Writing an effective book review can feel like a struggle. But, there are a few key aspects that book reviews I really enjoy and find useful all share. Find the traits I look for in book reviews below!
Bloggers often protest that blogging is a hobby, not school, so what they learned in school no longer applies. However, the basics of writing that are taught in schools are useful in the real world! And, what is more, they actually can make writing more effective!
When I read a book review, I want to see a structure that will guide me through the review and give me an easy way to understand the information being presented. At a minimum, this means I prefer to see some sort of thesis sentence at the end of the first paragraph (basically, is the reviewer recommending the book or not–bonus points if they say why). And I want the paragraphs to be organized in a coherent manner, with each paragraph addressing one main idea or related ideas at least, and transitions between paragraphs. There should be a conclusion again stating if the reviewer is recommending the book or not, which readers they think the book will appeal to, whether they will continue with the series or more books by the author, etc.–any sort of thoughts that wrap up the review in a logical way.
Because I recognize that blogging is just for fun, my standards are obviously not going to be as rigorous as if I were reading a research paper–and, indeed, my own blog writing is far more informal and less rigid than anything I would do for school or for work. However, a logical structure really is an effective way to get one’s point across in an easy, accessible manner. And so it is something I value because it makes my reading experience more enjoyable–I do not have to work to guess what the main point of the review is, or what the review is trying to say. Blogging might not be for school, but the principles of effective writing still apply.
Also check out Briana’s post: “Four Things I Learned About Writing in School I Also Use While Writing My Blog”
An Actual Review (Not a Summary)
Summaries just tell a person what a book is about–and the official summaries for a book are easily found online on sites such as Goodreads or booksellers. When I read a review, I want to read an actual review, not a lengthy recap of the storyline. A review can touch on various aspects of a work–characterization, plot, pacing, prose, illustrations, and more. But it should give the reviewer’s original, personal views on how/if these aspects of the work contributed to a good story. I should leave a review having a clearer understanding of whether the book is something I want to invest my time in.
Because blogging is a hobby, I hesitate to say that there is a standard size all book reviews must be. However, I do think it is a fact that a longer review is going to be able to provide readers with more information. A one paragraph review only has time to gloss over a few, main aspects of a work. A review that is four to five paragraphs has room to expand on different aspects of the book. I prefer to read longer reviews because those give me more information to make an informed decision about what I want to read.
It’s fine to write negative reviews! Indeed, I would argue that the existence of negative reviews is necessary to keep reviews useful. If we only have glowing reviews, those are not reviews–that’s just advertising. However, there is a difference between respectfully pointing out aspects of a book or story that did not work for a reader, and personally attacking authors. I appreciate negative reviews, but I don’t like to interact with reviewers who seem spiteful or out to get authors. Authors are people, too, and, like everyone, they deserve common courtesy.
Writing an effective, informative review can be difficult! It is a skill that many reviewers spend time practicing and mastering. I know that I have to keep working on my own reviews, trying to write the kind of content others hopefully find valuable. But it’s definitely worth the effort!
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