What is a Book Review? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Parts of a Book Review
  • 2:16 Layout of a Book Review
  • 4:02 Example of a Book Review
  • 6:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

A book review is an analysis of a book that includes its subject, strengths and weaknesses and context. In this video, you'll learn how to format and write a book review of your own.

Parts of a Book Review

If your teacher asks you to write a book review, you may think that all you need to do is provide your opinion of a book. However, this is not the only information you'll need in order to write a successful review. A successful book review includes a short summary of the book, background information about the author and topic, and an evaluation of the content. When writing a short summary of the book, assume that your audience has not read it and address the book's main topics and ideas and explain why they matter.

When covering the background of the book, research the topic, even if the book is a work of fiction. For example, if you're reviewing a novel about slavery, research and compare historical information with the author's approach to the topic. If it's a nonfiction book about slavery, compare the author's argument and use of evidence to other published works on the same topic. You'll also want to include some information about the author, which can help your reader understand the content, especially if it's a work of nonfiction. For example, what are the author's credentials of his or her influences or beliefs?

Finally, conclude the review with your evaluation of the book. This isn't just your opinion; it's your assessment of the book's strengths and weaknesses, and how well it met its objectives. However, book reviews can include personal opinions, so be sure you know whether or not this is part of your assignment. If it is, explain your reasons as well as your reactions to the book and avoid oversimplifying them. Statements such as, 'I don't like it' are not informative. However, something along the lines of 'I don't like the book because it is a stereotypical, biased story about these people, with no supporting evidence,' is more convincing.

Now that you're familiar with the basic parts of a book review, let's explore how to set one up properly for coherence and clarity.

Layout of a Book Review

Book reviews usually begin with the title's bibliographical information, which will look something like this:

  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, and Nevill Coghill. The Canterbury Tales, revised edition. London, Penguin Classics, 2003. Print.

This citation uses the Modern Language Association (MLA) style; your teacher may ask for another format, so be sure to check your assignment for the instructions.

Next comes the introduction. The first paragraph should include a thesis, or a statement of your position and a brief summary of what you will be discussing in your review.

After your introduction, develop some supportive context for your assessment of the book. This part of the review includes background information about the book and the author. It provides your reader with a big picture look at the book and lays a foundation for your later critical analysis.

After providing your reader with some supportive context, address the meat and potatoes of the content in a concise summary that covers the main ideas. A clear and effective summary can make it easier for your reader to follow along during your critical analysis of the book. This is the heart of the book review and typically the longest single section. Be sure to provide some supportive ideas that help to explain your assertions. This section also includes your opinions about the book.

Lastly, sum up what your review was about, and use one final sentence to emphasize your conclusions. This ensures the last thing your teacher will remember is your viewpoint.

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