How to Write a Literary Book Review
A book review is not simply a plot summary or an unsupported opinion of the book. It describes key elements of fiction present in the book and your opinion of how well the author has succeeded in using those elements to write an effective story.
How to write an effective review:
- In general, a book review provides enough information to help the reader decide whether he/she wants to read the book.
- Know the book thoroughly. Learn the genre of the book (historical novel, romance, science fiction, etc), and also know the characteristics that make up good literature of this type.
- As you read, determine the author’s purpose; consider what the title and subtitle might mean; take notes; jot down favorite quotes or parts you think are weak; and summarize each chapter.
- Do some background research. Read about the author; read related material; consider what main themes for the book may be; and think about a plan of action (how you think the book could best be critiqued).
- After you have done much of the legwork, you can think about jotting out the first draft of your review.
- Try one of these beginnings: summarize the book; quote a passage from it and explain why the quote is typical (or not); state the author’s purpose and how well he achieves this purpose; discuss the theme or major problem in the book.
- Depending on how you start the review, the rest of the piece will be affected by your choice. But the general direction and focus of the piece follows from there.
- State each of your ideas about your opening statement with generalizations.
- Explain how each of your examples proves your point.
- Be careful to provide transitions between paragraphs.
- Tie your review together with ideas related to your theme.
- End your review with a paragraph (or two) that brings your theme into final focus for your reader. You might come to a conclusion about the theme, the author’s purpose, or about the overall effectiveness of the book.
- After letting the review sit for a few days, read it out loud, listening for awkward phrases.
- Check your quotations for accuracy and appropriateness. Also, make sure you haven’t overloaded your review with quotations.
Tips on Proofreading and Editing Your Review:
- Make sure you have read the book carefully and completely before attempting to write a book review.
- Support your statements with specific examples or quotations.
- Ask a friend to read the review before presenting it to a tutor in the Merritt College Learning Center where you can get help with editing. A fresh eye can often catch problems with the review that you might have missed.
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