This page is meant mostly for other reviewers on this blog, but it does serve as a general template for most of the book reviews I write. Each review will have two portions, with an optional third on one.
Each review should begin with a brief plot summary, which does not give away the ending. Summarizing a story sequence can be the most difficult part of the review writing process. Here are some sites that can help with that:
- Wikipedia: How to write a plot summary
- How to summarize prolonged plot from StackExchange
- Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Summary: Using it Wisely from the Harvard College Writing Program
You don’t need to rehash every single plot point. Pick out the main action and include just enough action that your audience will have a basic understanding of the main conflicts without overwhelming them with information. Your goal at this point is to entice them into reading the rest of your review and possibly even the book.
Use the literary present tense when describing the action in a story. “When Frodo discovers a ring…” is correct; “When Frodo discovered a ring…” is not. (There is no good reason for this; it is simply a convention we use when talking about literature.)
The second part of the review is a personal response, that describes whether or not you liked it and why. This is not the kind of pointless response paper that you wrote in high school; there is no formula to follow or buzzwords to include.
Focus on those elements of the book which you liked or didn’t like, and support your viewpoint using evidence from the text. Use quotations from the text as appropriate. For example, if you liked the book overall but thought that the dialogue was a weak point, you should quote a sample of dialogue from the book that is particularly ineffective. How long a quotation should be is entirely up to you. It should be long enough to make your point, but not so long that you bore your reader.
Be sure to eliminate any “I” statements in your response. “The dialogue is an especially weak point” is a much stronger statement than “I feel the dialogue is an especially weak point”. Edit these ruthlessly.
Some books merit a more detailed literary analysis. These are completely optional, as they tend to be academic in nature. For some books, this may extend into a teaching guide, rather like this one. These often include spoilers, so be sure to warn your readers. (See below for details.)
Each review should begin with an illustration of the cover. For reviewers here, that means finding an image on the internet, downloading it, and then uploading it the media gallery here and including it in the article.
Avoid spoilers when writing a standard book review. If you are writing an analysis, you may include a spoiler, but be sure to warn your readers ahead of time by using the spoiler shortcode. Just before your spoiler, simply type the word “spoiler” enclosed in square brackets (“[” and “]”) on its own line, which will then look like this:
Whenever you quote from a book, be sure to specify the page number in parentheses. Do not write “p.”, “pages”, or anything like that; simply write the page number.
If you are reviewing an ebook version which does not have page numbers, include the “ebook” shortcode somewhere near the beginning of your review. (Make sure that it appears before your first quotation.) Simply type the word “ebook” enclosed in square brackets on a line by itself, which produces this output:
At the bottom of each review, provide a list of works cited in MLA format. (You can learn more about MLA format at the Purdue OWL.)
I have created a WordPress plugin to handle citations properly. You can read about how to use it here.
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Published on: 24 January 2015
Lasted edited on: 15 February 2015