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Book Reviews: Writing Book Reviews

This guide will help you find book reviews and will offer tips for writing reviews.

Writing Book Reviews


Guidelines prepared by Dr. Don King

Professor of English, Montreat College

Tips on Writing Reviews for Class Assignments

Each review should do the following:

  • Attempt to explain clearly the work's thesis.
  • Cite the work's important arguments.
  • Criticize and/or praise the work's strengths and weaknesses.
  • Relate the work to the topics discussed in class.
  • Relate the work to the course as a whole.

Writing Tips

1. Read the book carefully.

2. Make brief notes along the way of the important ideas you want to cite.

3. Identify brief passages from the book you will cite to illustrate and support comments you want to make.

4. Engage the text freely; that is, write about the book, not about yourself.

5. Make critical judgments, including the book's strengths and weaknesses, its place in critical discussions of the topic, and whether or not it is a book worth reading (and owning!).

6. If writing a review for a journal, follow the journal's format for writing the review; look over a recent issue and note how reviews begin and what items about the book (no. of pages, cost, ISBN no. and so on) are always listed.

7. Read "Reforming the Reviewers" by John Timmerman in Christian Scholar's Review 30, no. 3 (Spring 2001): 323-328. According to Timmerman:

  • Don't critique a book based on what kind of book you wanted the writer to write.
  • Don't quote out of context.
  • Don't be too passionate about the book, either gushing over it or loathing it.
  • Don't swagger---this is the ego review.
  • Don't miss the deadline set by the editor for your review.
  • Do disclose what the book is about and evaluate how well the disclosure is done.
  • Do relate the book to other books in the field.
  • Do consider literary excellence, including the book's diction, organizational and rhetorical strategies, style, and bibliographies and index.


Practical Tips:

If you are writing a review for journal publication:

1. Know the journal for which you want to write a book review; another way to put this is that you should know who your audience is.

2. Read over the book reviews in several past issues.

3. Contact directly the book review editor (or the general editor).

4. Identify the academic areas (and sub-areas) in which you have either special knowledge or expertise.

5. Volunteer to accept book review assignments.

6. Or, select a book to review that you are genuinely interested in reading and reviewing and let the editor know.

7. Clarify the word limit.

8. After some experience writing book reviews, you might volunteer to write a review essay; this typically covers two to four books on a related topic or is a broader essay on a particularly influential book.