The Purpose of a Book Review

A book review serves the purpose of helping others to decide if they should or want to read a particular book or not. This is done by reading and evaluating a given book, and summing it up in terms of how well it has been written and/or how well the author has handled the subject matter. A review can explore the positive or negative elements (or both) of a book.

How long should a Book Review be?

A book review can be as long or short as the writer feels appropriate. Some reviews are no more than a paragraph or two while others span numerous pages. Generally, it depends on the targeted audience. If a tutor is the intended reader, check the length with them.

Content and Style

A book review’s content and style can vary too according to the intended audience. Who will be reading your review? If, for instance, a book is a factual one about deafness and how this affects learning in children, the content and style should be different for different readers. Where, say, you are addressing parents who are new to dealing with deafness in a child, it may seem appropriate to explain the condition and related issues in detail. If, on the other hand, you are targeting those who teach children affected by deafness, you might decide not to include so much detail on the assumption that teachers already understand the topic reasonably well.  

Content varies according to the type of book i.e. whether it is fact-based or fictional. If, for instance, you are reviewing a fictional work, you may well choose to analyze the theme, characters, setting, and plot of the book. In the case of a non-fictional book, you should probably cover the book’s content from the perspective of its accuracy, usefulness, and presentation.

Formatting a Book Review

You should format a book review as you would any paper or essay. This implies writing in essay-style with an introductory paragraph, some body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

An introduction usually contains:

  • The central idea in the case of a factual work or the book’s theme in the case of a fictional work;
  • The author’s name, the book title, and the publisher’s name. Some tutors require this information to be placed at the top of the page in a specific citation style, e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA, etc.
  • Information about the background of the author (if desired or necessary);
  • Thesis statement i.e. your view on whether or why others would benefit by reading a particular book;

An essay’s body usually contains:

  • A summary of a book’s key points;
  • The writer’s personal evaluation i.e. explain why you think readers should or should not read a particular book;

An essay’s conclusion usually contains:

  • A reiteration of the thesis statement;
  • A recapping of all key points.