Earlier, I posted a blog about professional book reviews. While professional reviews cover certain topics such as genre, central themes, characters, conflicts etc., readers, people like you and me—are more likely to discuss how the book made us feel and what we liked about the book.
Professional reviews tend to be more objective while reader reviews are more subjective. Still, many people choose to read a book or not based on reader reviews, especially if written well. How can the average reader write an effective book review that helps other readers?
Storyline, Characters, and Genre
Any reader who wants to include this in his review should be careful not to spoil anything or give away any secrets that might ruin the plot. And when I say be careful, I mean it—many reader reviews are giving away too much of the storyline. One of the top reviews on a favorite of mine, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, summarizes the plot in a series of questions: “What if you could go through a rabbit hole to the past? Would you try to change history for the better?” This is a great method to share with other readers what topic the book tackles. Just be careful not to give too much away.
Next: Your Thoughts
A reader review should share honest reactions to the book. If the book is interesting, memorable, or worthy of recommendation, mention it. Discuss how the book’s message and story affected you. Has this book changed the way you think about something?
Let’s look at this review for Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, written by a reader. The review begins with “Angela’s Ashes is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read.” Right off the bat, other readers know what the book’s main emotion will be. The reviewer uses words such as “entrancing” to convey the thoughts and feelings he experienced while reading the book.
Be Honest…But Don’t Be Mean
Be honest. Be truthful, but respectful. Don’t attack the author and claim they can’t write or you would never read anything they’d written. If there was something about the book that you didn’t like, share it, and explain why. If you cannot explain why maybe you should leave it out. Remember, there’s a chance that the author or publisher could read your review—be nice. Also, your review will influence others as to whether they take the time to try the book or not. Always be fair.
Reader reviews can be anywhere from a few words to 500 words—given that most reader reviews are online (like at Amazon or Goodreads). However, there isn’t a set standard and reader reviews range from very short to very long.
With the boom of online publishing and the sheer volume of published books available more and more readers rely on online reviews to help guide them to their next book selection. While, I don’t make my book selections based only on reviews, many people do. Personally, book covers, titles, and blurbs influence me—they are crucial to my book choices.
How often do you write or read reviews? How do you choose your next read?