Rachna Contractor Writers’ Room

Eight Tips for Writing a Thorough Book Review

by Rachna Contractor

As reviews editor I receive many inquiries about how to write a book review; here’s a list of eight tips which I presented at the Plenitude magazine co-sponsored Queer Night of the Brockton Writers Series in July 2016. If you have more suggestions or questions feel free to email me: reviews(@)plenitudemagazine.ca

  1. Use accessible language and keep it succinct; 700–1,000 words isn’t a lot with all that needs to be covered. Stay away from academic or conversational language.
  2. Structure your review well:
    • The first paragraph should be an introduction of the book including the author’s name and title in the first two lines;
    • Ensure the review flows well by presenting information in an organised manner, separating points by paragraph;
    • Conclude with your general impression of the book.
  3. Talk about the characters: do they read well, are they well developed, are they relatable, likeable, do you believe in them and their stories?
  4. Talk about the use of language, grammar, and punctuation, especially if the way they are employed stands out.
  5. What is your opinion of the book? How does it make you feel? Include this throughout: by the end of the review the reader should have a general impression of how the reviewer feels about the book.
  6. Sometimes it’s hard to be critical of a work because you want to support it. We want all of our published stories to do well. It’s okay to not like a book and critique it. It’s also okay to see how it may be valuable, if not to you then to the literary world and the community.
  7. Stick to the work at hand. Don’t include what others are saying about the book.
  8. Read a lot of books. I don’t read book reviews but I stay abreast of what’s happening in the literary community.

Rachna Contractor is Plenitude magazine’s reviews editor. She has written about literature, art, and culture for Xtra, Plenitude and Kala Magazine. She earned her BA in art history from the University of Toronto. After a decade of working in communications, Rachna has moved to the culinary arts sector. For book reviews, articles, and interviews, please query Rachna at reviews(at)plenitudemagazine.ca.