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Presented by State Library Victoria

How-to: write a book review

Finish reading a book and now you have a bunch of opinions and feelings swirling around in your head? Not sure what to do with them? I do. You’re going to write a book review.

A book review is a piece of writing in which a book is evaluated based on its content, style and merit.

The most important thing to know about writing a book review is that it is not the same as writing a book report!!! Or writing a summary of the plot! Book reviews are actually fun to write/are not school. A good book review will do more than describe what the book is about, but will include your personal opinions and feelings and judgements on the quality of the book overall.

For the person reading the book review, it’s not just about the book that’s being reviewed. It’s also about the person who is writing the book review. That’s YOU. The best book reviews are the ones where we not only get a sense of the book, but where we also get an understanding of you, the person who has read the book. A book review can be seen as an opportunity to let your personality shine as well as the book you are writing about.

If you’re not sure where to start…

Well, it is good to start with at least one or two sentences that describe what the book is about. The reader needs to have some context. You might also like to include some facts about the author, if it feels relevant.

A book review doesn’t have to be balanced

It does have to be fair. But if you really loved the book, or even if you really didn’t like it, it’s okay to hone in on that. This is what makes book reviewing fun both to read and to write – it puts the feelings books give us front and centre. Your book review should include examples from the book that explain why you felt that way, too. You can quote from the book, or you can explore an aspect of the book in your own words.

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If you’re really stuck…

It can be the case that you feel a certain way about a book, but aren’t entirely sure why. My advice is to ask yourself questions about the book to try and nut out your feelings into words. Here are some questions you could ask:

Which characters did I like/ didn’t I like? Why did I/ didn’t I like them?
Were the characters believable, or did I think they were unrealistic?
Was I bored at any point in the book? Why was I bored?
What was the writing like? Was it well-written? Did the author rely on too many clichés or themes that just weren’t interesting?
Was there something I really wished I could have changed in the book (no spoilers!)?
Would I tell other people to read this book? Why/why not? What sorts of people would like this book?

Rating systems

Some people like to assign ratings to their book reviews. This may be a number out of 10, zero to five stars, or something completely new and different, or strange. Some people award tea cups, others pancakes. It’s a great way to quickly remember how you felt about the book as well, long after you’ve read it. A wacky rating system might also help people to remember your review, and come back to read more.

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A book review is not a plot summary of the book. Readers want your ideas and your feelings, too.

No spoilers! It’s good to provide some of the storyline, but don’t give too much away, otherwise there’s no point in the person reading your review to go on to read the book for themselves.

A good book review will justify why the book is good/bad/meh by using examples from the book. It’s perfectly acceptable to loathe a book (I say the stronger your feelings, the better), but it’s not convincing unless you are able to show others why you felt that way.

If you’re still stuck…

Maybe you’d like to write a book review but don’t know which book to pick. In this case, I’d say it’s good to choose a new release, as people tend to want to know about new books.

It can also be really nice to pick a long-lost favourite, or a classic, that people mightn’t have thought about in a while. Bringing your voice to books like these can rejuvenate a reader’s interest in the book, or inform them on something that they otherwise could have missed, and that’s pretty sweet.

1 comment


The book reviews I have written in the past tend to be word vomit in an explosion of anger or fierce emotion haha! I completely agree with the importance of injecting personality into your piece and I believe that sometimes the unpopular opinions are the best to read so never be afraid of that!!

28th Jan, 18