How To Write a Book Review and Why Anyone Can Do It – 1

Since we have been offering books for review on Write Tribe for a while now, I thought it was important that we had some inputs on how to write good book reviews. There was no one else I could think of asking to do this other than Claire McAlpine and I’m so glad that she readily agreed to do so.

claire_mcalpine

I first ‘met’ Claire McAlpine on a blogging forum about three years ago and she charmed me with her writing and her thoughtfulness. I have been following her book reviews on her blog Word By Word. Read more about Claire here and follow her on Twitter @clairewords

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How To Write a Book Review and Why Anyone Can Do It – 1

Don’t aspire to be like anyone else, find your own voice and attract your own community. Then it’s never hard work, it’s just another step on the path towards refining your writing voice.

That is the key to writing book reviews, blog posts, stories, letters and even novels. If you are interested in writing reviews, here are some of my thoughts on how it works for me.

I started to write reviews during a two week hospital visit accompanying my 9-year-old daughter after her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. I wanted to get my writing out there, so with everything else on hold, except looking after my daughter, I read her A Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson, she created digital art of her imagined secret garden and I wrote my first review post.

The Secret Garden By Day
The Secret Garden By Day
The Secret Garden At Night
The Secret Garden At Night

Writing is a wonderful journey and reading books and writing reviews represent for me, small steps on this journey I travel Word by Word.

The points below are what I consider helpful in creating a book review.

1. Be Discerning in Your Reading
It is good to read outside our comfort zone and genre, however when it comes to books I am considering reviewing, I read what I feel sure I am going to really enjoy. I have learned to take great care in the choice of book I read, because writing about something we appreciated improves our ability to convey our opinion to the reader. We understand more the reasons we like a book than the opposite and are better able to articulate those reasons.

Trust your instinct in choosing, that first voice that tells you whether you want to read something or not. If you are not sure, put it back until you’ve read a few reviews and taken into account the opinions of those you trust.

2. Highlight Your Favourite Passages
Don’t pass by favourite sentences, paragraphs that made you pause and reread or think ‘Wow’! Highlight, mark, turn over the corners, whatever is your habit. Books that fill up with post-it notes or highlights inspire us more and we can prove it. It could be a descriptive passage if you like poetic language, a captivating dialogue or that point where you suddenly became gripped by the story.

Using quotes in the review is visually interesting and lets the reader see if their taste is similar to yours. Some readers decide to read a book based on well selected quotes.

Try to have an awareness of your emotional state while reading, notice how it made you feel and where it changed.

3. Believe in Your Voice
To me, writing about books is a conversation. It is like talking to or writing a letter to a friend, they listen to every word, don’t interrupt the flow and even if they are not particularly interested, never communicate indifference. And as with a conversation, it is not necessary to structure it, just communicate what comes to mind.

Believe in your voice, write how you think or speak and don’t dwell on the first draft, just get it down.

To be continued –  Read – How To Write a Book Review and Why Anyone Can Do It – 2.

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23 Thoughts

  1. Wonderful pointers! I write the page numbers or things that capture my attention, as and when I read them, on a piece of paper (which also serves as a bookmark) and refer to these notes when I am doing a review. Looking forward to the part II. 🙂

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  2. Highlight your favourite passages.

    My English sir in school used to ask us to highlight a passage or a quote or a small conversation which was the high point of the story. I used to underline some interesting lines and write the page no. on the last page. This way my friends would refer to the mentioned pages and re-read them.

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  3. Thank you so much Corinne for asking me to write this, I’d never really thought about how I create reviews, but once you asked, I was inspired to share a few thoughts, so I hope your readers find something useful from my habits and if any of you have ever thought about writing a post on a book you really enjoyed, you won’t hesitate to jump in and tell us about it.

    See you again in Part 2

    Claire

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  4. I just jumped into reviewing a while back. When I read something I considered so good I just HAD to tell people about it, I did just that.

    On the other hand, I’ve also reviewed a few that I most certainly did NOT like, and I’ve been more than a little snarky. I probably would take those back, now.

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  5. Thank you Claire for the lovely post. I have been writing reviews in a haphazard fashion. This article is very useful. Thank you Corinne for posting it on your website 🙂

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  6. It is a very helpful post on how to do reviews. Claire has said it in a subdued manner, ‘There is no good or bad way of doing a review’. I will try to put quotes in my book reviews from now and I second the argument of conversational tone:)
    Cheerz

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  7. All excellent advice that I try to follow! Funny I really started to blog seriously when I was stuck at home with my torn Achilles tendon. The love of writing overwhelmed me.

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