10 Tips For Book Reviewers To Improve Book Reviewing Skills: Book reviewers have a very important role to play in the literary world – they connect the author with the reader. Thus, they have a say in whether the reader decides to read a book for not. To justify and make the best of this unique and special responsibility, book reviewers need to cultivate some skills. Here is a list of ways to take these skills to a higher level.
10 Tips For Book Reviewers To Improve Book Reviewing Skills
- Read between the lines
- Look up the biography of the author
- Look out for any subjectivity or bias that might creep in
- Root your critique in the text of the book
- Don’t give away anything in the book past its midpoint
- Stay away from making blanket statements
- Be creative but not complicated
- Stay conscious of your academic and scholarly responsibility
- Include everything – the good, bad and ugly
- Make a statement
Read between the lines
To be a good reviewer, it’s important to read books deeper than the surface level. To know a work of art intimately, you must interpret it from different lenses, understand the deeper symbolisms and capture the hidden meanings. A great way to do this is to annotate books to prevent thoughts from slipping away and amplify attention to detail. Reading other reviews, analyses and understanding different perspectives can also help.
Look up the biography of the author
No work of art exists in isolation. Hence, before understanding and analyzing a book, it’s important to know the author well. Reading up on his or her life story and the genesis of the book can be crucial in analyzing it and breaking it down. Some bits of this biography can also feature in the book review, for it gives readers a more holistic understanding of the work of art. In addition, this also makes the book more real and tangible for readers.
Look out for any subjectivity or bias that might creep in
Books work differently for different people. Hence, you cannot avoid some amount of subjectivity while reading and analyzing a book. Necessarily, you will look at it from the perspective of your own self, based on your experiences and opinions and values and beliefs. But not everyone will have the same experiences and beliefs. So it’s important to limit subjectivity. Talk about your feelings, but talk about objective critiques more.
Root your critique in the text of the book
The critique of a book, whether it’s good or bad, should have a tangible and concrete basis in the book itself. You cannot make claims on the goodness of a book if you cannot quote something from the book to prove them. Like in an academic setting, your feelings about the book should be justified by actual quotes from the book. Thus, it is usually a good idea to include some brief quotations from the book in the review of the book.
Don’t give away anything in the book past its midpoint
LitHub recommends this as a thumb of rule as a book reviewer – anything past a book’s midpoint is a spoiler. Most reviewers include a brief summary of the book for those looking to pick it up, but this should be handled carefully. It’s super important to not give out any spoilers or secrets, because that will create backlash from both the author and potential readers. The plot should be vaguely expressed, and hence quite short.
Stay away from making blanket statements
Beginning a review with a super controversial blanket statement – like saying all of a particular author’s work is an attempt to cover up his or her insecurity – may grab eyeballs. But it is just not a professional thing to do. Saying all of an author’s works is marvellous or terrible is the worst thing to include in a book review. This is not just obviously false but also conveys a lack of understanding and judgement on your part – it reflects badly on you.
Be creative but not complicated
Book reviews are not places to showcase your literary talent, but they should still be compelling and engaging. There’s no need to use flowery language or long, winding sentences to make your point – your writing should be clear and to the point. However, there is still scope for creativity in expressing how the book actually made you feel. Using sensory metaphors is a great way to do that – but this should not be overdone.
Stay conscious of your academic and scholarly responsibility
Writing a book review, at whatever level, is an act of immense responsibility. Yes, everyone has the right to express themselves, but book reviews have serious implications for both the author and the reader. They can make or break perceptions. Hence, you must remember your scholarly duty to stay true to your analysis. There should be no fabrication, no plagiarism and no falsity in your book review whatsoever. That is unacceptable.
Include everything – the good, bad and ugly
A book review should provide a holistic understanding of a book. It should include its merits and demerits, where it worked and where it failed, what it achieved and what it missed. There cannot be any vested interests that compel you to write only positives or only negatives. The former feel like flattery and dishonesty, because there cannot realistically be a book that is flawless. And the latter, that just seems narcissistic and arrogant.
Make a statement
Ultimately, whatever you write – book review or not – should make a point. Book reviews should hold some meaning and have some significance, because every book does. So, while communicating this meaning to the world, make an argument either for or against it and stick to it. Take a stand. Be controversial. Speak your mind. But do it with respect, honour and in a strictly professional, objective, literary sense.