Writing an Academic Book Review



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14 minutes

Writing an Academic Book Review

To begin with, let's define what a book report is. It responds to a particular work intended to make an impression of it among the target audience. This is a small text, which contains an overview and analysis of the work. It’s standard size is approximately 600-800 words or one or two A4 pages.

Peer review is one of the most critical university book publishing processes, directly related to future writing’s quality. Furthermore, the ability to write a report correctly will be useful in the future in coursework definition. It determines the value of the work for the reader. Reviews are not only the basis for evaluating the author's work but also good resources to improve it.

The author's awareness of the topic is crucial in the analysis. The more fundamental the critic's knowledge is, the more meaningful the report and authoritative the assessment will be.

The depth of critical analysis depends on the intended place of publication of the review. On the pages of a specialized edition, the assessment is fuller, more serious, and more difficult for a person from the outside, an amateur, to understand. In reviews intended for mass newspapers and magazines, the form of presentation and content should be more straightforward, aimed at the general reader.

Let's talk about academic book reviews.

Structuring the Book Review

General book reviews have a head, neck, body, and tail. The head is the title of the text: intelligible, catchy, and at the same time, relevant to the topic of the publication. The neck is the so-called lead, two or three dense introductory lines that set the tone and outline the conversation's subject. The body is the actual text of the review. The tail is the conclusions of the reviewer, his resume. Without a tail, the review looks lonely and scanty, do not offend the poor thing!

Mandatory Structural Elements of the Academic Book Review


As an introduction, the writer needs to fill out a bibliographic description of the work. This includes facts such as the title and the author's details, year of publication, and publisher. Next, the reviewer needs to set the tone for his response by revealing its main idea.

Short translation of the text

In this section of the academic book review, the reviewer should pay attention to a summary of the content. This is a rather laborious process since a large amount of information needs to be contained in 2-3 sentences. It requires significant time resources. Excessive intake is unacceptable, but the omission of essential work ideas will also be a mistake.

Personal impression

In this part, the reviewer must provide the reader with the most accurate personal impression of the read work. Here you cannot give harsh assessments, get emotional or express emotions. A real expert will always remain objective and fair, even if he does not like the work.

The individual position of the critic and the objective assessment are different things. It happens that the sample is frankly weak, but the examiner likes it. Or vice versa. Everyone around admires the publication, writes, and abbreviates praise, but your position is at odds with the majority opinion. This is the norm, and it requires that it be reckoned with. But there is nothing to build out of yourself as a judge of the last instance.


Critical thinking in a book review will help you to analyze the text deeply. Use as many proven resources as possible.

The analytical part of a review of a literature story or scientific publication should be brief and concise. The standard sample includes several data:

  • evaluation of the title;
  • assessment of the content of the work and the structuring of the text;
  • evaluation of the practical part.

That is, the author should talk about how the topic of the novel is disclosed in the content, how clear and exciting the main idea of the work is. You can also assess how the time and place of events coincide, the characters and the change in behavior lines are revealed.

Results of material research and recommendations for the audience

Here, the author can indicate personal conclusions about the work in a thesis format, assess the work's relevance, and share recommendations for further readers.

In the end, don't forget the reference list in the style that the curator will require of you.

How Long Should My Review Be?

The average size of an academic book review is from 500 to 700 words. However, it may be smaller or larger. The content of the report depends on its volume.

An assessment of up to 300 words is for discussion only. No thoughts, feelings, and philosophizing will fit in there, but short sentences, a minimum of adjectives, exact meaning, and unambiguous conclusion.

A report up to a maximum of 600 words is an ideal format for a calm and thorough discussion of a single work. You can talk about the tome's place in the writer's work, draw parallels, add your impressions and conclusions, analyze in detail the advantages and disadvantages of the text, and, at the same time, not tire the reader.

A review of more than 600 words is simply obliged not to be limited to one book (unless, of course, this is "The Lord of the Rings"). We attach the literary process and genre tendencies, compare with similar works, analyze the author's work in general, actively quote and add our thoughts - one simply cannot do without them in a large text. However, such a review will take away a lot of energy and resources from you.

Before You Read

A quality review can only be written after a thorough study of the work provided. Reading diagonally should be discarded immediately since the reviewer must find all the work's pros and cons. Arm yourself with a notepad, a pen for notes and comments, and a lot of resources. They need to be done as you read them. Otherwise, they can be forgotten later. Pay attention that all the details are indicated in the review, especially regarding the author and reviewer's data.

Before you start reading, you need to think about what mandatory elements your paper will do.

Information about the author.

What distinguished the author? Which of his works deserve special attention? What are the features of his writing style? What is the opinion of critics about the results of this author?

Book title. Does the title of the writing fascinate the reader? Is it unique and exciting?

