How Do You Review Books?

As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time reading books. But I also spend a lot of time reading and listening to what other people think of books. Now, most of that is made up of long-form reviews that go point by point through the work, criticizing and praising as it goes. A really good example of this is Jenny Nicholson’s recent video, “Well, I guess SOMEBODY had to read “Trigger Warning.” That style is great for editorial and video reviews. Things change when you get into the often shorter format of Amazon and GoodReads reviews, though.

There’s a common problem I see when reading Amazon and GoodReads reviews; they end up being plot summaries. A review will start off “The book was great!” and then will just tell you what happens, maybe sparing the biggest spoilers. The issue is that a review like that doesn’t really tell you much about the book.

So, how can you write an effective Amazon or GoodReads review? Start by asking yourself questions about what you are reading. Is the book easy to read, or do you frequently get taken out of the story due to readability or purple prose? Does the story make sense, or are there plot holes or contradictions that you’re still asking questions about once everything is said and done? Do the characters have depth, or are they one-dimensional? Likely, through asking and answering these questions about what you’ve read, you’ll come up with some of your own relevant to that particular book.

Once you have your answers, you’ll be ready to write an engaging and effective review. Here’s an example, not based on any work in particular:

The Book was a thrilling journey through a potential future world where seemingly sentient androids have become a part of everyday life. I loved Author’s use of straightforward and logical language that almost seemed like readouts from a DOS line for the androids’ thoughts. Protagonist’s struggle with their obligation to their employer, and the morality of their actions kept me glued to the page, wondering how it all would end. I can’t recommend The Book enough.”

No matter how you write your review, though, please do write one. Reviews are important feedback and criticism that help the author of the book, and the writing community as a whole, improve and move forward. If you leave a review on a book, no matter how critical, you’ll be making an author’s day.