Book Review Checklist
Step – I: Plan Your Book Review
- Think about your readers. Who would be reading your review?
- What kind of review would you do – a descriptive review or a critical review? We suggest that you plan on adopting the middle path. You would be perceived as overly opinionated if you simply spout your personal views about the creative work of another author. At the same time, they don’t merely want the work to be described – they do want your opinion. First describe faithfully the book, and then give your opinion.
Step – II: Describe the Facts
- Book Facts: What is the title of the book? What genre of book is it (e.g. fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, romance, erotica, children’s book)? Where is it published. What is the price? Who is the intended audience?
- News: Has there been any recent news about the book – or topics related to the book? Search google.
- About the Author: Write a couple of lines about the author, include some fun-facts. His/her nationality, time period, other works/books/articles. His/her reputation, authority, knowledge and qualifications. Awards he/she has won. The historical or geographical context in which the author lives. Can you detect any connection between the writer’s beliefs, philosophy, life experiences and his/her book?
- Is this book a part of a series?
Step – III: Essence of the Book
- Did you enjoy the book?
- What’s your most vivid memory of the book?
- How do you like the title? Is it creative, SEO focused, unique or attention grabbing?
- What is the author’s style? Does he/she write using difficult words and with long, winding sentences- or does he/she use short sentences with beautiful use of common words?
- An book or story may have many elements. Examine each element individually.
- Description: Is the description picturesque? Does it immerse you in the story?
- Narration: Is the narration of the story easy to flow as a series of events? Is it in chronological order?
- Exposition: Is the explanation of the facts impartial and clear?
- Argument: Are the arguments persuasive?
- What is unique about the author’s style? Which of the following words would you use to describe the style – complicated, simplicity, clarity, humorous, satirical, harmony, rhythm, metaphors, symbolism, parody?
- Are the facts stated in the book accurate? What are the sources used by the author for these facts? Are dates used in the book? Place names? Does the author provide photos, maps, illustrations, charts etc? Is it an extensive study into the subject or is it a superficial treatment? If you don’t agree with the author, then you must provide sources (e.g. Wikipedia) which substantiate your argument!
- How does this book compare with other books on similar
topics? Is it a rehash of existing matter or does the author bring a new point of view or new information?
- What about the supporting maps, typography, charts, illustrations and other visuals? Don’t forget the cover, layout and bindings! Do they help in understanding or readability?
- dialogue and conversation among characters
- simplicity, clarity
- humor, satire
- coherence, harmony, rhythm, fluidity
- correct use of
technical words for the intended audience
- conciseness yet fullness of development
- stylistic devices such as symbolism, motifs, parody, allegory
Do the above elements of style in the book suit the intended audience?
Step – IV: Theme, Settings, Plot, Main Ideas
- This is the fun part. How did the idea for this book come about in the author’s mind? What are the goals of the book? You can get some of this information from the preface of the book itself! What is the work’s significance today?
- What is the main theme of the book in your opinion? What are some words which you would use to describe the theme – e.g. social history, political history, social, entertaining, educational etc? Is it a new theme or or is a familiar theme with a new twist (e.g Wizard of Oz new movie sequel based on the old story). Is the theme educational, psychological, social, entertaining, escapist in purpose?
- Is the book a revised edition? What’s new in this compared to the earlier editions?
- How does this book compare with others within the same genre or with other books by the same author?
- Does the author explicitly spell out his theme? For example, in the book “Watergate Scandal”, the author’s theme is limitless ambition resulting in violation of law.
- What are some additional themes in the book?
- What are some of the author’s main points? A main point could be something like “You could get slimmer only by changing your lifestyle, not by flash dieting or exercise binges.”
- How good of a job does the author do? Does the author effectively convey the book’s theme(s)?
- Does the author provide logical arguments and facts for his main points? You must determine how the author supports his argument(s). Does he/she do a good job? Do you agree with the argument(s)?
- What are some areas not covered well – in facts and opinions?
- Does the author merely describe the facts or does he also provide his own interpretation and opinions? Does he provide an original idea?
