How to Write a Book Review


A book review is a written opinion of what somebody thinks of a certain book accompanying a summary. it gives the reviewer’s personal opinions and thought about the book and creates cross - references to the personal life of the reviewer. It always leaves the reader in suspense mainly because the main goal of a book review is most of the time to make the reader read the book.

Therefore, a book review is usually written in persuasive style of writing and offers both a combination of summary and commentary. Before writing a review, you should first read the book and if you write a book review in the exam, make sure you write about a book which is familiar to you.

Before starting, have a quick look at the tips given by Amanda Patterson about writing a great book review which will give you a head start to write a great book review:

  1. Give a brief outline of the plot. Do not include the ending.
  2. Mention the genre. (is it romantic, adventurous?)
  3. What are the other books of the same author? is there a similarity or difference with the theme?
  4. Discuss main characters. The protagonist and the antagonist must be mentioned.
  5. Do you think the book is well written? Why do you think it is or isn’t?
  6. Would you recommend it to read? Why?


A book review is consisted of few elements:

  • Introduction
  • Description of the book
  • Analysis and evaluation
  • Conclusion



In the introduction paragraph, we can introduce the basic information about the book like: title and the author, publication information (publisher, year) and a brief eye-catching introduction to the book and the review. This is called a ‘hook.’ (A “hook” is a line that catches your audience’s attention and piques their interest so they’ll continue reading your review instead of scrolling past it.)

Ex: (this example is taken from Mr. R.C. Fernando’s example book reviews: Novel Chats with the Dead by Shehan Karunatilaka (Gratian Prize Winner)

Shehan Karunatilaka’s second novel, Chats with the Dead published by Penguin Hamish Hamilton and priced at Rs. 599/, could have easily been paralysing depressing in the hands of a lesser writer. But such is his skill — and wit — that terrible truths and cruel ironies are handled with an enviable effortlessness, that gives the book a surprising and charming buoyancy.

Description of the book.

In this section you should introduce the story of the book and a concise summary of the book. As the introduction, we can provide the setting, main theme, major characters and any other significant literary features available. In the plot summary you can introduce the main conflict and the climax of the novel. Usually, in most book reviews the ending or the resolution is not revealed to keep the suspense inviting the reader to read the book. Therefore, ending the plot summary at the climax is one great way of writing a summary.

Ex: Malinda Alberta Kabalana — “photographer, gambler, slut” — is the main figure in this book. Currently, he is dead and caught in the afterworld, where, upset and confused dead people are made to stand in queues and fill out paperwork before being ushered off for further processing. The banality and government office feel of this place is a pitch-perfect subversion of the conventional, religious idea of going to a better place after death. This is one of many fittingly harsh comments made on religion’s false promises in this book. One particularly wonderful section titled ‘Chats with the Dead Atheist’ makes this seldom acknowledged but inescapable point: “We are a flicker of light between two long sleeps.” In this “flicker” of life, Malinda was a war photographer. But now he has to solve his own murder, because he can’t remember how he died.


Analysis and evaluation

In this section the reviewer can provide his/her opinions about the book. As we always know, the opinions should be proven with the supporting evidences from the book. Here, you can assess whether the purpose of the writer is achieved or not. You may consider the strengths and the weaknesses of the production as well as the overall mood created by the piece of writing (whether it is interesting, moving, adventurous…etc.) Do not only provide positive points which may prove your writing is biased. To be a good analysis, you should provide both plus points as well as negative points.

Ex: The idea of a dead person solving his or her own murder is not new in fiction but the logic of this after world is unique: A ghost (or spirit) can only travel to places where his name is being or has been spoken; and when not actively trying to appear in such places, a ghost is at the mercy of winds (leading to some delightful “bus surfing” scenes). This is an elegant and brilliant solution to the eternal problem with the logic of ghosts: why are they where they are and where can they go? What kind of agency do they have? Using this supernatural ability to travel, Karunatilaka solves another eternal problem in fiction: how to make a character navigate time and space. The genius of this travel arrangement is that Malinda races from relevant scene to relevant scene and thus completely eliminates the need for filler narration such as: “X opened the door and entered the room,” or “he walked down the dusty road”. This is also a new way of experiencing an omniscient narrator.

This narrative technique has the effect of supercharging the story. There is hardly any breathing space and this, strangely, left me slightly unmoved. This could have been a profound book, but its pace makes that impossible. Some lines were so good that I felt sad they weren’t deemed worthy of deeper exploration and are instead raced over in the breathless pace of the plot.

The strength of this novel lies in its social realism. The background to this spiritual murder mystery is the Sri Lankan situation of 1989: The government is in an all-out war against the LTTE. A brutal and cruel Indian Peacekeeping Force lurks in the north and although present at the behest of the government, have become so bad that even the government wants them out. The JVP, a student-led, armed Communist rebellion is attempting to take power for the second time. All sides view human rights as some kind of joke or fantasy and the UN is useless as ever. Questionable NGOs, shady individuals, foreign spies and corrupt policemen play their own little games. The nexus between government, goons and the police, that is so common in the developing world, has seldom been explored in a funnier or more terrifying way.

The terrific pace of the plot and the energetic flow of Karunatilaka’s language is upset at times by the occasional clunky or cliched phrase or cliched image. I was particularly disappointed by the image of the Mahakali, who after a tense build-up, ends up looking like any other black, bloody, flesh-wearing beast from any number of lesser fictions. But these complaints are minor. Karunatilaka’s brutally effective mix of sharp observation and sharp humour doesn’t spare anyone. Moments of deliciously funny social commentary like this — “‘At least Muslims don’t kill Muslims,’ says Cassim and the other two stare at him. ‘In Sri Lanka, I mean,’ he clarifies” — are commonplace.



A good conclusion should always persuade the reader to give a try at the book. (whether it is positive or negative) Here, you can imply what impression the book left you with and emphasise the reader why he/she should read the book.

Ex: (Let’s Roll! Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage by Lisa Beamer)

All Americans could benefit from reading this book. Too many of us stay hooked on the past, yet Lisa is using this tragedy as a way to move forward. This book taught me to always move on, yet never forget.

You can read more example book reviews at directory of book reviews blog and read millions of reviews selecting a preferred genre.

This is only an outline to write a book review for exam purposes. It is you should develop your own way of writing a book review. Have a sample ready for your exam for yourself, it will be easier for you to adapt it at the exam. (that’s what I did)

 If you have suggestions to be made simply let us know by leaving a comment. Special thank should go to Mr. R.C. Fernando, from whose literature group I got the outline and the sources for writing this post.








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