Anatomy of a Book Review: Tips for Writing a Good Book Review

As many avid readers know, book reviews can be magical. Not only are they book recommendations, they’re also bridges to our fellow bookworms all around the world. Reviews offer a chance to share your thoughts with other readers and to keep track of your own musings on the books on your shelf, but many find that writing a review isn’t as easy as it seems. To help our readers craft the best reviews possible, we’ve put together a list of 11 tips for how to write a book review. Whether you’re reviewing books on BookishFirst, Goodreads, NetGalley, or your personal blog, this guide is sure to help take your reviews to the next level.

Describe the plot
First things first: Your readers will want to know what the book is about. But describing the plot needs to be a fine balance in a book review. You want to share just enough to hook the reader without giving too much away and without veering into book report territory. Give a bit more background on the plot outlined on the book’s jacket, and focus on any elements that you feel particularly strongly about or you think that your readers will want to be aware of.

Avoid spoilers
Spoilers—enemy number one of readers everywhere. Most readers take spoilers very seriously, but they continue to pop up in book reviews. Often, spoilers can be tempting to share because they are frequently the elements that gave the reviewer an intense reaction (a sudden twist, a shocking death, a surprise unveiling). But make sure you don’t rob any of your readers of that genuine emotional reaction or discovery. Unless your reviewing platform offers a way to hide spoilers, avoid them completely.

Find the hook
There are two hooks to think about when writing a book review. First, how to make a reader stop scrolling and read your entire review. Second, in cases of positive reviews, how to convince them to pick up the book. Don’t wait until the middle of your review to try to catch the reader’s attention. Try to hook them from the very first sentence. Think about what made you pick the book up, and use that to inspire your own way of writing about it.

Make your opinion clear
This tip might seem obvious, but sometimes a reviewer may get caught up in describing the plot and forget to offer their own insight. We recommend making your thoughts clear as early as possible and throughout the review. As you describe the plot, share your opinion on the things that worked or didn’t when it comes to the writing, characters, and events of the book. Tell readers why they should (or shouldn’t) pick this book up.

Find your voice
Readers choose to follow certain reviewers because of similar reading taste, but also because they enjoy their review style. Celebrate your uniqueness in your book reviews. Provide the insight only you can offer. This is an opportunity to share your passion with other readers, so make it personal. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t happen immediately. Rewrite, hone your voice, and keep reviewing. Your signature style will develop as you go.

Rating system
Ratings help to give readers an immediate sense of how you felt about a book. If you review on a personal blog, decide on the rating system that works for you and make sure you clearly explain how it works to your readers. If you review on platforms such as BookishFirst or Goodreads, you’ll have a rating system provided for you. Think about how the way you personally rate books fits into their system. For example, if you give half stars on your blog (or in your mind!) but the platform doesn’t have half-stars as an option, decide if those should be rounded up or down.

Consider the reviews you’ve read
Visit a site where you like to read reviews and find examples that you think are effective. Ask yourself what it is that you like about the review, and find ways to showcase those same elements in an original way in your own. Maybe you’re swayed by great pull quotes, thorough plot summaries, or a review with a strong voice. Do you love reviews that are conversational, like you’re talking with a friend? Do you want a bit of humor in your book recs? Or do you prefer a serious tone, to convey how much thought you’ve put into your feelings about the book? These are all techniques you can use to make your own reviews even more successful.

Explain both praise and critiques
When it comes to book reviews, it’s important to explain both your praise and critiques of a book so that other readers get the whole picture. For example, don’t just say that the book has great characters—explain what makes them great. Don’t tell readers that the book was boring—explain which elements failed to capture your attention. This will help readers to understand your point of view and decide for themselves whether or not this is a book that they might enjoy. Thoughtful praise and critique often can also be a great starting point for a continued conversation about a book.

Think about the audience
Let readers know if this is a book you’d recommend, and to whom. Not every book is suited to every reader, so you’ll want to be specific about who is likely to enjoy it. For example, you’d recommend A Game of Thrones to fans of historical fantasy, not modern fantasy. But it may also be a great recommendation for those who love a good political thriller. Keep in mind that even if a book didn’t fit your personal reading tastes, there’s a chance it may appeal to other readers and your review could help them discover it.

Proofread before posting
The fastest way to lose credibility with your audience is to have a typo-laden review. Give your entire review a final read before posting to catch any spelling or grammar errors, including checking facts you share, the spelling of author and characters names, pronouns used, and any quotes you use. The last thing you want is a reader to stop following your reviews because you accidentally kept calling the main character Harry Patter.

Have fun!
Reviewing can be a labor of love, but it’s a job that should always bring you joy. If you ever find yourself feeling burned out, take a break and remind yourself of why you started reviewing in the first place: to share your love of books with readers all over the world.

Psst: If you like reviewing books, visit us at BookishFirst where you can earn points for your reviews and use those points to win free books!

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Librarian's Choice

Librarians' Choice: top 10

October 2018

Librarians’ Choice has announced the Top 10 titles for October 2018 that librarians across Australia love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the Librarians’ Choice site.

If you are a librarian in Australia, you can nominate titles for the Librarians’ Choice list via NetGalley!

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Cover Love

We’ve rounded up another batch of book covers that we love, and we hope you will too. We’ve also gathered all of your cover votes from this month, and your most loved cover is… My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren.

