The Grade Miners’ Book Review Guide
Reading a book is enjoyable but writing about it is a whole different story. The Grade Miners understands that. That is why we created the guide below for you. We hope that by following it, you will be able to organize your thoughts with ease and come up with a book review that will impress your teacher or reader. A review is a critical assessment. It is an evaluation of anything. It could be a book, other literary works, policies, performances, art, restaurants, fashion, exhibition, events, etc. Reviews are commentaries, not summaries, i.e., they create an argument. The writer of a review weighs a host of ideas that emerge from a particular work. They provide their opinion on that work. They disagree or agree with the creator of the work and they highlight areas of improvement, inadequacies, and where they think the work was outstanding. In our discussion, we will focus on book reviews.
What is a book review?
A book review is a critical representation, analysis, and evaluation of a book that reveals an objective opinion about the book.
Book reviews are usually not lengthy. It is uncommon for you to be asked to write a book review that exceeds 1000 words. When writing book reviews, the first thing is usually to provide a brief introduction that is captivating and enlightening. The next thing is to write a summary. In this part, you talk about the details about the book (title, author, year of publication, publisher, etc.) what the book is about, elements of the book, the writing style, and the general argument. The third thing is to provide a detailed assessment. The evaluation is based on your judgment about that book. You can talk about what caught your attention and its efficacy in delivering the intended message. The last thing is usually the conclusion. In this part, you can recommend the book to others or fail to do so depending on your analysis.
It is important to think about your content before you start writing. Create an argument and think of how you will support it to create a logical and comprehensive essay.
The following questions will make your work of writing a book review easier. Note them down and answer them from the moment you get hold of the book till you finish reading its last page.
How does the title of the book fit in for this book? Is the title of the book a representative of the message in the book? Does it capture the attention of the readers and persuade them to read the book?
What do you make of the book cover? Are the contents of the book cover eye-catching? Does the book cover add to the author’s work?
Who has written that book? Has she/he authored other books? Is there a particular style of writing they commonly use? How does their background affect their work? For instance, how does their political inclination, their nationality, intellectual interests, personal experiences, education, historical context, and other background information influence what they talk about in their book? Would it make a difference if the context was different? For example, would a biography be different if the author was writing about their relative? Would the events discussed be described differently if the author was present when they occurred?
Who are the characters in the book? Which characters play a major role in the plot? How does the author use the characters to illustrate his argument? How suitable are those characters for the role they have been given by the author? What do you think about the characters?
What are the main themes? How does the writing style and the dominant theme used affect the efficacy of the argument? Is the writing style used targeted for a particular audience or all readers?
When reading the book, what idea or ideas keep recurring? What is the intended message? What is the author’s main argument? Has the author accomplished what he/she intended? Does the author have the target audience in mind when delivering his/her argument? How does that message relate to the real world?
What is the subject of the book? Has the subject been addressed sufficiently? How does the author tackle the subject; is it analytically, descriptively, etc.? Are all the segments of the subject matter covered equally or weight is given to others?
Does the author use evidence or any other tactic to support their argument? Is the evidence logical and convincing? Do you think that the author’s argument conflicts with other books of the same genre you have read or any other information that you know?
How is the argument structured? Is there a logical flow in the argument? Is the argument persuasive?
Does the book enhance your understanding of the subject matter? In your opinion what makes the book unique or groundbreaking? Do you think that it is good for other readers to go through the book?
Under what genre would you place the book you are reviewing? Is it fictional, biographical, romance, etc.? How does it compare or contrast to other books of the same category? Who is the target audience for this category of books?
These questions will help you come up with all the information you need for you to write your book review. It is therefore important to answer them adequately.
The Writing Process
Key Points to Remember
The assumption is that your reader has not read the book. Therefore, your work is to give them the general impression of the book through a summary. Your summary will discuss the main ideas and the characters of the plot while highlighting your overall opinion of the book. Do not forget to look at the characters analytically. Examine how they affect the plot of the story and how the author uses them to create a certain impression. Importantly, discuss the theme. Focus on the message that the author wants you to get. Demonstrate how the author depicts it and how he/she uses it to catch the attention of the readers.
