Academic Writing

How to Write an Academic Book Review

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Book reviews are a type of literary critique where a particular book is analyzed in terms of its content, merit and style. These reviews may be academic in nature or they make take the form of summary reviews or primary source opinion pieces.  It is commonplace for books to be reviewed for newspapers, magazines, periodicals, e-book websites, or as school homework. If you are not sure how to write an academic book review, there are some things that are worth knowing. For example, the length of a book review can stretch from one paragraph to a sizeable essay. This type of review is sometimes used to evaluate a book according to personal preference. Any individual can use a review of books to showcase their knowledge or to put forward their own opinions on a book's topic, whether it is a fictional or non-fictional work.

Book Review vs Book Report Writing: What Is the Difference?

This section talks about a book review vs book report:

Book reviews are critical, evaluative and descriptive summaries of a given book. They summarize the book's content, evaluate its merits, and make recommendations to others who may be interested in reading it. The structure of a book review is not as complex as that of a book report. It briefly sums-up the book's story and is likely to contain details about the setting, characters and plot.

By contrast, book reports objectively sum-up a book's main arguments and ideas as presented by the author. A book report attempts to provide sufficient information to enable potential readers to decide if a book may be of interest to them. Book reviews are based on a more detailed analysis of a book's text. They may analyze the intention of the author as well as explore the text's symbolism and themes.

Practical Book Review Guidelines on Book Review Writing

It is hoped the book review guidelines provided here by will help you. Writing book reviews is an easy path to getting a work published if you are a postgraduate student or a researcher. Additionally, this is an effective way of fine-tuning your writing skills and understanding how publishing works. 

How does one go about writing a worthwhile book review? Would you like to learn? If so, we would like to share the following tips on how to write an academic book review with you:

  1. Identify the book you would like to review. Generally speaking, the following are two common ways to find books to review:
  • Establish what books publishers are looking to have reviewed
  • Choose a book that you are interested in and make a pitch to the publisher

If you decide on the first option, check if any Journal publisher related to your field is looking for book reviewers. You can do this by searching their website or by sending an email to the editor. If, however, you go for the second option and decide to pitch a book to a Journal editor, you should choose a book:

  • With subject matter or a topic you are familiar with
  • Is reasonably newly published e.g. one that was published in the past two to three years.

Then go ahead with your pitch. It is worth noting that some publishing companies sometimes even provide reviewers with a selection of newly published books and maybe even a list of helpful book review questions to get you started. Therefore, it will not hurt to ask!

  1. Adhere to the publisher's style manual/guide. When the publisher you are going to write for has been agreed, ask for their style manual. They might refer to this as a review guide or reviewer's instructions. In any case, follow the instructions in the guide you are given carefully. You should get information on every aspect from the number of words and writing style to the submission process.
  2. Book reviews or book summaries should not be about yourself. Remember, you are reviewing the actual book not merely its subject matter. This does not mean you cannot put forward your own opinions, particularly if these are relevant to the author's argument. However, readers want to learn about the book from your review so you should always make this your priority.
  3. If you are to follow the book review definition, there are certain questions it is recommended you answer when writing a book review. Even though the content of your review will be mostly dependent on the selected book, there are some questions a reviewer should ask and answer if their review is to be considered worthwhile.

These questions include:

For a Fictional Work

  1. Name the book's title, its author, its genre, and publication date.
  2. Provide a summary of the book without revealing its ending.
  3. Your opinion of the book's central character?
  4. Are any other characters particularly interesting?
  5. Is there a character you related best to?
  6. Is the story relayed from any one person's viewpoint and, if so, whose?
  7. Did you believe in any of the characters and their storylines?
  8. Did the book have a main question, what was it and in what manner was this question answered?
  9. Did the central character alter in any way as the book progressed and, if so, how?
  10. Did the book differ from or meet your expectations?
  11. Did the book teach you anything new?
  12. How important was the time period to the plot or storyline?
  13. How important was the location to the plot or storyline?
  14. Would you give the book a different title and, if so, what would that be?
  15. What scene did you like best?
  16. What aspects of the book did you like and dislike most?
  17. Provide one or two quotes from the book.
  18. Were you pleased with the ending?
  19. What about the book's cover - good or bad?
  20. What long-lasting impression do you have from the book?
  21. If this book was banned, why was it banned?
  22. What rating would you give?
  23. Are you likely to recommend (or not recommend) the book you just reviewed?

For a Non-Fictional Work:

  1. Name the book's title, its author, its genre, and publication date.
  2. What purpose did the author have for writing the book you just reviewed?
  3. Was the author's argument(s) logical?
  4. Provide one or two quotes from the book.
  5. Was your interest in the book held until the end?
  6. What part of this book was your favourite?
  7. What aspects of the book did you like and dislike most?
  8. Did the book teach you anything new?
  9. What long-lasting impression do you have from the book?
  10. If this book was banned, why?
  11. What about the book's cover - was it good or bad?
  12. What rating would you give?
  13. Recommend or not recommend?

