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How to Write a Book Review Essay

How to Write a Book Review Essay?

Book review essay writing can seem an onerous task – especially if you’ve never written one before.  They are highly individual because everything stated is your personal view and what the book meant to you as an individual.  Because of this, there are no hard and fast rules as to how to write an essay of this type – so advice given is more of a general guideline.

This kind of assignment can vary in length from as little as 50 words to around 1500.  The whole reason for writing one is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the book.  Remember, that book review essay writing is not a summary of what the book is about.  The aim is to state your personal opinion as to what the author is trying to get across, how well (or not) they have done it and your evidence to support this. You can check a book review essay example provided below for better understanding on how it is supposed to be done.Nobody expects you to be more experienced about the book than the author is, but your careful observations can provide you with the ground for reasonable judgments on how to write a book review essay


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Book Review

What Should a Book Review Essay Include?

How to Write a Book Review
How to Write a Book Review


Whilst it depends on the subject of the book, and whether it is fiction or non-fiction, all of them should consist of the following:


  • An initial statement.  This should give solid facts such as the book title, author, date of print and copyright date, subject or genre and any special features.  Depending on the length of your book review essay, you might wish to give a little background on the author and mention any previous works.
  • A brief summary of the book content.


  • Your personal evaluation, backed up with your supporting evidence.


More detailed information and specific advice is given below under the non-fiction and fiction titles.


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How to start your Review and why Background Information is so Important?

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Begin your book review essay writing with a statement.  As discussed above, this gives the essential information about the book.  Here you can get into the background of the author.  For example, their personal history and political views might be relevant as to why they have presented their work in the way they have.  As with any essay, this kind of assignment should be analyzing the subject matter from the very start.


Your opening sentence is important – so make sure it stands out and encourages the reader to continue.  Look at the title – does it suggest anything to you?  The author will have chosen the title with great care, because to them this should draw people to want to read the book.  But what does it mean to you as the reader?


What point of view is the book written from?  First person, second or third?  Perhaps it uses more than one point of view, in which case, what is the author trying to achieve by doing this?


Why do you think the author wrote on this particular subject?  What is their aim – to entertain, to educate, to put across a personal opinion?


As you can see, background information is very important when writing a book review. Try to incorporate as much as you can from the beginning of the essay as this will help when you begin to put across your evidence for analysis.


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Writing the Summary for your Book Review Essay


While your book review essay is not a summary of what the book is about, you will need to provide a short analytical paragraph or two to explain it.  Consider the table of contents as this will show how the author has organized the book.  For example, is it in chronological order, or perhaps arranged around various topics?


Take into account the main topics covered by the book and briefly explain these in your summary, along with any other major points and conclusions.  It’s a good idea to use specific references in support of your summary when writing this portion.


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What issues should you address in Non-Fiction Book Reviews?


Writing a review for a non-fiction book differs slightly from that of a fictional work.  The following points are aspects you should take into consideration – but always remember that the key point  is a personal evaluation.  You’ll probably come up with some of your own questions as you read the text, and these should be evaluated and analyzed as well.


  • What is the book trying to tell you?  Has the author covered their subject in enough depth?
  • Is the book trying to put an alternative point of view on a well-worn theme?  If so, what is the argument and does it work?


  • How has the author approached the subject – is it descriptive, topical, analytical etc?  Most importantly, does the book give a balanced view of the topic?


  • Does the book make sense, and more importantly, does it convince you to agree with the authors conclusions?


  • How readable is the book?  Even non-fiction should be fluid and easy to read, rather than just a list of facts.  Was the book enjoyable, and would you recommend it to others?


 You can also consider if the author uses enough references, the style and tone of the book, whether it helps you to understand the subject and whether anything new has been brought to your attention from reading it.  Define the market that the book is aimed towards, and analyze whether you think it manages this.  For books which are technical in subject, you may analyze whether  the words and terminology used appropriate for the intended audience?


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What issues should you address in Fictional Book Reviews?


Fictional type gives even more of an opportunity for the evaluator to get personal.  Fiction is purely a story from the author’s mind, so this gives a wonderful chance for you to provide a compelling book review essay.


Consider your review in the following way:


  • The characters
  • The theme
  • The plot
  • The style
  • The setting


    1. When looking at the characters, talk about whether you felt drawn to them.  Did they have dimension – in other words did the writing draw a picture in your mind so you felt like you actually came to know them?  Who was your favorite, and your least favorite character?  Why is that?


  • Regarding the theme – what was it?  How did it develop and is it a traditional or perhaps something new and original.  Is the book entertaining, true to life, escapist, light-hearted or serious?


  • You should also discuss the elements of the plot and how the author has handled this.  Is there a sub-plot (or plots), what are they and how do they tie into the main plot.


  • Discuss and analyze the style of writing.  Perhaps the author has written in an emotional style – consider the humor, lightness or darkness used.  Does the author use various devices, such as symbolism or parody?


  • Consider whether the setting of the book is important.  Why did the author set their book in, for instance, Sri Lanka?  Would it have made a difference to the plot if it was in a different location, or is the setting merely an afterthought?


Very importantly, did you enjoy the book?   Whether yes or no, discuss what it was about the writing that made you feel this way.


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