Curated by UCL

Writing a book review

Essentially, a book review should help you do two things. For those who don’t really know about the field being covered and whether it is relevant to them, it should teach them a little bit about the subject and why it is significant. For people who are already interested in the topic, it should help them decide whether or not the book is worth buying.

What follows is a rough structure that you might want to modify to fit your own review. Whatever structure you use, you should try to make sure to hit all the points mentioned, even if not in this order.

Each of the following would be one 100-word paragraph:

  1. Provide a quick summary for people who have short attention spans and don’t want to read the whole review. Let them know in a few sentences why the subject is important, who this particular book is good for, who it’s not, and what it covers well and badly.
  2. Now you can take your time. First, explain what the topic is for a non-expert, why it is important, and what your expectations would be for a new book in the field.
  3. Next, explain what sub-topics the book covers in such a way that a non-expert can understand, and say something about its structure.
  4. Now, go through notable chunks of content (these may be chapters, sections, etc.), explain what the author was trying to cover in them, give a flavor of the content for the non-expert, and explain how (un)successful you think they were. You might have a paragraph for each major theme or section.
  5. If there are areas that you think should have been covered but weren’t, explain what they are and why they should have been included.
  6. For the audience the book was addressing, did the structure, writing style, other aspects of the book, enhance or detract from the content? Give examples.
  7. Conclude with a sentence or two summarizing how this book rates against others addressing the same audience and content. (If there are better books, please upload those too and put in an editorial note so we can link your review to them).