How to Write a Good Book Review

Jenna Brandon
9 min readAug 2, 2018


How to Write a Good Book Review

How to Cite a Book Review

Citing sources can be one of the most challenging tasks when writing an academic paper. Aside from working hard on locating suitable materials for references, you should also apply correct formatting style to your bibliography. The matter of citing book reviews is rather delicate and should be approached with a certain degree of knowledge and research. Since there are numerous reference formats, you need to get familiar with at least those used in your educational establishment. For instance, APA, Chicago/Turabian, and MLA are the most widely used. Which formatting style to follow can depend on the discipline but to be sure, you need to consult your professor. If you want to learn how to format a book review, you should read the further information carefully. We are going to break down the basics of citing book reviews in the most common formats.

Writing a Book Review

How to cite a book review in MLA

MLA format is a preferred style of citing sources and writing academic papers in the field of humanities and liberal arts. The MLA Handbook 8th Edition suggests the following pattern of citing a book review:

  • Author of the review (Grimes, William.)
  • Title of the review (“Beyond Mandalay, the Road to Isolation and Xenophobia.”)
  • Title of the reviewed work and its author (Review of The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma, by Thant Myint-U.)
  • Information about the source, date, and pages (New York Times, 13 Dec. 2006, pp. E8+.)

Here is how a properly formatted book review should look in MLA style:

Grimes, William. “Beyond Mandalay, the Road to Isolation and Xenophobia.” Review of The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma, by Thant Myint-U. New York Times, 13 Dec. 2006, pp. E8+.

*The example is taken from UMUC MLA Citation Examples.

How to cite a book review in APA

Within social studies, sources are commonly referenced under the APA guidelines. If you need to apply this formatting style to reference a book review, use the following model:

  • Author of the review (Dudai, R.)
  • Year of publication (2006)
  • Title of the review (Understanding perpetrators in genocides and mass atrocities.)
  • Title of the reviewed work and its author ([Review of the book Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, by J. Waller].)
  • Information about the source and pages (The British Journal of Sociology, 57, 699–707. doi:10.1111/j.1468–4446.2006.00132.x)

Your cited book review formatted in APA style:

Dudai, R. (2006). Understanding perpetrators in genocides and mass atrocities. [Review of the book Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, by J. Waller]. The British Journal of Sociology, 57, 699–707. doi:10.1111/j.1468–4446.2006.00132.x

*The example is taken from Middlebury Libraries Citation & Style Guide.

You can also check out UMUC APA Citation Examples to find out how to cite a book review from a library database.

How to cite a book review in Chicago

The Chicago style has two systems of referencing: Author-Date and Notes/Bibliography. Chicago suggests different styles of citing sources depending on where the reference goes — immediately after the citation in the text or the list of references at the end of the paper. Ordinarily, you need to have it both ways: an in-text citation and a bibliographic entry.

To cite a book review in Chicago style, you should replicate these examples:


  1. James Gorman, “Endangered Species,” review of The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times Book Review, June 2, 2002, 16.


Gorman, James. “Endangered Species.” Review of The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert. New York Times Book Review, June 2, 2002, 16.

*The example is taken from UMUC Chicago Citation Examples.

How to Structure a Book Review

Book Review Structure

A book review is either a descriptive summary of a book or its critical analysis. Both types provide a brief account of the content, but a critical review should also evaluate a book so that to recommend it or not to other readers.

To succeed in analyzing a book and producing a qualitative piece of writing, you need to know what to include in a book review. Whether or not your writing is read all the way through depends greatly on how well you structure it. Therefore, you should use the following practical tips to learn how to review a book.

How to title a book review

Composing an excellent title for your review can be a difficult task yet still possible to deal with quickly. The algorithm of creating a title will also reveal one of the secrets of how to make a book review effective. Since the title is the first thing people notice, it should be perfect. For this, make sure to do the following:

  • Capture the essence

Your title should introduce the main idea of your review. It must not be too broad and long as it will confuse and scare away the audience.

  • Get creative

Don’t be afraid to use catch phrases, questions, and popular abbreviations (unless they are rare).

  • Stimulate interest

Try to find the best way to attract the readers’ attention. Use interesting adjectives, numbers, trigger words like why, how, when, and what, and make some promise.

  • Be brief

Use substantial words in your title and try not to exceed the amount of 15.

How to start a book review

Before you begin writing a review, you need to make meticulous preparations and gain a sufficient understanding of how to write a book review essay. First, you must read the book and get a copy of it (either hard or electronic) so that you could refer to certain parts and provide proper citations. Second, you need to learn about the author, his or her background and other works, historical period, and literary genre. Third, you should understand the structure of the book to identify how its constituents develop the author’s guiding motif and purpose. Finally, it is always a good idea to create an outline and include main points of discussion to follow.

How to end a book review

Learning how to do a book review encompasses not only the art of creating a working title but also the ability to compose a decisive ending. To end your review in the appropriate manner, you need to follow five simple steps:

  1. Restate the thesis
  2. Present your final evaluation
  3. Offer your recommendation
  4. Exclude any new information
  5. Provide the list of references

Find a more detailed explanation of how to write a professional book review in Dalhousie University Guide[PDF].

