the sway it once did in the mind’s of the reading public, it still serves as an effective teaching tool in our classrooms today.

how to write a book review | LITERACY IDEAS FRONT PAGE 1 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

BOOK REVIEW GRAPHIC ORGANIZER (TEMPLATE)

how to write a book review | book review graphic organizer | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

101 DIGITAL & PRINT GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS FOR ALL CURRICULUM AREAS

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Introduce your students to 21st-century learning with this GROWING BUNDLE OF 101 EDITABLE & PRINTABLE GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS. ✌ NO PREP REQUIRED!!! ✌ Go paperless, and let your students express their knowledge and creativity through the power of technology and collaboration inside and outside the classroom with ease.

Whilst you don’t have to have a 1:1 or BYOD classroom to benefit from this bundle, it has been purpose-built to deliver through platforms such as ✔ GOOGLE CLASSROOM, ✔ OFFICE 365, ✔ or any CLOUD-BASED LEARNING PLATFORM.

Book and Movie review writing examples (Student Writing Samples)

Below are a collection of student writing samples of book reviews.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to both read the movie or book review in detail but also the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the key elements of writing a text review

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of book review writing.

We would recommend reading the example either a year above and below, as well as the grade you are currently working with to gain a broader appreciation of this text type .

how to write a book review | book review year 3 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

BOOK REVIEW VIDEO TUTORIALS

how to write a book review | 2 book review tutorial28129 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

OTHER GREAT ARTICLES RELATED TO BOOK REVIEWS

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Transactional Writing

how to write a book review | text response | How to write a text response | literacyideas.com

How to write a text response

how to write a book review | compare and contrast essay 1 | How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay | literacyideas.com

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

how to write a book review | expository essay writing guide | How to Write Excellent Expository Essays | literacyideas.com

How to Write Excellent Expository Essays

The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.

Book Review Template

Book Review Template

About this printout

Students can use this template as a means of communicating about a book that they have read.

Teaching with this printout

More ideas to try.

As students begin reading books at a young age, it is important to teach them to communicate their thoughts and ideas about the books they read.  This template is a good way to teach students to begin putting their thoughts on a text into written form.  Students will be able to process the information they read in a given text and process their ideas.  Additionally, the Book Review Template allows the teacher to check a student's comprehension of a certain text to assess and inform instruction.

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How to write a book review

Author Luisa Plaja offers her top tips for how to write a brilliant review of the latest book you read - whether you liked it or not.

book review format for students

Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

If you're stuck on what to say in a review, it can help to imagine you're talking to someone who's asking you whether they should read the book.

1. Start with a couple of sentences describing what the book is about

But without giving any spoilers or revealing plot twists! As a general rule, try to avoid writing in detail about anything that happens from about the middle of the book onwards. If the book is part of a series, it can be useful to mention this, and whether you think you'd need to have read other books in the series to enjoy this one.

2. Discuss what you particularly liked about the book

Focus on your thoughts and feelings about the story and the way it was told. You could try answering a couple of the following questions:

3. Mention anything you disliked about the book

Talk about why you think it didn't work for you. For example:

4. Round up your review

Summarise some of your thoughts on the book by suggesting the type of reader you'd recommend the book to. For example: younger readers, older readers, fans of relationship drama/mystery stories/comedy. Are there any books or series you would compare it to?

5. You can give the book a rating, for example a mark out of five or ten, if you like!

Luisa Plaja loves words and books, and she used to edit the book review site Chicklish. Her novels for teenagers include Split by a Kiss, Swapped by a Kiss and Kiss Date Love Hate. She lives in Devon, England, and has two young children.

More writing tips

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How to Write a Book Review: Format, Outline, & Example

As a student, you may be asked to write a book review. Unlike an argumentative essay, a book review is an opportunity to convey the central theme of a story while offering a new perspective on the author’s ideas.

Our specialists will write a custom essay on any topic for $13.00 $10.40/page

Knowing how to create a well-organized and coherent review, however, is useful for any bookworm, especially the literary blogger. Because the analytical approach of a book review is based on personal opinion, it gives you leeway to be more creative.

To write a book review, you need to choose a book read it, create an outline, write your introduction, body, & conclusion.

А book review is no mere synopsis. Be sure to check out this article before writing your own. This article by Custom-Writing.org experts contains a step-by-step guide, useful writing tips, book review format, book review outline tips, and a book review example. Whether your subject is non-fiction, a novel, or a children’s book, the following advice is sure to help you.

👀 Book Review Example

🔗 references, ❓ what is a book review.

A book review is a form of literary criticism. There are several important elements to consider when writing one, such as the author’s style and themes of interest. The two most popular types are short summary reviews and critical reviews, which are longer.

The two most popular types are short summary reviews and critical reviews, which are longer.

