This is an important question, since the manner in which you review a book may affect your readers’ perceptions of how you conduct your business.
Actually, the first step in learning how to write a book review is to read the book. Now don’t laugh. Many people write reviews without reading the book.
First, this isn’t fair to the author of the book. Second, you can easily make a factual error in your review if you haven’t read the whole book.
Some people take notes while reading a book for review. For example, this can entail taking notes on locales, an especially well-written passage, or character motivation. In a book with numerous characters who pop in and out of the story, it might be necessary to keep track of how characters are connected to other characters.
When you are ready to write a book review, know where that review will be published. If you are writing a review on Amazon, you can write a very short review. But if you are writing for a book review site, there may be a specific required length.
One way to jump start writing book reviews is to read other reviews. Note what aspects of the review seem helpful to you as a reader and what aspects seem unhelpful. Then try to provide the same helpfulness in your book reviews that you would like to find in the book reviews of others.
One important consideration when writing a book review – don’t give away plot points that might be considered surprises or twists. For example, if you don’t find out until the last page that Sally is really the mother of Nancy, do not write in your review that you were happy to learn that Sally is really the mother of Nancy. Please let the reader experience that surprise exactly when you experienced it – at the end of the book.
Also, if you are writing a review of a book that takes place during a particular historical period, don’t automatically assume that the author is wrong about a certain historical fact. Unless you are truly an expert in that historical period, you may be the one with the incorrect information rather than the author.
Keeping in mind that people read fiction and nonfiction books for different reasons, your job as a reviewer is to evaluate from your own perspective whether the author fulfilled the promise of the book. For example, if you were reviewing the novel “Gone With the Wind,” you could certainly write that Margaret Mitchell realistically captured the sentiments of Southerners before, during and after the Civil War.
You can also evaluate whether the ending of the book is consistent with the rest of the story. Or did the ending feel tacked on as if the author ran out of steam and just ended however he or she could.
In other words, what you are looking for in writing a review on a novel (or a biography) is whether this is a satisfactory “read.” Did the story premise catch your attention and keep you turning pages until a satisfying ending?
If you are reviewing a nonfiction book, did the information in the book support the promise of the title? Let’s imagine a book titled “1001 Ways to Stop Stuffing Your Face With Ice Cream.” By the end of the book has the author indeed provided 1001 alternatives to continually gobbling your favorite ice cream flavors?
One final tip: Do not show off your own knowledge. It isn’t helpful to write that the author should have focused more on race relations in the U.S. during the 1960s when in fact the author was telling a story about how the Vietnam War affected one family and not telling a story about how race relations affected one family.
While you shouldn’t give a five-star review to a book when it doesn’t deserve it, you also shouldn’t give a book a one-star review just because you’re sure you could write a better novel about the Vietnam War. Give the book a fair review, then go write your own book.
Bottom line? Learning how to write a book review can take time, but it’s worth the effort for the business blogger.
© 2010 Miller Mosaic, LLC
Social media marketer Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel “Mrs. Lieutenant.” You can read the entire book for free online by going to her website www.MrsLieutenant.com Her company www.MillerMosaicPowerMarketing.com builds book author websites and coaches authors about online book promotion.