How long should a book review be

Depending on the purpose of a book review, its length can vary. As a rule, a standard book review does not exceed two pages (approximately 600 words). However, the word count of an academic review can reach 1200–1500 words. If such type of writing is your home assignment, it is recommended that you contact your professor for precise information.

How to Write a Book Review for College, School, University

Despite being the same type of writing, book reviews for different age groups can have dissimilar features. A book review for children devotes special attention to the discussion of the main characters. Such peculiarity is predetermined by the kids’ passionate interest in cool personages. On the contrary, book reviews for the young adults focus on the value of the content and its useful and exciting parts. The reason for stressing these aspects can be explained by the teens’ need to discover things they find interesting and their parents’ desire to get their children read some fine literature. A book review for a university student usually consists of a summary of the content and the reviewer’s recommendations. It can also suggest similar works for academic purposes.

How to write a good book review for kids

To compose an exquisite children’s book review, you need to bear in mind the following rules:

  • Read the book
  • Make notes during reading
  • Analyze the author’s background and achievements
  • Investigate the genre
  • Create a brief summary
  • Discuss main characters in detail
  • Describe the plot and important events
  • Explain the valuable ideas and major problems
  • End with your opinion and recommendations

You can check out some fine examples at Kids’ Book Review.

How to write a middle school book review

A book review for a middle school does not differ much from the children’s review. However, it should discuss the most exciting part of the book at the very beginning to grab the teenager’s attention. Therefore, you just need to start with the description of the plot and its twists and turns (no spoilers, of course).

How to write a college book review

A college book review format requires a reviewer to focus on a well-structured discussion of the content. A college student needs to know exactly what the book is about and how it can be of use. For this, ensure your review covers all meaningful aspects one by one.

How to write an academic book review

Academic book reviews require sufficient effort and skill. They also need thorough initial preparation. According to academic book review format, a reviewer has to ensure that all significant elements are included in a consistent and orderly manner. To learn how to write a scholarly book review, you should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Set the tone of your writing in the opening paragraph
  • State the thesis, author’s purpose, significance of the book, or its topicality in the introduction
  • Mention the name of the book and its author
  • Develop your thesis in the body paragraph
  • Insert quotations and citations to support your arguments
  • Compare the book to the other works by the same author
  • Conclude by restating the thesis and making recommendations
  • Avoid presenting any new information in the conclusion

How to write a great book review for a blog

When working on a book review for a blog, you should remember to stick to the point. It is recommended to keep the length of a review medium (300–500 words). In addition, you need to follow three fundamental principles of writing book reviews for a blog:

  1. Begin with a brief yet in-depth synopsis
  2. Share your honest opinion of a book
  3. Conclude with the restatement of your main point and recommendations

Difference between Fiction and Non-Fiction Book Review

Nonfiction literature describes factual events involving real people, whereas fiction is an inventive writing based on the author’s imagination. Since these literary categories have individual peculiarities, the reviews of fiction and nonfiction books differ as well. A fiction book review focuses on the profound analysis of the plot, characters, and literary devices. As to a nonfiction book review, its chief purpose lies within the necessity to provide a meaningful and accurate investigation of the information presented in a book. Moreover, nonfiction reviews should give a comprehensive and factual account of the author’s expertise and contribution.

Also read: The Fault In Our Stars. Book Review Example

How to write a nonfiction book review

Most reviews follow the same pattern and have a similar structure. To create a good review on a biography or history book, you first need to answer these questions:

  • Does the book provide an overall summary of the subject?
  • In which order is the discussion of subject matter arranged: retrospective, chronological, etc.?
  • What is the period described in the book?
  • What is the author’s personal conviction?
  • Is the author’s writing biased or objective?
  • Are there any substantial evidence-based arguments that attest to extensive research of the subject?
  • Does the book contain references to relevant source materials?
  • Does the book reveal anything new about the subject?
  • How does the book compare with the other works on the same topic?
  • How does the book differ from the other works by the same author?
  • Are there any useful visual aids in the book, i.e. maps, charts, illustrations, etc.?

Your review should contain an in-depth analysis of the issues discovered through the answers to the questions above.

How to write a fiction book review

To succeed in writing an outstanding review of a fiction book, a reviewer should compose a well-structured piece of writing which covers the following points:

  • Profound analysis of the characters
  • Discussion of how the author treats the characters
  • Description of the characters’ development
  • Explanation of the main theme and purpose of the book
  • Investigation of plot elements and their relationship to the characters’ unfolding
  • Analysis of literary style and genre-specific features
  • Discussion of the setting and scenic effects

Remember to include the aspects mentioned above in your book review to make it effective and relevant.

Who Needs a Book Review?

Book reviews are usually written for two main purposes: to give the potential readers an honest account of the book and to provide a constructive and valuable feedback to the author. In such cases, a book review writer has to craft a fine piece of writing that will be helpful to the target audience.

Reputable book review writing service comes in handy when a student gets to compose a book review as a home assignment. Since not everyone has the full set of creative skills to complete such challenging task, it is sensible to buy book review writing services from a trustworthy company. If you are not proficient in writing or simply lack time, your best decision would be opting for professional help.

You can order a good book review here.



Jenna Brandon

Jenna Brandon is a blogger, content creator, and digital marketer at

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