A book review is an essay about a book. It may be objective or subjective. An objective review is about the book and its author. The qualifications of the author are discussed. The purpose, content and coverage of the book and the degree to which it accomplishes this, are analyzed.
When a reviewer discusses his/her response to a book, it is a subjective review. S/he may evaluate it in terms of her/his own expertise. Some reviews do both - discuss the degree to which the book accomplishes its intent and the reviewers reaction to it.
Reviews may also be categorized in terms of what they do. A review may be a criticism where the book is described in the context of other works on the same topic. These are called judicial reviews. Critiques of this kind are found in scholarly or scientific journals.Others are more journalistic, describing what the book was like and the degree to which it did what it set out to do. These are impressionistic reviews. Descriptive reviews of this kind are found in the popular press.
Well written reviews contain elements of criticism, impressions, reactions and objective assessment. The reviewer describes the book, compares the book in question with other books by the same and other authors, says what s/he likes and dislikes, and makes recommendations to other readers.
One way to learn to write book reviews is to read them. They may be quite short, only a few hundred words; or they may be long articles which are literary works in themselves. Most fall in between.
Book reviews are found in magazines, newspapers, scholarly and scientific journals and in review publications.
The basic components of a review include:
All this is woven into a more or less graceful essay. Succinctly evoking images and commenting on the intellectual content is a skill which is developed with practice.
While there are similarities in all reviews, there may be some differences. Some other questions to consider when writing reviews for several types of books are found in the following sections. These questions may be appropriate to other book types beyond the one indicated.
Reviewing is serious writing and should be treated as such. It is a useful exercise in writing concisely and gracefully. These are valued qualities in all writing. Reviews are sources of information for others. The responsible reviewer keeps in mind that s/he is an intermediary between writers and potential readers.