How to Write a Good Academic Book Review

How to write an academic book review
  • By reviews we mean such creative work:
  • a small literary-critical or journalistic article (often of a polemical nature) in which the work in question is an occasion for discussion of pressing social or literary problems;
  • an essay that is more of a lyrical reflection of the author of the review, inspired by the reading of the work, than its interpretation;
  • detailed abstract, which reveals the content of the work, features of the composition and at the same time contains its assessment.

So, the review is analysing a work intended to impress the target audience. This is a small text (standard size 1800–3600 characters, one or two pages) containing an overview, check, and study of the work. First of all, the review gives a logical argument. You should not confuse the review and the summary, it is worth to remember that by and large, this is a comment. Usually, the academic book review is not very long and does not exceed 1000 words, (but there are exceptions). Academic feedback should be clear and concise. This specificity of the review makes it possible to conduct a discussion, discuss work with others, etc.

In the review, you can express your agreement with the ideas of the writer, or show a complete divergence of views. It is necessary to express your opinion concretely and clearly, but at the same time not to forget about the ethics of writing. Expressing one’s own opinion is present in many written works, but in the review, it is framed by facts. The book reviewer has to articulate his thoughts in a concise form, without losing the main message.

Find a Perfect Book for Review

Sometimes it’s very difficult to find a perfect book for review. It is worth considering that this book should be interesting personally for you. So that its analysis would bring pleasure, and not make you bored. Also, you should consider which book is useful for you when writing an article for publishing a scientific paper or preparing for exams. Choosing an appropriate book, you will kill two birds with one stone, it will serve you as a review, and as a publication that will save time and effort. As an alternative, you can choose a collection, textbook, or scientific literature for review, because such reviews require not so much basic knowledge, you will not have competition and unnecessary trouble. Editors like reviews of several related books. This is a very interesting work, even though standard review usually refers to only one book.

Tips for reviewers:

• better choose books that are close to your specialization,
• the theme and idea should be close to you,
• you must have all the necessary knowledge about the book for perfect analysis,
• it is better to pick a new book, not older than 3 years
• the book must be well known and published by a reliable publisher
• Lively interest will always be turned to reviews of bestsellers or books on hot topics. They attract more audiences, arouse the curiosity and attention of editors.
• It will be a risky step to get an obscure, difficult to understand, but in your opinion a useful book.

To Determine the Appropriate Book in Your Area

After determining with a book to review from your area, you need to study the shelves of the student library. With a special number, you can find all the necessary information about your work and find out about the latest publications on this topic. All these manipulations can be done in the online library.
It is worth paying attention to specialized literature for the successful writing of reviews, including magazines. In publications such as the Library Journal or Choice, where unpublished books are reviewed, you can catch up on the news in the book world and read an example of an article. There is a chance to access copies of manuscripts that are only being prepared for publishing. Reading academic journals can help you get a list of recently published books in a specific area that is ready for review. It will not be superfluous to consult with the teacher who oversees your work.

After viewing all the options, select the most interesting book, the review of which will be enticing or provocative.

Do not opt for a confusing or incomprehensible book. Think twice if it’s worth writing a negative review about a problem book, with the author of which you have many contradictions. Graduate students often see famous authors, and perhaps one day you will have to meet with a writer whose book you presented is not in a very personable light. After choosing a book, you can start to think about how to write a good academic book review and which journal will be suitable for it.

The Right Print Publication for Work

Disappointing statistics say there that the most common reason for refusal is the wrong choice of journal for the article. It’s worth choosing a couple of major magazines from your area. The fastest way to do this is by analysing the electronic database of the library and studying the corresponding Internet resources. It will not be superfluous to read the digest reviews and highlight the selected magazines for work.

Before writing a review, you must write to the editor to speak about the specific book. This is a very important point in which it is necessary to clarify all the details.

It will be enough only to send a short letter to the journal editor (no more than a few sentences), in which you must indicate the name of the book for review, and write your qualifications. Also, communication with the book review editor will be useful if he has a desire to send the book for review. This practice is quite common in literary society.

After agreeing with the editor, go on to discuss the details of the journal policy. Find out about all the features, preferences, and principles of work. If the book review editor claims that another author is already working on the book review, you should look to another book or address to another journal.


Before reading, find out the elements that will be necessary for your work.

• Get to know more info about the author;
• Define the literary genre of the book and the style of the author;
• What is the topic and purpose of the work;
• What is the target auditorium for this fiction;
• Analyse the title and preface;
• What is the design of the book, evaluate the cover, chapter structure and graphics (if there’s one there);

Of course, if you plan to write a review, you should study the book in detail, read it as carefully as possible, perhaps more than once time. It’s best to equip yourself with a pen and notebook while you read. In the process, you will often have to stop making notes to indicate arguments and important details. Of course, such a reading takes a lot of time, but it is the most effective way.

