Creative Writing, Uncategorized

The Fear of Writing Book Reviews & How I Am Overcoming It

Photo courtesty of the EMU English Department website.

I never learned how to write a book review in undergrad at UWM. I still wonder why that is, as I’ve always thought learning to review the books we read in and out of class was an important piece of knowledge. Perhaps it’s just something that isn’t high on the list of things to teach in the English Department of most universities. In any case, I never learned how to write a review and I really wanted to.

I read a lot. I mean, a lot. Many of the people who know this always ask for book recommendations. While I can offer a brief “this-is-how-I-feel” type of explanation about a certain book, I’ve always wanted to be able to point them to a decent review that includes a breakdown and analysis. That kind of review is much more helpful, I think.

Why the Fear?

It’s quite simple: I have no idea what is supposed to go into a book review. I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for guidelines of some sort, so I suppose that has something to do with it. What do I look for when I read a book? What does go into a book review? Info on plot? Characters? The ending? I don’t know if there is some invisible formula to follow when reading a book. I’ve asked others who write reviews. The most common answer? “Write down what you liked and didn’t like.” Helpful, but only a little. When I read the reviews that others write, they seem nothing like what I would come with, which leads me to think I’m already doing something wrong. The truth is, there really isn’t a set formula for how to write a book review. There just isn’t. You sit down and you write it.

I searched for one anyway. I came up with mixed results, some helpful, some not.

I found a fairly decent explanation of how to review a book. It’s from the library at Los Angeles Valley College and you can read it here.

So…What Now?

I’ll be reading through this explanation over the next week or so and will be tailoring to my own needs, etc. I’m not sure which book I’ll review first, but as soon as a review is written, I’ll post it here (as well as on the new Book Reviews page, which can be found up at the top). I’ll cross-post them at GoodReads and BookMesh, too. I’m planning to implement a star-rating system like most other book reviewers do, so I’ll be working on that as well. Once I tailor things to my own needs, I’ll either write a post on how I plan to write my reviews or I’ll make a page about the review process (I haven’t decided which I’ll choose just yet).

And so here we go. Into the world of writing a constructive book review. It’ll be an interesting trek. I hope you’ll hang around for the ride.

[How do you write your own book reviews? Do you use some sort of formula? I’m always interested in how others go about the process. Leave me a comment or two.]