Guide to Writing Book Reviews and Book Reports

Book reports are accounts of a particular book where the writer both describes and critically evaluates a book’s content. This account should also assess the book’s value and the writer should recommend to readers whether they think the book is worth reading or not. 

By contrast, book reports are objective summaries of the main points, ideas and/or arguments in a book as presented by the author of that book. The primary purpose of a book report is to provide readers with sufficient information to help them decide if a particular book will be of any interest or use to them. 

The common features shared by both reviews and reports are described below. The critical comment section (last section) is aimed only at book review writers.

Information of a Bibliographical Nature

Here you should provide the name of the author, the book’s full title to include any subtitle, the book’s editor(s) where applicable, place of publication, name of publisher, publication date, the edition number where applicable, and the length i.e. how many pages there are in the book. All of this information should be presented in the appropriate referencing style e.g. APA, Chicago, MLA, etc. and beneath the review or report’s title. 

Background or Historical Information

Provide any relevant author-related information where this demonstrates their credentials to write on a particular subject or in a particular field and/or where this discloses any important influences that may have had an impact on the viewpoint of the author. You should highlight any notable events or circumstances that may have prompted the writer to write the book.

Targeted Audience

The intention of the author might be evident in the way they treat the book’s subject. Do you think the material is meant for students, subject matter experts, or the public in general? Does the author focus on a particular subject or does he or she generally cover a wider-ranging subject? There may be clues in a number of sections. For examples, appendices, bibliography pages and indexes tend to be present in an academic paper and authors often use prefaces and/or introductions to explicitly state their intention. The book’s content and the style an author uses to express themselves are usually a clear signal of the audience they are targeting.

Subject Matter and the Thesis Statement

What subject does the book deal with i.e. what is it about? Not only should you tell readers what the subject of the book is i.e. what it is concerned with in an overall sense, but you should additionally tell them what the particular viewpoint of the author is on the subject i.e. the thesis statement. In the event you are unable to find a suitable quote e.g. a statement in the exact words of the author or if you think the book does not develop what you believe is a thesis statement, then you may need to write a thesis statement that encompasses or covers the book’s entire content. This thesis statement should be brief – just one sentence or one paragraph, and it should be comprehensive and accurate.

Summarization of Book’s Content

You should base your summary on the notes you made while reading the book, following the order of the author, and comprised only of the main points or ideas that the author uses to advance their argument. You may present this within the context of analysis or discuss it separately.

Critical Comment Section (for book review writing only)

The bulk of a book review should be made up of the critical comments section. The writer should say whether they think the way the author has treated the subject matter is effective or suitable for the targeted audience. Ask these questions of yourself:

  • Has the author achieved their intended purpose in this book?
  • Does this book contribute to its field, and how?
  • Does the author treat the subject matter objectively?
  • Has the author omitted any facts and/or evidence?
  • If applicable, what types of data has the author used to support his or her thesis statement?
  • Is the style of writing clear, concise, and effective?
  • Does the content of the book give rise to any topics or points of discussion?
  • Could the data within the book be transferred or interpreted to meet some other purpose or end? 

You should take evidence from the book’s text to support your evaluation. To conclude, you may wish to say if you liked the book or did not like it.