Reviewing Books: Tips

Photo: Napa Valley / Joan Greengrass


Writing book reviews, whether online or in print,  doesn’t pay enormously, but it pays something, and it comes with a few perks. What better way to spend one’s time, if you’re a writer and a reader, than reading, forming opinions about what you’ve read, and publicly spouting those opinions? Plus there are the freebies: the books.

I rarely review a book that I totally hate, unless it gives out false information that I want to reveal and correct. I almost never trash fiction — I can think of only one novel I’ve ever reviewed negatively, and for the same reason: false information and stereotyping. I figure it’s so hard to write a novel–good or bad–what’s the point of trashing it? It’s sort of like criticizing an unattractive newborn. If I can’t say anything nice about a novel, I just say nothing.

Here are some tips for writing book reviews.

Considerations When Reviewing Fiction

• Are the characters developed? Interesting? Believable?

• Does the story make sense? Does it pull you in?

• Does the novel or story present a fresh perspective? Does it put a new spin on an old situation? Does it move you to see the world in a way you hadn’t before?  Did you learn anything?

• Was it well written? Did it paint a vivid image? Could you feel it with your senses? What about the rhythm of the language?

• Why did you like/dislike it?

• What scenes stand out?

• Does it deal with universal themes?

• Whose point of view is presented and how successfully?

• Does the author give any clues to the ending?

• How does it compare to author’s previous work or other books on similar topics?

• Does it convey any message/values/politics/philosophy?

Additional Considerations When  Reviewing Non-Fiction

Note the qualifying word Additional. By this I mean that you should address some of the same issues as you would with fiction – those that seem appropriate to the particular book/topic under consideration — as well as the following list.

• What are the author’s credentials to write on this topic? What are yours?

• Does the book explore new territory; if not, how does it compare to other books on the topic?

• Does it accomplish what it sets out to do?

• Is the information accurate? If not, how do you know?

• Is there a compelling reason that people need the information presented in the book?

• Does the book convey any message/values/politics/philosophy?

If anyone has any tips or tricks of their own, feel free to post them in the comment box.

Is there any sight sweeter than a boy reading a book on a summer day?

This entry was posted in advice, how-to, reading, tips for writers, tips on reviewing, writing, writing for money and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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