Leading Questions When Reading:

  1. Can this work be called a contribution to some field?
  2. Is the book connected with modern trends?
  3. How can one characterize the theoretical line or doctrine based on which the book is written?
  4. What is the argument of the book?
  5. What topics or motives stand out?
  6. Are there any characters in the work?
  7. Is the book well written
  8. What quotes stand out?
  9. Is the information printed correctly in the book?
  10. Are there pictures in the book? Are they suitable
  11. For which audience will this work be interesting
  12. How can you compare this book with other similar works of the same genre?

Organisation of the Work

You should make a plan for your work before writing book reviews. It will make your work easier and faster. Remember that the most optimal review length is 700-1000 words. Do not stretch the work to a lot of countries and overload the reader with information. Leave it for an academic essay or thesis. It is believed that a review may appear a month after choosing a book, two weeks are allotted for direct reading, a week for planning, and another week for the creation of a review.

Many reviewers do not sketch and do not have a clear plan. Do not neglect these details, it is better to have a sketch before writing a review. This will greatly simplify your experience and save a lot of time.

Check out the generally accepted structure – how to write an academic book review

A bibliographic description of the work (author, title, publisher, year of release) and a short (in one or two sentences) retelling of its contents.
Direct response to a work of literature (recall-impression).

Critical review or comprehensive analysis of the text:

  • meaning of the name
  • analysis of its form and content
  • composition features
  • the author’s skill in portraying heroes
  • individual writer style

A reasoned assessment of the work and personal thoughts of the author of the review:

  • the main idea of the review
  • relevance of the subject of the work

The review does not necessarily include the presence of all of the above components, the main thing is that the review is interesting and competent.

Avoid These Mistakes

Do a deep analysis of the text, but not just retell it.

Conversation and jargon are inappropriate in the review going to a literary magazine, to the website of a publishing house or bookstore.

Avoid the gleeful participial revolutions, unnecessary epithets, and complex structures.

Don’t get personal. By reviewing and criticizing the work, we do not criticize the author and do not affect his personal life, religious and political views, bad habits, and weaknesses.

Avoid value judgments. “Good” or “bad”, “strong” or “weak” and especially “talented” or “mediocre” are often subjective concepts.

Prevent these mistakes and you will have a perfect academic book review.

How to Write the Introduction

Any review is an assessment of the work, and in most cases, it answers the question of whether the author of the review liked or disliked the book. To make the review as interesting and informative as possible, just follow a few simple rules.

Most of the reviews are small, so the authors like to start their work with unusual quotes, jokes, or catchphrases to lure the reader and summarize the information. It is not necessary to follow this trend, you have the right to present your feedback as you like, taking into account the audience and arguments. A professional reviewer should always be aware of for whom he writes, for which audience.

The following factors should be included in the introductory part:

  • The name of the author,
  • The main topic of the work.
  • Info about the writer, genre, and the area in which he writes.
  • Title of the book and its explanation
  • The context of a review.
  • Show your opinion about the book.
  •  Give a thesis.

Start to Create a Review

Very often students face a lot of questions before writing such kind of work: “how to start the review”, “what should be mention in it” and “how to cite an academic book review”?

Do not delay completing a review, start work immediately after reading the review. Try to arrange writing in a week. After the examination and studies of the work, look through your notes in detail, and try to express your impressions in a statement describing the purpose of the review. Give the arguments that support the thesis and purpose. Write your thesis logically with arguments.

A review must necessarily speak about the content of the book – and speak more than an annotation. But this does not mean that you should give a summary of everything that happens on its pages. It is unlikely that people who have not read the work will thank you for telling the ending of the story (if it is fiction). Stick to a specific citation style such as Chicago, MLA, or APA style. But try to not use too many quotes from the book. It’s best to rephrase them.

Thus, if readers are more interested in the work itself, you can make the work and the author more visible. You can structure the review so that your observations are more preferable but not separate from the observations of the work in question if you want the review to relate specifically to your point of view and opinions.

Two simple things are expected from a book review: summery of the work and its assessment. Therefore, when working on a review, you can adhere to a simple structure.

  • A brief retelling of the content or even the plot
  • Response to the work, whether it hooked you or left you indifferent
  • Detailed analysis (authenticity of the characters, correspondence to the genre, level of intrigue, the complexity of the plot and composition, and so on)
  • Personal thoughts. If the book prompted you to your thoughts about the topic covered in the story, tell us about it in a review.

Don t forget that book can be objectively good, but boring for you, and vice versa – objectively faulty, but subjectively charming. If everyone says that the book is brilliant – you are not obliged to agree, however, to object too. Even the most respected critic should not pretend to be the supreme judge, the prophet in literature, and the ultimate truth. Your opinion is only your thoughts.

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