Believe it or reject, book reviews can be important for readers (and authors) in many ways. Let us discuss the part that helps out readers. Ideally, a good book review provides valuable insights to readers about a book – quality, content, and style, preferably. Many book reviewers take it beyond these three landmarks and offer other details – context, place in the continuum of literature, genre comparisons and contribution to the literary corpus. Readers can read book reviews to gain a better understanding of the book’s themes, plot, and characters, and decide whether go for it or not. A good book review, in general, helps a reader to find suitable literature to read. Likewise, invert the canvas, and a good book review also tells the readers about books that might not fit their preoccupations.
So, what are the elements that make a book review helpful and valuable? How can one ensure a book review can come up with quality and depth to help readers? How can you, as a book blogger, make sure that your blogs and articles are read widely, respected and also discussed by readers? In this article, we will focus on those subjects.
What is a book review?
A book review is something that only ardent readers can offer to the public. Well, anyone does have the ability to produce one; however, it cannot be done without the ability to look beyond, see-through, and truly weigh a work of literature on many fronts at the same time. In general, a book review is a written evaluation of a book that provides a critical analysis of its content, style, and merit. Typically or as is expected by readers, a book review has a summary of the book’s plot, storyline in brief, and themes. It can also include a personal assessment of the book’s effectiveness and an analysis of the writing style and structure. Overall, the objective of a book review is to make readers aware of the book’s quality and to provide them with sufficient reasons (pieces of information) whether to read it or pass. Though a book review does contain the critic’s personal opinions, it should not only be encircling around personal preferences and bias. A book reviewer has to judge a book beyond personal preoccupations.
How can you write a good book review?
To write a good book review, one has to ensure a few things. First of all, any writer can be and should be judged. If your teachers or professors fed you that Shakespeare was the best English dramatist, don’t get that b%%^&^t. You need to find your own reasons to believe or not believe so. For instance, the best of the poets and authors from the history of English literature and literature in any other language can be judged. You need to learn the art of judging literature. That’s all. While we can discuss these things at large the whole day, let me put these points in brief so that anyone reading this article may understand what it takes to bring out the best of one’s time with a book.
- Start with reading the book itself. However, before you read, carefully examine the book cover. That’d be a good start, offering you insight if the author is also imaginative enough to let the readers have a glimpse into the content of the book before even reading the very first page. And then, go on and read the book line by line. Understand the story, twists, central drive of the book and other details as you deem necessary.
- Once you have had enough of the book from various angles, you can begin writing the book review. Ideally, begin with a brief summary of the book. Briefly put the summary of the plot. You can also write the metadata of the book at the beginning. Yes, remember to avoid spoilers.
- Yes, a book review is written from a personal perspective. Even a judge offers his or her judgement on personal perspective. However, to be able to do so, one has to have experience – and an ideal experience for a book reviewer should be having read a lot of literature, at least one hundred books from various genres (liberally). And then, if you think you are there, continue. Give your personal assessment of the book, including your thoughts on the characters, setting, and themes. This can include your own opinions and feelings about the book. Take a vantage position that shows readers you are capable, experienced and in the literary depth. Be honest.
- Coming to the aesthetic part of the literature you read, you should analyze the writing style, including the use of language, tone, and structure of the book. Did the author convey the story well enough? Could he make an impact? Could he connect well with his or her readers? These are the points you should discuss.
- Depending upon the audience of the book review you are writing, you may compare the book with other books in the genre. Does it add something new? Does it bring a new trend? Does the author follow the lead or bring something peculiar to the literature in a particular genre? These are the talking points.
- You can also bring to readers’ notice whether the author has been able to achieve the literary purpose behind writing the book. Did the characters achieve their intended height? Could the plot unfold and conclude with the impact the book promised? Could the author keep readers engaged with the constriction and development of the plot? Discuss these ideas.
- This is the point that can slide up or down as you find convenient. Write something about the author and provide the necessary information to readers. Background information about the author, including any previous works they have written would be useful for many readers and also speak for the work being discussed. Experienced authors tend to write better with time and if they do not offer better than before, the book does invite critical feedback!
- In the end, you can also put a rating box and rate the book with your summary of everything you have done. It would be useful for those readers of the book review who are in a hurry and may judge the book by your conclusion and the final rating. So, you have to be wise and responsible here.
- As an extra cautious step, you should check whatever you have written. Mistakes and errors – rectify those and you are ready to publish.
- Also, you can keep reading other book review websites and literary websites to see what they are doing. Gather new ideas and follow them if you like. Websites such as Indian Book Critics, Literature News, BookWorm Reviews and a few others are there to learn from.
And then, keep in mind that we are all biased by default. We walk on legs, eat with hands, see with eyes, hear with ears and speak with mouths. We do have something in us by birth. We develop some things as we grow up. We learn. We are taught. And therefore, bias is something that comes along. No one can deny that literature can be read with a biased view. Many times, a reader’s personal experiences, values, beliefs and ideology does come in between the desired and the actual outcome of the reading and reviewing exercise. As a book critic, however, it is important you learn how to strike a balance and remain a neutral observer of the art of writing rather than an involved commentator on the writer and their produced works. Learn, and do better. All the best!
Written by Agraj for the Desi Readers book blog