- Is the book or article based on some work he himself has done or is merely a research compilation from existing works?
- What is the setting of the book – (e.g. the atmosphere, scenics)?
- What is the plot? Is there a sub-plot and how is it related to the main plot? Is the plot primary or secondary to some of the other essential elements of the story (e.g., character, setting, style)? What are the elements of mystery and suspense?
- How do the elements like surprise, accidental happenings, mystery, suspense, climax and conclusion contribute to the charm of the book?
- What are the parts of the book you did not understand?
Step – V: Characters, Memorable Quotes, Key Episodes
- Who are the main characters in the book?
- Are the characters flat or three-dimensional?
- What are their personalities (do the personalities have multiple dimensions?)
- Do these personalities go through a change as the book or story progresses?
- From where are these characters drawn?
- Does character development happen?
- Character delineation: Is it direct or indirect?
- Do your empathize with these characters?
- Do you like them?
- How do these characters influence the telling of the story?
- Are there any memorable quotes?
- What episodes are specially interesting for you?
Step – VI: Review your review!
- Is there unity in your review?
- Are you able to communicate your ideas about the book to your readers?
- How would the readers benefit from reading your review? What is in it for them?
- What would be your benefit in writing this review? Why do you write it?
Step – VII: Summary
- Summarize the main idea of the book, the plot, and the major characters.
- What was the author’s purpose in writing the book and has it been achieved? Why?
- What is your one single most important impression of the book which you want to convey to your readers?
- Would you recommend this book to your readers? Why?
Best Practices for Reviewing a Book
- Do not give away the story! Your review should not ruin the story for the reader.
- Keep your research simple. You can get most of the above information from the book jacket itself or from the back page. Check the back page to see who has already reviewed the book.
- Make your review enjoyable to read. Reviews are not meant to be dry academic dissertations. Your readers should enjoy reading your review on its own merit. Your writing should make your readers glad they read your review.
- Avoid too many quotes. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.
- If you include comparisons to other authors, keep them short so that the book in front of you remains in the spotlight.
- Review the book you are reading, not the book you wish the writer had authored. Don’t disparage the book for not being something it was never intended to be.
Beyond Book Reviews
- What’s the difference between Book Review and Book Analysis?
Unlike a book review which in general focuses on readability and entertainment value – a book analysis examines the meaning and significance of a book.
- Review the book for objectivity, accuracy, importance, thoroughness, and value to its target audience. Who is the target audience?
- How did the book influence you? Were any previous ideas you had on the subject that changed (abandoned/reinforced) after reading the book? Have you had personal experiences that relate to the subject?
- What are the issues raised and possibilities presented? What has the writer omitted or what problems were left unsolved?
- Was the ending satisfactory? Was the thesis supported by strong evidence?
- What is the central theme of the poem and is it well expressed? If you are analyzing poetry consider the following question: Is this a work reflecting originality and individuality? Is it a powerful work, why? How effectively have the poetical devices been used (e.g., rhyme, rhythm, figures of speech, imagery)?
How to Get Started
How to Start a Book Review Blog?
Do you want to start your own book review blog? It is easier than you think. Here are a few great resources:
- “The Blogger Trailmap: How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level in Easy Steps,” by zavesti.com: https://www.zavesti.com/the-blogger-trailmap-a-guidebook-for-bloggers-youtubers-podcasters/
- “How to Start a Blog in Three Months: The Complete Step-by-Step Toolkit for Beginner Bloggers”: https://www.zavesti.com/how-to-start-a-blog-the-complete-step-by-step-toolkit-for-beginner-bloggers/
- Register your blog in a book blogger directory so authors can find you: Ninja Influencers: https://www.ninjainfluencers.com/
As a blogger or even as an author, learning how to write a good book review is a must have skill.
If you do book reviews on YouTube, you can use the above 7 steps for your book reviews on YouTube videos or podcasts as well.
You can also apply these same 7 steps review process for reviewing videos and movies.
If you are an author and would like your book reviewed on zavesti.com then here’s the link to our review policy: https://www.zavesti.com/zavesti-book-review-policy/