The Anatomy of a Book Review

21 Jul

7/29/10 update:  Now that I’ve written 9 Book Reviews, I can tell you that I am not following what I outlined below at ALL.  Instead, I’ve sort of felt my way into my own standard template for a review.  Here it is:

My Rating

Summary Sentence   

 How I found it, what I’ve heard about it, how I felt about reading it.

 What is it about?


 What did I like about it?

 What questions does it pose to me?

 Any negatives?


You can still see my original post on my book review plan here:

Since I’ve decided to review the books I read, I figured I should do some reading on how to write a book review to begin with.   It turns out that there’s a lot to writing a good book review!

I found some very detailed guidelines from the Los Angeles Valley College Library.  The entire article is very lengthy, so I’ve summarized what I plan to use for myself below.

Review Objectives

  • To provide a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book.
  • To provide an at a glance rating that summarizes the evaluation

General Guidelines

  • Reviews will be between 500-600 words
  • Reviews will contain the following information about the book:  title, author, type of book
  • Reviews will not cover the synopsis of the book in any detail
  • Reviews may contain spoilers and will be highlighted as such and will be called out at the beginning of the post.

Reviews will analyze some of the following points:

  • Did the Book Deliver?
    • Evaluation of the interest, accuracy, objectivity, importance, thoroughness, and usefulness to its intended audience.
    • Explore issues the book raises. What possibilities does the book suggest? What has the author omitted or what problems were left unsolved? What specific points are not convincing?
    • Compare it with other books on similar subjects or other books by the same as well as different authors. Is it only a reworking of earlier books; a refutation of previous positions?
    • Comment on parts of particular interest, and point out anything that seems to give the book literary merit. Relate the book to larger issues.
    • What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it?
    • How did the book affect you? Were any previous ideas you had on the subject changed, abandoned, or reinforced due to this book? How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda? What personal experiences you’ve had relate to the subject?
  • How was the Story Development?
    • Characters
      • Are the characters flat or three-dimensional?
      • Does character development occur?
    • Themes
      • What is/are the major theme(s)?
      • How are they revealed and developed?
      • Is the theme traditional and familiar, or new and original?
    • Plot
      • How are the various elements of plot (eg, introduction, suspense, climax, conclusion) handled?
      • What are the elements of mystery and suspense?
      • What other devices of plot complication and resolution are employed?
      • Is there a sub-plot and how is it related to the main plot?
      • Is the plot primary or secondary to some of the other essential elements of the story (character, setting, style, etc.)?
    • Style
      • What are the “intellectual qualities” of the writing (e.g., simplicity, clarity)?
      • What are the “emotional qualities” of the writing (e.g., humour, wit, satire)?
      • What are the “aesthetic qualities” of the writing (e.g., harmony, rhythm)?
      • What stylistic devices are employed (e.g., symbolism, motifs, parody, allegory)?
      • How effective is dialogue
    • Setting
      • What is the setting and does it play a significant role in the work?
      • Is a sense of atmosphere evoked, and how?
      • What scenic effects are used and how important and effective are they?
      • Does the setting influence or impinge on the characters and/or plot?
  • Author’s Writing Style
    • What is the author’s style? Is it formal or informal? Evaluate the quality of the writing style by using some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, correct use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, fluidity. Does it suit the intended audience?
  • Would I recommend it?

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