Following your observations and evaluation of the book, examine your notes carefully and come up with a thesis for your book review. Afterward, create an argument that will back up your thesis. Ensure that your arguments are well thought out and that they develop the thesis. Depending on the requirements of the book review assignment, you might be required to discuss the author’s standpoint first then later introduce yours. Other tutors or depending on who your readers are, might want you to focus more on the work and the author other than your opinions or vice versa. Therefore, you must tailor your work accordingly.
Begin your book review with a catchy and informative introductory paragraph. Write the name of the book, its author, the place of publication, the date of publication, the edition of the book, the pages used, its special features, how much the book costs, and ISBN. However, details about the publisher, ISBN, the price of the book might be included at the end of your essay in some book reviews. Mention the main theme of the book. Give additional details about the author that will assist the reader to understand why they are inclined towards a certain view.
Demonstrate how the title of the book relates to the subject matter. Put your book review in a context that will enable your reader to identify your position on the book. Outline the message the author wants to pass across. It is hard to find the thesis of fictional books because they hardly have a specific argument. Even so, identifying the stance of the book and its novelty helps you to discover the meaning it wants to create. Your thesis should be stated in the introductory paragraph.
Organize your work in such a way that the evaluation comprises the bulk of your book review. However, for some book review assignments, you might be required to write the summary and evaluation in equal proportions.
Another way to go about it is to intersperse your summary between your arguments so that it serves as evidence for the assertions you make.
Your summary should mention the thesis of the book, the main arguments presented by the author, and evidence from the book that the author uses to affirm his/her views.
Analysis and Assessment of the Book
In this section, you will give a detailed analysis of the entire book. You will develop your argument from the thesis. Also, you will provide evidence for all your assertions. Do not discuss too many points. Focus on a single idea in each paragraph when writing your evaluation of the book. Individual paragraphs should have a topic sentence, evidence for your logic, and a concluding sentence. Use of transition words and sentences help the reader to move from one paragraph to the subsequent one with ease. There is no chronological order that you should adhere to when writing your paragraphs. Depending on your argument you can arrange your paragraphs based on the theme or other elements.
Compare the book under review with other books of the same category or by the same author. Nevertheless, do not give too much detail about other books as the focus is the book you are reviewing. Analyze the efficacy of the themes and motifs used. Discuss the rhetorical appeals employed and how effective they are in persuading the readers. Avoid overusing quotations from the book. Also, ensure that you indicate the corresponding page numbers in parentheses when you include a quotation.
Reiterate the thesis when writing the conclusion and give your final thoughts about the book. New evidence should not be added in your concluding paragraph. However, you can add new ideas if they support your thesis. Talk about the contribution that book has made in that particular field and pinpoint areas of improvement or further research. Wrap up your conclusion with a sentence that affirms your overall opinion and summarizes everything. Note that the conclusion should provide a balanced view of the book, that is, you should not focus on its strengths or shortcomings. That way, you will leave the reader with a unified evaluation.
Revising Your Book Review
Read your book review again to ensure that the names of the author, the characters, the publishing body and other details that pertain to the book are written correctly.
Ensure that your book review addresses the needs of your readers. Check if you have put forward a cogent argument. Your analysis should be thorough.
Importantly, ensure your work is accurate. Your writing should be coherent and error free. Correct any typing, punctuation, grammar, or sentence structure errors.
Additional Information to Consider
Always review the book you are given and not the one you would have wanted the author to write. Therefore, ensure that all criticism is objective.
Express your ideas clearly and accurately.
Challenging the approach used and the author’s argumentation is part of the evaluation. Therefore, do not shy away from doing so. However, make sure that your assertions are evidence-based.
Focus on creating a balanced argument. Do not sound like a strong critic or a die-hard fan. Remember book reviews are objective evaluations. Therefore, your book review should not be biased.
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