How to Write a Book Review

How to Write a Book Review

Guest post by Joel D Canfield

I’ll never forget it: an acquaintance long ago, in a single sentence, mentioned how great one movie was, and how lame another was. I immediately decided to see one and miss the other.

I loved the movie he hated. Still glad I gave his rave a miss.

Recommendations are colored by their source. One review of the Moody Blues’ “Octave” said “This is the same pablum Justin Hayward and John Lodge have been foisting on us from day one.” I went straight out and bought the album. I love their flavor of pablum.

In both cases, I was able to ferret out useful information from negative reviews.

Imagine how much better it would have been if those reviews had shared the same information non-judgmentally, leaving it to me to form my own opinion.

That’s what a good review does: provides enough information balanced with clearly stated opinions to allow the reader to decide for themselves whether the book has value to them.

It’s easy to assume that if we don’t like a book, others won’t either. Or when our life is changed by something we’ve read we feel like grabbing folks by the lapels and shaking them ’til they agree to read it.


When you decimate a book someone else loved, or glory in what they thought was trash, they can’t help but react emotionally, diminishing your influence and the value of your review. But share the facts about the writing quality, layout and design, humor or lack thereof, utility and readability, without insisting that your opinion is the only valid opinion, and your readers will thank you — and respect you.

A good book review will not only help others decide for themselves whether to read the book, regardless of your personal opinion, it will earn you fans.

I promised 3 things, didn’t I? Here they are:

1. Have an opinion. An antiseptic review which sticks entirely to the facts is hard to react to emotionally. Give your readers something to respond to by having an opinion.

2. That said, include facts and reasons. What will you do differently after reading the book? What expectations did it fail to fulfill? Was it an easy read or a trudging slog? Is it for beginners or advanced practitioners? Facts, in context, help your readers decide whether to become readers of the book you reviewed.

3. Be gracious, but honest. If the book falls short in some areas, but has value in others, say so, but remember that no matter how strongly we feel about this, that, or the other thing, there’s rarely one single correct perspective. Allow room for your readers to disagree with you, to delight in a book you found tedious or to ignore one you consider essential. Open-minded willingess to discuss differing opinions is a mainstay of the vital, lively conversation you associate with the well-read well-mannered conversationalist.

Interested in reviewing books? The Nonfiction Authors Association welcomes reviewers for our Nonfiction Book Awards program!

About the Author:

Since he started reading Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary at the age of four, Joel D Canfield has been trying to use up all those words. He has written and self-published 9 business books, 5 mysteries, and hundreds of songs songs.  He mentors aspiring authors in writing craft and self-publishing at