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Reading the book

Now ideally, you’d read the book from front cover to back cover at least two times before you even thought about starting to write your book review. Now, not everyone can do this, especially if the book isn’t particularly interesting to you - reading it the first time is painful enough, hey? But if it’s an interesting book and you’ve got time, it definitely pays to read it twice. The first time through the book, you can just read it normally, but the second time through (or the first time if you’re pressed for time), you should think about doing the following things:

  • Read it critically, but make sure you give the author a ‘fair go’. This is especially important if the book looks like it’s not going to interest you. Try to keep your mind as open and receptive as possible as you read, as this will make the reading process a lot less painful.

  • Don’t read in bed unless you’re not in the habit of falling asleep while lying there reading. The last few pages you read before you fall asleep, you won’t remember very well (if at all) when you start reading again. Also, your general attention level is bound to be lower than if you were sitting up with a bright light. Especially if it’s a boring book!

  • Take notes as you read the book. Once again, this may ruin the reading experience a little, but it sure makes things easier later on. One option is to take notes the second time you read the book.

When you write a book review you need to think about the following points:

  • What is the main theme or purpose of the book? A lot of books aim to tell a story, but just saying this is not enough. Is there a purpose behind telling the story? A biographical story, for instance, aims to give you knowledge about a person’s life. If you want to get more complicated, are there any subtle themes in the book? Is the author trying to influence your opinion on something in an indirect way? Giving this additional information to the person reading your book review will quickly give them a general idea about the book.

  • What is the book’s genre - romance, mystery, thriller, horror, comedy, biography, tall tale, fantasy, science fiction, feminist, new age, classic? This should be mentioned near the beginning of the review, so that the reader immediately knows what general category the book fits into. Some books may not fit easily into only one genre. If this is the case, talk about how the book fits into more than one genre and discuss why this is. Also, each genre is a very broad category. Perhaps the book uses only some parts of the genre - a comedy book may be written as a black comedy, for instance.

  • Research the author and find out when they were around and where they lived. Perhaps how they were brought up as a kid influenced the book; for instance, a troubled childhood may explain why the author wrote about a neglected child who had no friends. There can be much less obvious things too - an author whose mother died at a young age might write a story about the death of a best friend (is this best friend really the mother?). Perhaps the author committed some very bad deed during their lifetime, and the ex-criminal in their book who is trying to reform their ways is really the author writing about themselves.

  • Is the book well written? Here you have to be careful to distinguish between the book’s content and how it is written. For instance, a book about watching grass grow may be incredibly boring to you but there are some people who might like reading about that sort of thing (hopefully not too many!). In your review you will have already mentioned the main theme of the book, so the reader will already know what the book is about. You need to evaluate whether the author has done a good job with their writing - is the language appropriate for the style of the book?