There are tons of source material for writing book reviews, from those by pros in glossy magazines to the smallest, most humble blog. In my last post I offered one way to write the review in short form, i.e., a review you might write for a book on Amazon. And I promised to give you one way a more complete review might be written. My method here is something of a mixture of reviews I’ve seen on the best blogs and those by the pros. So here goes.
- The preamble – begin with a “hook,” or some curious or interesting connection between your impression of the book and some generality regarding the subject at hand, an outside thing or event. For instance: “Baseball is being sped up; it’s not the same game it was forty years ago. But in this biography of Yogi Berra we see a player who could bridge…”
- The synopsis – the better reviews provide a segue here to transition to a paragraph or so which synopsizes the book’s high – and possibly low – points. Yes, even this is subjective, at least to a degree, but that’s what’s valuable here: the parts of the book that seem most important to a potential reader.
- Style – this can be incorporated in the synopsis, but I like to have a few separate statements on the the writer’s voice, his/her style of writing, and how that worked with the story being told.
- Summary – here, I like to include any generalized impression I haven’t provided in one of the above subsets. This can include a flat statement of whether or not you enjoyed the book, what you gained from it, whether or not you would recommend it to other readers, and why.
Books, as is all art forms, are meant to both inform and entertain. The above format will generally do a decent job of depicting how well the writer did on both counts. But the primary purpose of reviews is for the author and his/her growth as a writer: to identify things done well, weaknesses the book might contain, and (possibly) how those weaknesses might be rectified. So be honest regarding your impressions of the book. Don’t be cruel, just honest – as you see it.