How to Write Book Reviews for Your Blog

Book reviews are everywhere now. And more people are writing reviews and posting them online. Journal and magazine editors worry that literary book reviews will become obsolete and that paid reviewers will be out of a job. I hope this doesn’t happen, because so much of the reviewing done online is of a different quality and serves a different purpose. At the same time, I think the proliferation of book reviewing by bloggers is a positive development.

Here are a few suggestions for bloggers who want to write reviews that people will read.

  1. Make sure you’ve read the book.
  2. Make sure you understand the point of the book, the aims of the author.
  3. When reviewing a non-fiction book, say what kind of book it is. (Think, for example, in terms of the section of a bookstore where you would expect to find this book.)
  4. If the book develops an argument, state the basic thesis and how it’s supported by the author, then evaluate the thesis and the argument for it. Do you agree or disagree? Does the author make a good argument for something you don’t believe? Are you disappointed in an argument that’s been made for something you do believe?
  5. When reviewing fiction, be careful not to spoil your review with too many plot details. Also, say what kind of fiction it is, describe the author’s writing style, and say who is most likely to enjoy reading this book and why.
  6. Say what you like about the book and why.
  7. Disagree with the author freely, but show respect. Dramatist Edward Albee remarked that “if Attila the Hun were alive today, he’d be a drama critic.” For some reason, authors respond better to kindness.
  8. Use good-natured humor.
  9. Write about something you learned as a result of reading the book. Did the book lead you to take some specific action that was new for you? Did it shake your convictions about something? Did it strengthen your beliefs about certain things? (You can do this for fiction as well as non-fiction.)
  10. Include one or two interesting quotes from the book.
  11. Encourage comments on your post by others who have read the book or something else by the same author or on the same topic.

If you know of any blogs with consistently good book reviews, I hope you’ll give their give their URLs in the combox below. And if you found these suggestions helpful for writing a review, come back and tell us about it!

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

8 Responses to How to Write Book Reviews for Your Blog

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    David, I’ll see what I can do about making the link work for you “Rightly Dividing” suggestion. Thanks!

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  2. David says:

    Link may not have worked, rdtwot.wordpress.com/

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  3. David says:

    Nick Norelli does some great Biblical and theological reviews over at: Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.

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  4. Doug Geivett says:

    BeyondBlueStockings, I like your point about the raw honesty of reviews at so many blogs these days. The same goes for reviews at Amazon.com. I’d say that reviewing is one of the best ways to make a contribution for someone new to the writing habit.

    I write and speak frequently about film. There are some types of discussions that you just can’t have about a film without an acquaintance with the details. So plot summaries are inevitable. The same goes for novels and short stories.

    So now I think I should add a couple points to my list at this post:

    12. Bear in mind that book reviews differ from other kinds of commentary about books—for example, critical essays of the sort you find in the New York Review of Books.

    And,

    13. Since there are different kinds of book reviews, sort out early what kind of review you want to write. What is your aim? Do you want to encourage others to read the book? Do you want to explore a theme in the book? Do you want to compare one book with another? Are you comparing various works by the same author?

    At some point, a review may not be a review. It may be another kind of writing about books. This is why I have a category at this blog called “Reading Jags.” I can do all sorts of writing about books I’ve read, am reading, or think I might read, under this vague heading.

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  5. Doug Geivett says:

    WriteWoman, thanks for dropping in. Are you the WriteWoman with the new “Boomer in Blogworld” blog? Glad to meet an author with your writing background. My published work is all nonfiction, so far. But I have aspirations . . . and some tentative scribblings in other forms. So I welcome your voice and hope to hear from you again.

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  6. Ghazala Khan says:

    Interview Request

    Hello Dear and Respected,
    I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion.

    We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at gmail.com”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.

    regards.

    Ghazala Khan
    The Pakistani Spectator
    http://www.pakspectator.com

    Like

  7. writewoman2004 says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’m not a book reviewer, but I am an author, and your suggestions will be helpful when I finish my first draft and enter into the revision process.

    I’m also a reader, so I’ll be checking back here again.

    Like

  8. beyondbluestockings says:

    I’m so glad you made point five. I am selective about what I read, and it is frustrating to look for a review to see if a book I have heard of will be suitable for my needs, or those of my family, only to have the entire plot laid out by a reviewer.

    On the whole, though, I agree that it is a great thing to have the proliferation of book reviews on line. Some professional reviewers appear too conscious of what their writing sounds like, to give a helpful evaluation of a book. The raw honestly of the average person can be more telling.

    Like

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