How To Write a Book Review

Students reading books for their book reviews

As a current or future college student, you may be asked to write a book review as a class assignment. When written well, book reviews can not only inform, but also inspire others to read the book. There is no universal formula for how to write a book review, because every book is unique. However, you can use the following tips to excel in your book review assignments as you work toward your language-related degree.

In This Article:

Tips for Writing a Book Review

If you’re asked to write a book review as a college student, it’s worth requesting clarification from your professor as to whether you should write a descriptive or a critical book review. This will help you fulfill your professor’s expectations and earn a good grade on the assignment.

In particular, take notes about the following:

  • How the book begins, proceeds and concludes
  • The main themes of the book
  • The setting
  • The characters, how they change and how the author develops them throughout the story
  • The plot, its major plot points and significant subplots

Each time you encounter something noteworthy while reading, you should write down the page number next to your notes. This allows you to easily return and review that particular passage while you’re writing your review.

Once you’re done reading, take some time to reflect upon the book. What was the main goal that the author was trying to accomplish? In your opinion, did the author accomplish it? Why or why not? (Be specific.)

In some cases, a book is best analyzed in context. For example, if you’re reviewing a novel written by a political prisoner who lived in 18th-century France, the main point of the novel is likely to be vastly different from a novel written by a tech entrepreneur living in the 21st century.

In other words, consider the time and place, as well as the major events that the author has experienced. You may need to do a little research to learn more about the author and their time period. Note that a discussion of the author’s experiences and the context of the time period isn’t always warranted; only include this if it’s relevant to the book itself and to your analysis.

Next, it’s time to start fleshing out your book review. Your book review is likely to follow much of the same structure as any other school essay that you write while working toward your English language degree. It will have an introduction, thesis, body and conclusion.

Begin by providing the book’s bibliographical information. This includes the title, author’s name, publisher and date of publication.

Mistakes To Avoid When Writing a Book Review

A few types of mistakes are common in book reviews. Use the following tips to avoid those mistakes and help ensure that you write a professional, highly polished book review:

  • Keep the analysis relevant – Avoid discussing or analyzing extraneous details, such as book blurbs (endorsements) and the cover art, which authors usually have no control over.
  • Avoid the “interesting” trap – After writing, scan your book review for any usage of the word “interesting” and eliminate it. Instead, specifically state what you found interesting about the book. For example, instead of writing “It was an interesting read,” write something like this: “The author didn’t shy away from exploring a potentially divisive and controversial topic, but rather offered an unusual perspective from which to consider the issue.”
  • Be specific – The word “interesting” isn’t the only vague word to avoid in your book review. Avoid writing general statements, such as “The book wasn’t good.” Instead, write something like: “The author’s writing style left something to be desired for many reasons, including the repetitious word choice, flat dialogue and generic descriptions of place and time.”

Language-Oriented Careers to Consider

If you enjoy book reviews and other writing assignments as you work toward your degree, you might consider exploring language-oriented careers. Consider these examples:

Literary Agents

There are many career opportunities within the publishing field, including that of a literary agent. Literary agents specialize in representing writers, such as by helping them obtain publishing contracts and by negotiating the terms of those contracts. Strong interpersonal skills and negotiation savvy are must-haves.

Acquisition Editors

Publishing houses have multiple types of editors with different responsibilities. Acquisition editors don’t actually do much editing. Rather, they review submissions from writers and literary agents to determine which manuscripts could be potential bestsellers that the publishing house should purchase.

Developmental Editors

Developmental editors work closely with authors to help them on the “big picture” issues of their books. For example, instead of correcting grammar and syntax, a developmental editor will guide the author in creating a more enticing plot, more believable characters and a more immersive fictional world. Developmental editors must have a keen sense of what makes a book more marketable and appealing to readers.

English Teachers

Beyond publishing, there are plenty of language-oriented careers to consider. You might pursue a career as a K–12 English teacher, for example. English teachers do more than help students learn proper grammar; they can spark their students’ imagination and unleash their creativity.

Earn Your Graduate Certificate in English

There are multiple paths you might take to pursue a language-related career. One way to enhance your career qualifications is to earn an additional credential beyond your bachelor’s degree, such as a Graduate Certificate of Completion in English.

Completing a graduate certificate takes less time than earning a master’s degree, and it can often be completed entirely online. Your certificate courses will enable you to deepen your knowledge base, sharpen your writing skills and, if need be, help you define your career focus.

Grand Canyon University (GCU) is a leading educator of current and aspiring teachers, professional writers and other professionals in language-oriented fields. In addition to our wide variety of bachelor’s degree programs in education, GCU offers the Graduate Certificate of Completion in English to deepen knowledge and enhance employment prospects.


Approved the English department chair for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Jan. 26, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.