How to write a good book review

By Julian Weber

A good book review will not only put forward personal likes and dislikes but will engage with the text, situating within its genre. This is true for fiction as well as non-fiction.

Whether you are reviewing a text book or a piece of literature, your understanding of the general context that produced it will be crucial in providing a critical rather than descriptive review. A good review of a biography for instance will need to take into account biographies that have gone before as well as the field from which the subject of the biography comes from, i.e. sport, politics, business etc. The engagement is two pronged. You could also mention the methodology of the book.

Engaging with the text: structure

Intro

Essay writing service websites agree that similar to any other academic text, your review will need to start with an introduction. Here you can introduce the author, their background, and the general themes of the book. There might be one element of the book which you feel is its major strength, as a pointer for the rest of your review.

Content and facts

Here you should outline the structure and content of the book. You can’t include everything so your critical engagement begins here. Decide which are the most important elements of the book and outline them. This is the most descriptive section of the book but it needn’t be so.

Analysis and observation

Critique need not equate with harshness. It could be to claim that the book has made a useful contribution in its field, or that it has built upon previous work in a useful manner.

You are now beginning to highlight the background of the book and its ideas and are laying the framework for your analysis and observation. A brief outline of the methodology would also be useful.

In this section, you now begin to reveal your point of view as to why the text is important, unimportant, or somewhere in between. You might introduce your own ideas, or contrast the theory with another author’s theory. You should unpack the methodology here. Did the author achieve all that they could have done with the methods that they choose? What other way could they have approached it?

Furthermore, is the style of the book engaging? Does the author manage to keep your attention, and how?

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