For a Memoir:

  1. Name the book's title, its author, its genre, and publication date.
  2. In your opinion, what prompted this author to write their memoir?
  3. What response, if any, is this author attempting to provoke e.g. sympathy?
  4. Is your perception of the author enhanced or altered after reading their life story?
  5. What quality did you admire most about the author?
  6. Did you feel this author was being less than truthful at any stage?
  7. Provide one or two quotes from the book.
  8. Would you want to know this author or have you known them?
  9. What part of this memoir was your favourite?
  10. What aspects of the memoir did you like and dislike most?
  11. Did this book teach you anything new?
  12. What long-lasting impression do you have of the memoir and its author?
  13. If this memoir was banned, why?
  14. What about the book's cover - was it good or bad?
  15. What rating would you give?
  16. Recommend or not recommend?

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Creating a Book Review Outline: Top Tips

When you are creating a book review outline for your work, include an introduction to the topic or subject, the book type, and its scope. Books should be identified by their title, author and publisher/publishing details.

Background information helps readers to understand the context of a book. Describe in broad terms the issues or problems addressed in the book by the author or in any previous work of theirs or others. Provide information about the author. What background, qualifications and/or expertise do they have to write about this topic or subject?

  1. Has reading this book enhanced or altered your perception of the subject - how?
  2. What part of this book was your favourite?
  3. What aspects of the book did you like and dislike most?
  4. Provide one or two quotes from the text.
  5. Use the conclusion to sum up your opinions and ideas.

Whether it is a long or short book review for students or the general public, you should conclude with your own critique. Returning to the introduction, how do you judge the content, value, format and style of this book? Did you feel intellectually challenged and/or has your knowledge increased? Has it given rise to new ideas or questions and/or has the material been presented in a provocative or innovative way? Is this a book you would recommend?

Would You Find a Book Review Template Helpful?

Our book review template provides for an introductory paragraph, a main body, and a concluding paragraph.

The Introductory Paragraph

  • Provide information about the book title and cover
  • Subtitles if applicable
  • Name of author


  • Short description of book
  • Short introduction to the main body's key points
  • Resist giving opinions at this stage

The Main Body

  • Include approximately three quotes from the book (as per our book review template pdf)
  • Using your own words, sum-up these quotes
  • Offer your own viewpoint on the quote(s)
  • One point per paragraph

The Concluding Paragraph

  • Brief summary of book's quotations
  • Briefly sum-up any explanations
  • Concluding statement/sentence to finish
  • Reviewer's final thoughts on the work
  • Optional rating

Great Book Review Sample PDF for Students

A lot of students don't trust the writing services they come across on the Internet unless they see sample papers. Therefore, can provide a variety of book review sample pdf files for you to check out. These are papers we have written for previous customers. Please remember that the samples we provide are intended only as guides and should not be used for academic purposes or handed in as one's own work.

Download PDF Sample

Including Book Review Citations into the Paper

You may have seen book reviews in various databases and it is possible you are wondering whether these should be used for citation purposes. Indeed, you may well have questions about when and how to cite a book review.

Essentially, book reviews are critical evaluations and summaries of a particular book. In addition to undertaking an analysis of the book's content, a book review can compare a book to other important works of similar type and/or subject matter. A review is not a substitute for actually reading a book. It can, however, be used to understand the fundamental arguments and principles of a book. A reviewer will need to consider book review citation in their work if they are asked to complete this type of assignment.

Use of References

Here is some advice on creating a bibliography or reference list at the end of a book review assignment:

  1. Book reviewers last name and initials
  2. Publication year
  3. Review title where applicable
  4. Title of review in italics e.g. Review of Book Title /
  5. Name of author/editor/director of book
  6. Publication information e.g. Book Title (use italics), volume and/or issue, page range or page number(s)

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How to Cite a Book Review APA: Useful Information  

In the APA (American Psychological Association) referencing style, reviews should be cited in a similar manner to articles. If you are not sure how to cite a book review in APA style, then remember the way a review is cited can depend on the assignment and publication type.

Citing a Book Review for a Magazine

If you are asked to write an APA book review for a newspaper or magazine, you will need to add the review name and the name of the publication that prints it. Additionally, it will need to show (in brackets) the publication and author's name, which follows the title of the review. Here is a sample of an APA book review citation for a newspaper or magazine (and please note that any names and book titles given are ficticious);

Author's Surname, First Name Initial(s). (Where applicable Year of Publication as well as Month and Day). Review Title: Review Subtitle (if applicable). [Review of type of publication Publication Title, by author's first name initial or initials last name]. Publication Title, volume number (issue), page number or numbers.

Citation for Online Book Reviews

Citations for online newspapers and magazines should include, at the end, the publication's URL. No need for volume number, issue number or page number(s):

Jones, J. (2005, May 8). Book Title [Review of the book Book Title, by P. Smith, R. Blackman, & C. Johnson]. Publisher Name. Retrieved from URL (provide full URL here).

Reviews that appear in blog posts do not need the publication name but they should indicate these appeared in blog posts:

Nolan, O. (2004, May 3). Book Review: ‘Book Title' discusses why creativity is essential in good writing [Blog post] [Review of the book Book Title, by K. Patel]. Retrieved from URL (provide full URL details here)

In-Text Citations in Book Reviews

When quoting or referencing your book review in the main body of the text, you will need to include in-text citations that indicate the source of the quotation, etc. The citation should show the name of the author and publication year - the date and month are not necessary. Include also the page number when directly quoting a source:

While evaluating the "iconic 80s style," praise is still heaped on the creative aspects" (Jones, 2012, p. 50).


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