Book Review

6 Elements of a Good Book Review

In our discussions of late on reviews and authors’ reactions to reviews, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at the elements of a good review. And when I say “good,” I mean helpful. For the readers.  Because that’s what reviews are about. Helping readers decide if this is a book for them. So here are some things, based on book reviews out there, for reviewers to keep in mind.

A good review is balanced. It takes into account that we all have likes and dislikes, and while this book may not be our cup of tea, it could be someone else’s absolute favorite. (Hey, it could happen!) Yes, share your honest opinion. But realize that’s what it is. Your opinion. A subjective evaluation of what you’ve read. No more, no less.

A good review is about the book, not the author. Focus on the writing, on the treatment of the topic, on the characters, on the storyline, on the research, on the facts, and so on. Don’t make judgment calls about the author’s faith, intelligence, relationships, parenting skills, parentage, or whatever. A reviewer’s job is to share your opinion of the book. You don’t have the right to go beyond that.

A good review is about the author’s craft, not the book’s packaging. Don’t base your review on the cover or endorsements or things over which, I guarantee you, most traditionally published writers have absolutely no control.  (Now, if the authors are indie, then yes, they control those things…) But remember, what you’re reviewing is the writing, not the packaging.

A good book review doesn’t give an extensive summary of the book and then one or two lines about your thoughts. Readers can get the summary from lots of places. What they want to know is what you thought of the writing, the message, the story.

Even more important, a good review doesn’t give away the ending/secret/mystery/twist! Please, friends, for the love of heaven, don’t ruin the read for others. If you knew who the killer was on page 2, fine, say, “I knew who the killer was by page two.” But do NOT say, “I knew by page two that the butler was the killer.” If a book has a great twist, say that. But don’t give the twist away. Have mercy on not just the readers, but on the author.

A good book review is specific. Don’t just say you loved the book or hated it, tell us why. And tell us what specific aspect of it you loved or hated. For example:

What did you like or dislike about the writing?

What drew you to–or left you cold about–the topic or characters?

What moved or challenged or inspired or infuriated or disappointed you?

That’s my list. How about you? What makes a book review most helpful for you?

 

 

Leave a Comment

Reviews: Friend or Foe?

Writers are a fascinating blend of contradictions. Many are introverts who have to do extroverted things—speaking, booksignings, author appearances–and do them well. They are creative, expressive people who, most of the time, live in their heads. And when they are around people, they can seem withdrawn, even remote (mostly because …

Read More

Are You Being Trashed?

No matter who you are or how nice you are, some people won’t like you. That’s a fact we all have to live with. Even worse, people we thought were friends can turn on us. And sometimes we may become the victim of unhappy people who enjoy talking rudely about …

Read More

Is it Possible to Read Too Much?

Amidst all the public voices and rhetoric swirling around these days is a healthy focus on the need to make reading more a part of every life.  From celebrities sponsoring reading campaigns to Amazon providing pre-loaded Kindles to schools in Africa through their Worldreader  program, it is a good thing …

Read More

What is on Your Summer Reading List?

Since we are in the midst of Summer and I’m on a brief vacation I thought I’d ask you to tell us what books you are reading or planning to read this Summer. I’ll start… My list is intentionally eclectic because that is the way I graze with my reading: …

Read More

How Do You Define Summer Reading?

Now that summer is nigh, I’m thinking about what I’d like to read over the next few months. I have not yet decided. But at least now I can choose for myself. At my college prep school, we were assigned summer reading. To enter eighth grade, we were assigned The …

Read More

My Most Frequently Used Reference Book

by Steve Laube After pulling down this book from my shelf twice this past week I realized there is no other reference book I use more frequently. The book? The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. I prefer it over Roget’s Thesaurus because it is laid out logically – in alphabetical order. …

Read More

Stories in Hiding Places

Since I blog on Tuesdays and the next April 15 to fall on a Tuesday is not for another eleven years, I felt like I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Corrie ten Boom was born on this date in 1892 and died on this date in 1983.  If Evangelicals were …

Read More

Do You Like to Cry While Reading?

I’ll have to admit, I don’t like to cry. I don’t even like depressing songs. Instead I prefer things that are upbeat. For example, here are some of the lyrics to a song that helped me get through my teen years:

Flashlight.

Red Light.

Neon Light.

Spotlight.

Most of all you can funk. Help me find the funk….

Yoww

I think I found the funk!

[“Flashlight” was written by Ronald R. Brooks, Gregory E. Jacobs, David R. Elliot, Bernard Worrell, William Earl Collins, and George Clinton Jr..]

Not that I can’t get serious. But I still like that fun song even today.

So now it’s your turn, if you like to cry while reading. What have been your favorite tearjerker books? I’ll give you a clue. Steve Laube told me that the marketing people at Bethany Publishing House wanted to mail a box of tissues with every copy of Deborah Raney’s A Vow to Cherish when it was first published.

So, what is your favorite tearjerker novel? 

Read More