Book reviews are often what guide readers to the next book they read. Some book reviews are more helpful than others, and learning to write an insightful review can help you with all your writing endeavors. The rise in personal reviews posted by sites like Amazon and Goodreads has led to many reviewers posting their opinions without backing up their words with examples or explanations. These are more like editorial comments than book reviews.

Hooking Readers with Your Book Review’s Opening Line 

There are a few essential elements to every book review that ensure it is helpful to others. Like in a novel, book reviews should have a lead or hook that captures readers’ attention. One great sentence can leave readers wanting to learn more. It may be a question, “What happens when a famed historical novelist creates a post-apocalyptic romance, as in No One But Him?” It can be a statement such as, “A new author is launching a bright future with this poignant memoir of life on the road with a loving but elusive father.”

Summarize the Plot in Your Book Reviews

Now that you have the attention of your readers, quickly summarize what the book is about. A synopsis doesn’t have to be lengthy – a few sentences is sufficient, so readers understand the general plot. Leave out any spoilers and don’t reveal the ending, which ruins the reading experience for many people. 

Give Your Opinion, But Back It Up

Book reviews are, at their core, the writer’s opinions, but opinions need facts to back them up. Saying “the writing sucks” is an opinion. Saying, “the author’s writing is abrupt and minimal, reading more like a manual than an emotional journey,” lets readers know why you feel the writing isn’t up to par. Back up or explain why you do or don’t like aspects of the book you’re reviewing. 

Let readers know what you liked and didn’t like. There are very few perfect books, so if there are small elements that factor into your overall opinion that are contradictory, be sure to say so. You may love the character development and rich imagery but dislike the unrealistic plot. Perhaps you think the storyline and writing are unique, but the characters aren’t likable. If you don’t like the characters, is it because they are one-dimensional or cruel and shallow? Specifying why you don’t like them is helpful – some people enjoy reading books focusing on villainous characters, others don’t want to invest their time unless there is a redemptive character. 

Book Reviews Include Recommendations

Wrap up your book reviews with recommendations. Will the book appeal to people looking for romance and light-hearted beach reads? Do the book’s creepy plot and gothic atmosphere make it appealing to readers who enjoy a bit of a scare? Take the time to let others know who you think will love the book and who should probably take a pass on it. A book that’s silly and light-hearted, with no real depth, probably won’t be enjoyed by readers who prefer philosophical musings from their book characters. 

Finally, avoid being petty or mean-spirited. The point of book reviews is to inform and educate readers so they can choose books that are right for them. You have the power to get others excited about a book you love or steer them away from a book you found disappointing. You also have the power to hurt the writer, and you shouldn’t take that lightly. Hyperbole such as, “This is the worst drivel I’ve ever read” is pointless and demeaning to the writer. A book may not be your cup of tea, but there is someone out there who will appreciate it. Don’t ruin that opportunity by stooping to name-calling or insults. It diminishes everyone, including you as the reviewer. Honesty must be balanced with professionalism and fairness.

Dudley Court Press

Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write their books and become successful published authors. Contact us to discuss our assisted self-publishing, traditional and hybrid options today.

For more information, including about DCP’s latest programs, please get in touch at +1-520-329-2729 or We’ve recently launched our latest program, Memoir Writing for Non-Writers. This comprehensive, 10-week course helps you turn your memories into a compelling memoir!