Define the genre of writing (when it comes to fiction paper). What is a work - poetry or prose, novel or detective, science fiction, or romance?

The appearance of the writing. The cover represents the content. Is it interesting for you what exactly? It is characterized by minimalism, or, conversely, bright pictures?

A laconic description of the central problem of labor, no need to pay attention to secondary ones (1-3 sentences).

Analysis of the quality of work (design, quantitative ratio of the theoretical and practical parts of the work, structured presentation style, peculiarities of using terminology, number of works in the reference list). This part is especially important for reviews of the thesis, master's or PhD thesis.

When You Are Ready to Write

A review of academic work is not only an assessment that helps the author to see the advantages and disadvantages of his work; it is also a document that is submitted along with the scientific work to the reaction or defense commission.

Such general requirements for the review as:

  • conciseness;
  • scientific style of presentation;
  • unambiguous reasoning and final assessment of work;
  • clear argumentation of the position of the reviewer;
  • structuredness;
  • correctness about the author of the analyzed work.

Regarding the structure of the review, it is built from sections that include one or more chapters, unique subheadings, annotations, reference list, and information about the author. Use proven literary resources to present credible facts.

What should you write in the academic book review? Be sure to indicate the following points:

  • authorship;
  • book title;
  • try to understand and convey the work's main ideas (not necessary, but not insufficient).

When working, you can use several approaches: observation from the outside, non-judgmental analysis, critical analysis, polemics with the writer.

Criteria for Evaluation

What can you take into account when evaluating and analyzing the academic work?

  1. Overall impression. Is it stable, fragmented, powerful, weak, pleasant, or pathetic?
  2. Plot. How logically is it brought together? Are there any moments that do not work for it?
  3. Analysis of relevance. Is the topic raised relevant? Is it attractive to society, what audience the work is intended for?
  4. Analysis of the pros and cons of each of the sections (articles are evaluated as a whole, with an emphasis on individual points).
  5. In the literary process, the paper's place is how a particular work relates to others in its genre, which denotes, develops, or completes.

Don’t Forget About

  • Language and style. Analyze these points in general and in the context of the task at hand.
  • The main idea of ​​the text. How ethical, smart, and original is it? What does the book teach the reader, what does it want to tell him?
  • Originality. How trivial is the idea of ​​where the author borrowed what, whom does he quote, parody, paraphrase?
  • Public value. Were there moments in the text that were useful, say, for national self-awareness? Maybe complex ethical issues and choices are described there.
  • Your feelings. Whether you liked the book or not, what feelings and thoughts it evoked.

It is not necessary to analyze all the points. Choose those that are important to you at the moment.


The inspector is obliged to own the material at least no worse than the creator of the work.

You have no right to make a mistake. In the text of the review, no mistakes (spelling, syntactic, stylistic, meaningful, etc.) can be made; otherwise you risk looking ridiculous.

Follow the style. Colloquial speech and jargon are inappropriate in inspecting a literary magazine, a publishing house, or a bookstore's website. Professional terms are unlikely to be suitable for material in a glamorous magazine, but they will not interfere with an internal review and are necessary for a specialized publication. The essay will not do without filigree work on the language.

The smaller the report, the more concise and more straightforward the sentences should be.

Since we are talking about an academic report, you should follow a specific text format when writing it. This can be paper in APA format. Or you can create MLA-style paper.

Avoid grandiose adverbial phrases, unnecessary epithets, complex structures. Follow the train of thought, try to put one idea in one small paragraph. Arrange your reasoning carefully and accurately.

Share your position and objective criteria. If everyone around says that the novel is brilliant - we are not obliged to agree, however, to object too. Try to evaluate the author's work as objectively as possible, supporting your opinion with evidence.

Things to Avoid

Book reports for college assignments must meet many requirements. To understand what a literary work review should look like, you can read experts' advice and illustrative examples. In addition to the rules for drawing up the structure, you need to familiarize yourself with typical mistakes when writing a book analysis to warn them.

So let's talk about what to avoid when writing a review.


Give Yourself Too Many Column Inches

The review is a great helper for readers. After reading a short essay of the work, the reader decides whether to spend his time on it. So value your time and readers' time and avoid verbosity but give a full assessment of the text.

Be Hypercritical

There are no papers that absolutely everyone would like. Each work is aimed at a separate audience, so people will not like it. However, even if the analyzed text makes you want to throw it in the trash, do not rush to do so. Any text has its value; it is crucial to find it. Avoid harsh criticism, try to list one or two shortcomings, arguing your point of view.

Make a List

Sometimes the book you are studying contains too many chapters. After reading all of them, it can be difficult for you to gather all your thoughts. And you can choose the most comfortable way - to list all the sections and analyze them. But we would advise you not to resort to such a method. It is better to identify a few main storylines or topics covered in writing.