Summary Book Review

The format of a book review depends on the purpose of your writing. A short summary review will not include any in-depth analysis. It’s merely a descriptive piece of writing that overviews key information about the book and its author. An effective summary review consists of:

Critical Book Review

A critical book review is much longer than its summary counterpart and looks more like an analytical essay. You may be asked to write one as a college student. It includes:

✍️ How to Write a Book Review?

The structure of a book review is like any other essay. That said, the process of writing one has its own idiosyncrasies. So, before moving to the three parts of the review (introduction, main body, and conclusion), you should study the chosen piece and make enough notes to work with.

Step #1: Choose a Book and Read It

Being interested in a book you’re about to analyze is one thing. Reading it deeply is quite another.

Before you even dive into the text proper, think about what you already know about the book. Then, study the table of contents and make some predictions. What’s your first impression?

Now, it’s time to read it! Don’t take this step lightly. Keep a note log throughout the reading process and stop after each chapter to jot down a quick summary. If you find any particular point of interest along the way and feel you might want to discuss it in the review, highlight it to make it easier to find when you go back through the text. If you happen to have a digital copy, you can even use a shorten essay generator and save yourself some time.

Answering the following questions can also help you with this process.

Receive a plagiarism-free paper tailored to your instructions.

Step #2: Create Your Book Review Outline

A solid outline should be the foundation of any worthy book review. It includes the key points you want to address and gives you a place to start from (and refer back to) throughout the writing process.

You are expected to produce at least five paragraphs if you want your review to look professional, including an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion .

While analyzing your notes , consider the questions below.

Step #3: Write Your Book Review Introduction

With a layout firmly in place, it’s time to start writing your introduction. This process should be straightforward: mention the name of the book and its author and specify your first impression. The last sentence should always be your thesis statement, which summarizes your review’s thrust and critical findings.

Step #4: Write Your Book Review Body

Include at least three main ideas you wish to highlight. These can be about the writing style, themes, character, or plot. Be sure to support your arguments with evidence in the form of direct quotes (at least one per paragraph). Don’t be afraid to paraphrase the sentences that feel off. It’s better to aknowledge the mistakes yourself than have someone else point them out.

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Step #5: Write Your Book Review Conclusion

Compose a brief summary of everything you wrote about in the main body. You should also paraphrase your thesis statement . For your closing sentence, comment on the value of the book. Perhaps it served as a source of useful insight, or you just appreciate the author’s intention to shed light on a particular issue.

Now you know how to write a book review. But if you need some more inspiration, check out the following sample review, which follows the basic outline described above.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Book Review Example

If you want more examples, check out the list below!

I need a seven page Book report on Booker T. Washington. Instructions below from instructor title, your name, and then seven paragraphs and seven pages – no more no less.

get rid of the outline format.

They combine your ideas into seven paragraphs.

Each paragraph that has quotes should have a topic sentence followed by the five sentences with quotes and endnotes, followed by the concluding sentence.

You do not need any quotes in the introduction or in the summary.

So seven paragraphs total.

Each paragraph needs to be 13 – 17 lines, lines on a page and not sentences.

So, delete the outline format.

Combine your ideas into seven paragraphs.

Make sure that each paragraph has between 13–17 lines.

And make sure your overall length is in seven pages, no more no less.

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  1. 50 Best Book Review Templates (Kids, Middle School etc.) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  2. Book Review Template: Simple Book Review Template for Library, Classroom

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    book review format for students

  4. Best Book Review Examples for All Academic Levels

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  5. Book Review Sample Format : Review Essay Example Essay Example Of The Great Gatsby Book Review

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  6. How to Start a Book Club for Elementary Students

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write an Academic Book Review

    Sit at a desk with pen and paper in hand. As you read, stop frequently to summarize the argument, to note particularly clear statements of the book's argument

  2. How to Write a Book Review: Definition, Structure, Examples

    Book Review Template ; Introduction. Describe the book cover and title. Include any subtitles at this stage. ; Thesis. Write a brief description

  3. Writing a Book Review

    Establish a Background, Remember your Audience: Remember that your audience has not read the work; with this in mind, be sure to introduce characters and

  4. How to Write a Book Review Format

    Book Review Template · Introduction. Mention the book cover and title. Include the subtitles, if there are any. · Thesis. Write a brief

  5. Writing Resources

    Organizing the Review · All reviews begin with bibliographic information: the author's name, the book's full title, place of publication, publisher, edition

  6. Book Reviews

    The name of the author and the book title and the main theme. · Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry

  7. How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide

    ANALYZE Evaluate the book with a critical mind. THOROUGHNESS The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Review the book as a WHOLE. COMPARE Where

  8. Book Review Template

    Students will be able to process the information they read in a given text and process their ideas. Additionally, the Book Review Template allows the

  9. How to write a book review

    How to write a book review · 1. Start with a couple of sentences describing what the book is about · 2. Discuss what you particularly liked about the book · 3.

  10. How to Write a Book Review: Format, Outline, & Example

    Critical Book Review · Book citation and a hook in the introduction. · A few words about the author's intentions. · An academic description of the