How to write a book review and a book report
A book review is a descriptive and critical/evaluative account of a book. It provides a summary of the content, assesses the value of the book, and recommends it (or not) to other potential readers.
A book report is an objective summary of the main ideas and arguments that the book's author has presented. The purpose of the report is to give enough information to help decide whether the book will be of use or interest to any potential readers.
Common points that both book reviews and book reports share are presented below. The last point, Critical Comments, is intended only for those writing book reviews.
Give the author's name; full title of book including subtitle; editor, if any; place, publisher and date of publication; edition, if necessary; and the number of pages - all this in the appropriate bibliographical style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) under the title of the review or report.
Supply any information about the author which shows their credentials for writing in this field or which reveals any influences which may have affected the author's point of view. Note any interesting circumstances that led to the writing of the book.
The author's intention may be apparent by the way the subject of the book is treated. Is the material meant for specialists, students, or the general public? Is it focused on a specific subject or is it a general survey of a wider subject? Several areas may provide clues: appendices, bibliographies and general indexes usually accompany scholarly works; prefaces and introductions often contain an author's explicit statement of intention; the content and style of expression will be a good indication of the intended audience.
Subject and thesis statement
What is the book about? Tell your reader not only the main concern of the book in its entirety (subject) but also what the author's particular point of view is on that subject (thesis statement). If you cannot find an adequate statement in the author's own words or if you feel that the stated thesis statement is not that which the book actually develops (make sure you check for yourself), then you will have to compose a thesis statement that does cover all the material. This statement must be brief (a sentence or a paragraph), accurate and comprehensive.
Summary of content
The summary is based on your reading notes, follows the author's order, and consists solely of the main ideas which advance the author's argument. It may be presented with the analysis of structure or discussed separately.
Critical comments (book reviews)
Critical comments should form the bulk of the book review. State whether or not you feel the author's treatment of the subject matter is appropriate for the intended audience. Ask yourself:
- Has the purpose of the book been achieved?
- What contribution does the book make to the field?
- Is the treatment of the subject matter objective?
- Are there facts and evidence that have been omitted?
- What kinds of data, if any, are used to support the author's thesis statement?
- Can the same data be interpreted to alternate ends?
- Is the writing style clear and effective?
- Does the book raise issues or topics for discussion?
Support your evaluation with evidence from the text. In conclusion, you may want to state whether you liked or disliked the book.
Sources on writing book reviews
Concordia Library sources:
- Buckley, J. (2013). Fit to print: the Canadian student's guide to essay writing. (see pages 180-185).
- Drewry, J. E. (1974). Writing book reviews.
Sources on writing book reports
Concordia Library sources:
- Northey, M. & McKibbin, J. (2010). Making sense: A student's guide to research and writing.
- Teitelbaum, H. (1982). How to write book reports.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab. (2011). Writing a Book Report
For more information, ask a librarian