How To Write a Book Review by Susan Barton


Judging by the amount of books that are published and sold every year, reading is still a valued pastime. Most often, the reason readers take the time to review a book is because we have some definite opinions about the books we read and we want to share those opinions. After all, we’re investing valuable time and money on books that promise to be compelling and interesting – we feel cheated when they’re not and we’re elated when they are. However, reviewing a book is an entirely different ballgame from reading it.

At the risk of sounding like a book review snob, I’d have to say that the ability to read does not automatically qualify one to be a reviewer. Having said that, I do believe almost anyone can write an informative book review. While everyone has their own book review writing style, there are still some definite “rules” to follow.

Most of the time, I search online book reviews when deciding whether or not to read a book. Reviews consisting of one-line statements such as, “It was great!” and “I loved this book!” are definitely not helpful to potential readers. We want to know what made a book so great that you loved it. The same goes for, “This was the worst book I’ve ever read!” and even worse, “This book was so boring I stopped reading after a few pages.” The last statement is incredibly unfair to an author. If you stopped reading after only a few pages, how can you make an informed decision? In that case, it would be much kinder to simply not leave a review at all.

So then, what is the “right” way to write a book review? The following is a good blueprint for writing an informative, valuable book review:

  • Keep the review to approximately half summary and half commentary.
  • Briefly explain the gist of the book (sans spoilers) so readers get a general idea of what the book is about. Discuss things like time period, location and basic plot.
  • Refer to specifics when making your case for why you did or didn’t like a book; e.g. the plot was difficult to believe, the ending was disappointing, the editing was extremely poor, etc. *one, two or even three grammatical or spelling mistakes does not warrant a poor review or even a mention.
  • Address what you did or didn’t like about the author’s writing; e.g. Did he or she adequately develop characters? Did he or she appropriately set the mood by doing more showing than telling? 
  • How did you feel about the book’s characters? Who were your favorite characters? Who was your least favorite? Why?
  • Would you recommend the book to readers? Will you be reading more books by the author?

Writers are people with feelings too. They pour their hearts and souls into their writing and it can be difficult to have their books discussed negatively on a public forum. Informative, detailed reviews are valuable for authors, readers and reviewers, and we can all learn from them. Happy reading!

*This article was also published on