Click on each cover to read the full book description, request (or wish for) the title, and cast your vote for the cover. If you’ve read these books, don’t forget to share feedback with the publisher and with your friends & followers.

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Library Reads

LibraryReads List

October 2018

LibraryReads has announced the top ten books available in October 2018 that librarians across the country love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the LibraryReads site.

If you are a librarian, you can nominate titles for the LibraryReads list via NetGalley – learn more here!

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IndieNext

Indie Next List

October edition

The American Booksellers Association has announced the selections for the October Indie Next list. You can request many of these titles on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the ABA site

If you are a bookseller, you can nominate titles for the Indie Next list via NetGalley, and receive special access to new galleys via the Digital White Box program. Sign up today!

 

November Road: A Novel by Lou Berney
(William Morrow | 9780062663849)

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung (Indies Introduce)
(Catapult | 9781936787975)

Night Moves by Jessica Hopper
(University of Texas Press | 9781477317884)

Man With a Seagull on His Head: A Novel by Harriet Paige
(Biblioasis | 9781771962391)

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Top Ten Books from UK – October 2018

A wonderful mixture of big names and ones to watch this month – with new titles from Jodi Picoult, Michael Connelly and Minette Walters sitting alongside brilliant new books from Owen Booth (What We’re Teaching Our Sons), Guy Bolton (The Syndicate) and Angela Chadwick (XX). Enjoy!

A Spark of Light
Jodi Picoult
Hodder & Stoughton
UK Edition

Jodi Picoult’s last novel, Small Great Things, was rightly considered to be one of the most thought-provoking and timely novels of 2016. A Spark of Light is just as compelling, and just as important.

A lone gunman at an abortion clinic has taken hostages. How did he get there? Picoult tells his and the hostages’ stories in an utterly gripping novel of contemporary ethics.

Bloody Brilliant Women
Cathy Newman
William Collins
UK Edition

A radical, iconoclastic history of modern Britain told through the stories of some of the most important – yet overlooked – figures of the 20th and 21st Centuries, all of whom are women. Vital, and hugely readable.

What We're Teaching Our Sons
Owen Booth
4th Estate
UK Edition

One of the funniest, strangest and most moving books you’ll read this year,What We’re Teaching Our Sons is a brilliant take on modern masculinity, as well as a touching exploration of fatherhood.

Dark Sacred Night
Michael Connelly
Orion
UK Edition

Michael Connelly goes from strength to strength – and this new blockbuster sees young detective Renee Ballard (from The Late Show) cross paths with Harry Bosch. A pitch perfect slice of crime.

The Turn of Midnight
Minette Walters
Allen & Unwin
UK Edition

The second volume of Minette Walters’ new historical series is another gripping, utterly compelling novel set in the dark days of the Black Death. The people of Develish have survived. But for how long?

Forget My Name
J.S. Monroe
Head of Zeus
UK Edition

This absolutely stunning mystery from the author ofFind Me will have you guessing right to the very end. A woman arrives at Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she lives there. They say not. Who is lying?

Red Birds
Mohammed Hanif
Bloomsbury
UK Edition

One of the most distinctive world voices, Mohammed Hanif returns with an exceptional novel of war, family and love. An American pilot seeks refuge in a camp he was supposed to bomb. Will he survive?

The Syndicate
Guy Bolton
Oneworld Publications
UK Edition

The Pictures was one of the standout crime debuts of the last few years, and The Syndicate returns to the golden age of Hollywood, in a novel of murder, revenge and secrets. Hard-boiled and brilliantly done.

The Bitter
Francesca Jakobi
W&N
UK Edition

It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by her past. Beautiful and devastating, Bitter explores the decisions that define our lives and the bond between mothers and sons.

XX
Angela Chadwick
Dialogue Books
UK Edition

When Rosie and Jules sign up to be the first women to have a daughter without any male involvement, they can’t wait to make history. But they could never expect the hate that would come their way. Will it tear them apart?

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Librarian's Choice

Librarians' Choice: top 10

September 2018

Librarians’ Choice has announced the Top 10 titles for September 2018 that librarians across Australia love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the Librarians’ Choice site.

If you are a librarian in Australia, you can nominate titles for the Librarians’ Choice list via NetGalley!

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Book

Cover Love

We’ve rounded up another batch of book covers that we love, and we hope you will too. We’ve also gathered all of your cover votes from this month, and your most loved cover is… An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Click on each cover to read the full book description, request (or wish for) the title, and cast your vote for the cover. If you’ve read these books, don’t forget to share feedback with the publisher and with your friends & followers.

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Library Reads

LibraryReads List

September 2018

LibraryReads has announced the top ten books available in September 2018 that librarians across the country love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the LibraryReads site.

If you are a librarian, you can nominate titles for the LibraryReads list via NetGalley – learn more here!

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IndieNext

Indie Next List

September edition

The American Booksellers Association has announced the selections for the September Indie Next list. You can request many of these titles on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the ABA site

If you are a bookseller, you can nominate titles for the Indie Next list via NetGalley, and receive special access to new galleys via the Digital White Box program. Sign up today!

She Would Be King: A Novel by Wayétu Moore
(Graywolf Press | 9781555978174)

French Exit: A Novel by Patrick deWitt
(Ecco | 9780062846921)

In Pieces: A Memoir by Sally Field
(Grand Central Publishing | 9781538763025)

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