Writing a Book Review: Your Slam Dunk


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12 minutes

Writing a Book Review: Your Slam Dunk

Studying at college or university, you’ll deal with different types of writing assignments. Your professors don’t choose them randomly, they want to help you to develop particular skills that are necessary for your future career and life. For example, if you need to write an argumentative essay, you should focus on the convincing arguments’ structure. If your task is a research paper, it is essential to work with various trustworthy sources, gather, and analyze information. Tasks’ objectives also depend on your major.

One of the most exciting tasks that are typical for all students is a book review. However, it can be pretty challenging since it consists of several stages that require time and effort. Even if you’re an avid bookworm, it doesn’t mean you’re able to come up with this paper without hurdles.

We will provide you with an ultimate guide that is intended to help you with this assignment. Read on to deliver the outstanding paper!

What Is a Book Review: Start with the Basics

The first thing that you should remember is that you need to understand its purposes each time you receive any kind of assignment. You may think that you know the definition and the next steps, but your professor may have another perspective.

So, what is a book review? It is a critical evaluation of a literary piece that allows you to start the dialogue and discussion with the audience. You should make a statement with your thoughts, agreement, or disagreement. It is also essential to provide your opinion on whether this book is powerful or deficient in its structure, ideas, contribution, etc. Depending on the concrete assignment, you may include a summary, but the format, in general, does not foresee it.

Read your requirements attentively since you need to write a good paper; your task is to deliver an appropriate paper. It makes the writing process not as creative as possible, but it still leaves some space for your fantasy.

What Does a Book Review Consist Of?

Most likely you know that feeling when you’re sitting in front of a sheet of paper without any idea of what to write about. It is the most common reason why people procrastinate. As a result, they think they have been working for hours, they feel tired and exhausted, but they can’t demonstrate a final result.

We all were there. And we know the secret that may help you. The only thing that works is self-organization. When you have an exact schedule, see what you should include in a paper, where you can find this information, and what result your professor expects.

That’s why we want to share the most useful tips on how to write a book review. It would help if you didn’t make the same mistakes as millions of other students. Follow our structure, and you’ll create a fantastic paper that will steal the show.

An Intriguing Hook

If it is not the first student paper in your life, you will most likely know what a hook is. We all notice it when picking up some book or magazine in the library or a store. At first, we just read the piece to make the first impression, and then we find ourselves on the last page, without understanding what exactly fascinated us so much.

It is the hook, something that intrigues the audience, makes it read the whole content. Readers want to find an answer to a question, make sure everything is ok with the main characters, and feel some emotions the author and reviewers promised them.

So, when you’re starting your review, you need to intrigue the reader. All methods are right here. For example, if you write “It is the worst book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them!”, people will wonder: what exactly was so bad?

Remember that your primary task is not to make the audience read the book you’re writing about. You need people to read your review.

Brief Data About the Book

So, now you have the attention of your audience. They are already emotionally involved, and your next step is to provide them with more informative content. Yes, that book was pretty bad, but why? Are you writing from your heart only, or you have some arguments to prove it?

Of course, you can’t write about everything you want in the very first paragraphs. Start with a short description of the book: the title, the author, the year and place of publication, the genre. Add the number of pages to show whether this literature piece is voluminous. You can also mention whether it is fiction or nonfiction.

Try to be objective. For example, if the book contains 700 pages, provide this fact. Don’t write something like, “Who is ready to devote pretty much time to read this piece?” If you find it boring and extended, you can mention this in the appropriate section with your personal opinion. But start with facts.

Short Plot and Setting Summary

When your readers have the first information about the book, they need to decide whether they want to read it. Until you’re a famous writer or critique, they don’t value your opinion too much. So, after brief information about the piece, proceed to the raw summary. And pay attention to the word basic since this section shouldn’t become the core of your paper.

