Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Anatomy of a Book Review

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I've been writing reviews on books for many years. My first book review appeared in a magazine that no longer exists. I've written hundreds of print book reviews and for two publications, I was their book review columnist which meant I had regular deadlines to deliver my columns which contained multiple reviews. In recent years, I still write some reviews for print magazines but in general, my reviews appear online.

I read many different types of books then write these reviews. Often as I read the book, I open a file in Microsoft Word and begin to write some of my thoughts about the book. When I finish the book, I will craft my review. Sometimes I will post the review right away on Goodreads and Amazon and my social media—but not always.You can follow these links for Amazon and Goodreads to see the various types of books that I read and review. Notice not all of them are print books but I also write reviews about the audiobooks that I hear. Sometimes I will write reviews in batches or one review after another. Do you ever handle a certain type of writing in batches?

The majority of the books that I read are nonfiction—and this has been my pattern for years and explains why I have written mostly nonfiction for years (a few short stories are mixed into that writing). I do read several fiction authors and look forward to these books.

In the last few days, I've finalized a number of book reviews—in a batch. When I write a review, it is not just a sentence or two—like some people do. Instead, I write at least a paragraph which summarizes the content of the book. What are the major sections in the book and is this something worth writing about in your review? I do sometimes and sometimes not. Normally I as I read the book, I am looking for a quotation or two from the book. Often it is several sentences that I locate from the book. I like to use quotations because it shows readers that I actually read the book and pulled out something important for me from the book. At the end of my quotation, I include a specific page number from the book. 

As I read a book, I will take little post-its and flag a particular passage or section so it will stand out—and I can use it for my review. I use these flags to highlight possible quotations or content that I want to highlight in my review.

While many of my reviews are five star reviews and positive, I write honest reviews so not all of them are five stars. If I didn't finish the book or something else, I try and write about it in my review. It is important for reviewers to write their honest feedback about the book. My reviews are much more than a sentence or two. Normally they range from about 120 to 220 words in length.

I hope this article gives you some ideas to write your own reviews. The  key is to jump in and write reviews over and over for the books that you read or hear. It is a solid way you can support other writers with your reviews. For more information and insights, I recommend you get this free interview and ebook from Dana Lynn Smith. It is a resource I created to help other book authors with reviews.

Do you write book reviews? If so, let me know about your tips and insights in the comments below.


Some people have no idea what to write for a book review. Get the details from a prolific editor a reviewer in this article. (ClickToTweet)

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