Retell of Those Events That Will Be Present in the Book

A review is not a presentation or an essay but an expert assessment. Yes, there is a type of paper in which the manual read evaluation is poorly traced. However, this should not be a dry retelling of it, but the examiner's vision of what he read.

Go Into Personals

The author of the response should not go beyond what is permitted, offending the author, and insulting his work. If you frankly don't like the book, please explain why. But do not hurt the writer.

Be Familiar and Rude

Even though the review contains an assessment of the work, you need to be extremely careful with this. Keep all personal judgments, emotions, and sharply negative estimates in yourself; the text must be objective.

Subjective Value Judgments

If the student does not know how to write an audit sample without the cliché such as bad, good, talented, mediocre, he had better not take on such a thing. Your judgments should be based on facts and in-depth analysis of the text, not personal emotions.

The Five Types of Academic Book Reviews

How the content of the inspection will be embodied depends entirely on the author. Hence the variety of genre forms. There are the following types of reports:


This sample is reminiscent of a summary of what was read. The vocabulary of the text will be limited to general words such as "interesting," "fascinating," "impressive." Here you are unlikely to find a quality review of the course manual or personal judgments about the work's content.


The critic openly flatters the book's author and does not hide his delight from what he has read. Such works often lack criticism, and if they do, it is limited to minor remarks about the form but not the content of the writing.

Carrot and Stick

The writer of such a type wants to praise and criticize the writing at the same time. In the introduction, the investigator will point out the positive aspects of the book. However, in the central part, he will not skimp on a critical assessment of the work. In conclusion, the reviewer will again try to create a lively atmosphere. He is likely to be neutral in his judgments, using phrases such as "In general, the writing made a good impression."

Candid Criticism

This is probably one of the best approaches to analyzing writing. The author impartially evaluates the form and content of what is read, and somewhat makes his verdict. The examiner analyzes all the details step by step. Where appropriate, he criticizes and emphasizes what struck the most. This review gives the most honest recommendation to future readers.

Social Climber

During the school years, each of us in the class had a student who thought he was smart. Such students always raise their hands the first, shout answers, and steal the show. Something similar happens in this review sample. When writing it, the critic describes his impressions too emotionally, often deviating from the substance. And in general, he believes that he would write this book better than its author. Usually, after reading such a review, the reader has a false impression of the writing.

How to Create Your Book Review Template

Finally, we would like to pay attention to several critical points when writing a review.

Starting point

If you don't know where to start and write a good paper, setting out all your thoughts, this plan sample can help you:

  1. Information about the writing: its title, author, year of publication.
  2. A short retelling of the content of the work (one-three sentences).
  3. Your impressions of this book.
  4. Analysis of the work: content, structure, title, etc.
  5. Advantages and disadvantages of the writing.
  6. Your assessment and conclusions. Recommendations to readers.

Full immersion

To write a good shit of paper, you need to read the writing inside and out. A helpful review requires excellent knowledge of the text, its stylistic features, characters, etc. It is useless just to read a summary and a few evaluations of this book. It is best to read the writing several times to understand the text better.

Evidential base

Arguments are required to write a report correctly. Whatever opinion is formed, you must select statements, formulate your thoughts, and express them in your text. For example, you didn't like the book, the author's style, so prove it.

Do not worry that your opinion does not coincide with the view of others. These are your thoughts, and you have the right to express your opinion, whatever it may be.

Review ethics

Yes, reviewing also has its ethics, and it is better to follow it if you want to write an excellent sample.

  1. One should always check all dates, terms, title facts, and names.
  2. Better to keep a businesslike and friendly tone.
  3. Do not let your attitude towards the writer influence your opinion about the work.
  4. Do not impose your point of view on the author.

Remember, a review is not a comment

A comment gives a general description of the work without detailed analysis.

For comments to become reviews, they must contain:

  1. Information about the writing and its author.
  2. The idea of the book.
  3. The structure, style of the literary work.
  4. The impression of the book.

To find more information on this topic, edit various publications, and create your reference list.

Based on the preceding, you need to highlight the main points. Firstly, when writing a review, it is crucial not only to express your opinion but also to give a professional assessment of the work. Secondly, do not provide many vents to emotions. If you write an overly enthusiastic review, then readers will be able to perceive it as a customized one. If you express anger and negativity, others may think that you have a personal dislike for the writer. Do you feel this edge?

But we shouldn't forget about the advantages of writing a review. You can not only improve the writing skills but to elevate as a reader. According to excellent and experienced reviewers, writing reviews will help the reader to dive deeper to find some details or facts that he overlooked before.

Originally published Jul 03, 2017, updated Jan 18, 2021

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