The review format includes intrigue. While it is your academic task, you have other goals, but when people usually write reviews for articles, covers, and blogs, they want to convince the audience to read or not read the particular piece. So, don’t include too many spoilers or any other unnecessary information.

What you need to do is explain the setting:

  • When and where events take place?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • Who are antagonists and protagonists?
  • What challenges do characters face?

Include Brief Quotes

To make your writing more powerful, you should add some quotes from the original piece. They are necessary not to inform readers about the content and some plot twists but to show the writer’s style. Remember how you choose the book in the store when you know nothing about this particular edition: you open the random choice and read a few lines. In most cases, it is enough to understand whether it is something that you need right now.

Writing a book review, try to choose not random quotes but the most powerful ones that convey the whole piece's general idea. Or you can select the phrases that correspond to your understanding. They will help you to make the writing more convincing and objective.

Pay attention to the formatting of the quotes in your paper. All student assignments should be formatted according to academic standards. If you copy the phrase from the source, it can be considered plagiarism.

Analysis and Evaluation of the Piece

Your next step is to write several paragraphs with the analysis and evaluation of the content. It may be the most challenging part since you should define the most suitable structure and follow it. One of the approaches you can use is to work chronologically through the piece. It is also possible to define several critical ideas of the author and explore them in order of priority.

But before you proceed to the analysis, come up with a thesis statement. It would help if you decided the purpose of your writing in advance. For example, are you going to support the writer’s ideas? Maybe you want to show that they are stupid? You find this book outdated and far from modern realities? Most likely, your volume is limited, so you can’t write about all these things at the same time. Develop 3 essential ideas for the body part and unite all of them with a powerful thesis statement. If this task seems too challenging, use our thesis generator to simplify the process.

Your Personal Recommendations

After sharing the necessary information, your praise or critique comments, let your readers know what do you personally think about this book. Can you recommend it to a broad audience? Is there a narrow category of people who would enjoy it?

When you say you like or dislike the content, try to explain why. Maybe it is a great choice to speak about world masterpieces, but you don’t admire this concrete genre? Or you think that the text was written in a pretty dull manner, and some plot gaps look unprofessionally? Remember that in any case, whether you’re providing a popular or unpopular opinion, you need to support your words. Add quotes from the source or any other book reviews compiled by people your audience may trust.


Most review platforms provide a star rating system. Let your readers know how you rate this piece on a 5 or 10 point scale. If your professor hasn’t provided you with strict requirements, you can also develop your rating system. For example:

  • Plot 0,8 out of 1.
  • Literary devices 0,3 out of 1.
  • Characters 1 out of 1.
  • The intrigue 0,9 out of 1.
  • The overall rate 3 out of 4.

Such a rating is beneficial even if you will not publish your review anywhere. When you have a list of books you’ve read in previous years, the rating will help you remember which ones were perfect and whether you can recommend them to friends or fellow students.

A Dose of Inspiration

A perfect idea to wrap up a paper is to find similar books to the one you’re writing about. So you can say, “if you love an A book, I think you definitely should check some other best horror novels!”

You can make this recommendation based on several approaches. For example, you can think of your associations. Then indicate that you’ve remembered a particular story when you worked on this review. What are the exact things that make them similar? Finish the document with words like “Finished this novel and don’t know what to do next? Try these amazing pieces written by authors of the same epoche to improve your historical knowledge!”

Or you can choose another path. If you don’t like the source you write about, you can provide your readers with better options. They may have the same genre, some similarities in the plot structure or the main idea. Still, you should also indicate the significant differences to show why you’d recommend making this particular choice and not the other one.

Typical Mistakes in Book Reviewing: Pitfalls You Should Avoid

It is normal if your paper contains some mistakes. We are speaking not about grammar or punctuation but about conceptual things you may ignore because of a lack of experience.

The main secret to making your writing better is pretty simple. You need to read a lot and write a lot. And, of course, you will edit your drafts all the time since you’ll find some flaws all the time. It is a typical process for each beginner.

