I’ve had people say to me “I need to get better at writing book reviews” or “I wish I knew how to write a book review” OR “I can’t review a book. I never know what to say.” All of these statements have left me with one general feeling: There is no wrong way to review a book.
Book reviews mean everything to authors. You don’t have to go in being a critic, or leaving some deep and intense review. It can be as simple as “I loved this book! It was phenomenal! 5-stars!” to “This book just wasn’t for me. You might like it though. 1-star.” Or, a book review can be comprehensive, going into how a reader feels about plot, characters, and prose. Either one, authors love. It helps readers too. How often have you picked up a book (or really any product) based on its reviews?
So I’ve decided to write this post based on the basics of what I do with a review. Sometimes I break this pattern, ranging from a 1 line review to a multi-page saga. Hopefully it will help someone figure out how to review that awesome book they’ve been wanting to scream about, or at least give someone the guts to write that one like “Eh, didn’t it like it” type of review.
E.S. Barrison’s Book Review Method
My method of book reviews follows a simple 4-idea pattern. That might sound daunting, but it comes naturally, as if expressing an opinion or talking about the topic.
First – I address in a line or two what the book is about, in some cases, what drew me to the book.
Second – I address what I like about the book.
Third – I address what I don’t like about the book. I try to make this equal or less in length to the second topic.
Fourth – I provide a summary, basically saying why or why not someone might want to pick this up.
These might seem extremely simple, but that’s all that go into a good book review. Let me provide an example below for a book we all know, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
1) Address what the book is about and what drew you to it.
Have you ever just wanted to eat, become wrapped in a cocoon and transform into something beautiful? The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle introduces us to a caterpillar who just wants that, by eating through an entire picnic. Surely that single idea is an inspiration to any of us, and certainly is a dream I aspire to accomplish.
2) Address what you like about it.
Carle’s artwork is beautiful, and this classic story leaves you enchanted each time you read through it, whether on your own or with someone else. It teaches a lesson that sometimes too much eating will leave you chubby and unable to move, but in the end you will become (spoilers!) a beautiful butterfly.
3) Address what you don’t like about it.
Of course, there is a flaw in Carle’s representation of the caterpillar as they cannot actually eat an entire picnic, nor do they look as adorable.
4) Summarize Your Review
That being said, the cartoonish nature of the story does not pull away from the adorable tale. Any child, or adult really, will love, enchanted by Carle’s poetic nature as well as his artwork. I intend to read this story to my kids in the distant future. 5 out of 5 stars!
As you can see, the review is simple enough but with enough detail that captures everything you do or don’t like about the book. This one was far more simplistic, and while I have many more examples of book reviews I have written it maintains the same structure.
But what if I don’t want to write a long book review? I just want to enjoy books!
That’s fine too! But please, especially for independent authors, consider rating the story or leaving a simple review that says “Amazing!” or alternatively, “I didn’t like this :(” While these reviews might not carry the same weight, it still tells the author that their stories are being read.
Okay, fine. But where can I review books?
The basic answer is: anywhere and everywhere. Post that you love a book on your blog, social media, or scream it in the middle of the street!
Reviews are what give authors exposure. Notably, only 20% of book purchasers review the book. Let’s make that number higher…for all the authors out there.
Have any questions? Want to recommend a book for ME to review? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.