Of course, there are mistakes that everyone who starts this path makes. While some are obvious, others are not easy to notice, especially if you don’t have someone who will read your document and provide you with useful feedback. That’s why our expert authors and editors have compiled a list of mistakes that you should consider to get an A-grade and become a good writer. Take a look:

Loud Claims

Beginning a book review with an emotional phrase you may have seen openings like “Author A is just a graphomaniac who wastes one’s own time and time of one’s readers.” may sound convincing, but what is your real purpose? It looks like a poor attempt to provoke readers to believe that you’re a great well-read critique who can afford yourself such hyperbolic sentiments. And you’re not, you’re just a student. So before the first paragraph is over, your audience already doesn’t trust you and your judgments. You can write about your personal opinion, but make sure you do it, defensible and not offensive. Don’t make you look foolish.

Lack of Clarity

Linguistic flights of creativity may sound impressive, but in fact, they mean nothing. You should understand the objectives of your writing: you don’t need to impress the audience, to change one’s mood, to entertain it. You need to provide it with a review, a brief description of the literature piece, and your opinion.

If you’re not sure whether your draft is clear enough, ask your friend to proofread it. If you mention that one is scanning every single sentence five times to understand your point, it is a failure. If you have such ambitious literature, you can write your book using any literary devices you like. But your professor expects you to work with various formats, so show that you know what the review is. Simplify your sentences, eliminate complicated words that don’t contribute to the overall idea, and eliminate ambiguities. Read some published reviews to get inspired by other authors who do it professionally.

Repetitiveness and Redundancy

It is the second side of the same coin. When you’re not sure that your point is clear enough, you may repeat it several times to explain it again and again. And even if you choose other words to convey your ideas, it is still the repetitiveness that makes your text weaker.

We understand that you want to ensure your readers won’t miss the incredibly important thought you’re describing. But you need to do it briefly and powerfully, less is more. If you think the paragraph is not good enough, rewrite it instead of writing the second one about the same idea.

That’s why it is recommended to develop a good outline before you start writing. Knowing the structure and following it, you’ll achieve a better result.

Writer’s Narcissism

We’ve already mentioned this mistake, but let us explain it. Yes, you’re writing a review. But it is not because you’re a fantastic critique who can provide one’s unique opinion. When you pick the book and see some reviews on its cover, you can be sure that they are compiled by authoritative people who have a powerful voice. And you’re just a student. Maybe you can publish this review in your college’s local magazine or post it on your online blog. But it doesn’t make you an influencer.

So, writing a piece, don’t overthink about yourself and your ambitions. Focus on the knowledge and experience you have and judge the book from a student's position, a regular reader who may like or dislike the content.

Too Many Details

Try to provide the audience with enough data to decide whether the novel (or any other genre) is a good fit for one’s tastes. Think of it like a movie trailer: you want to intrigue, but not to reveal spoilers that may have the opposite effect.

Before you start writing, define your focuses. Develop an outline and decide how many words will you devote to each of the sections. The plot description should be the shortest one: just brief information to bring up to date.

Insufficient or Excessive Length

Since it is an academic assignment, your professor should provide you with detailed instructions on the paper's format. The volume is one of them, and you should follow it without any excuses.

If you write a concise review, you won’t provide the audience with the most critical ideas. It is possible to include some theses, but not their explanation, insights, recommendations. And when your piece has an excessive length, it is not a review anymore, it is just another lengthy paper that may be too boring. If you don’t have concrete requirements, read some samples, and indicate their average length to follow the same structure.

Ignoring the Professional Help

If you know that you’re not an expert writer and lack time to improve your skills and create something impressive, you have 2 choices. Firstly, you can come up with a poor C-level paper after long hours of procrastination. Or you can hire a seasoned author who will provide you with the assistance you need. It means more free time, a guaranteed result, and reliable support that modern students require so much!

Originally published Feb 09, 2021, updated Feb 18, 2021

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