20 Questions to Ask When Writing a Book Review

By Megan Alms, a professional writing student at Taylor University

You’ve just read a book, and you want to tell the world what you thought of it. Your mind is swirling with ideas and emotions. ReadingWOWBut as soon as you sit down to write your review, you forget everything you’ve just read.

So, what needs to go in a review?

All of the information needs to be relevant. Every word needs to count when you have such a limited space. Here are 20 things worth considering when you’re writing your book review.

1. What audience am I writing for? Consider where your review will be published. Who will be reading it, and what will they want to know about a book before buying it?

2. What audience is the author writing for? Put yourself in the perspective of the intended audience, even if you are not a part of it.

3. What genres/subgenres does this fit into? Define the primary genre, then find elements of other subgenres that may not have been immediately identifiable.

4. Was I confused at any point while reading? If the writing was unclear, note this. If you didn’t understand it, other readers probably won’t either.

5. Did I care about the characters? If the characters weren’t compelling in the slightest, the story likely fell flat. If you noticed this, include it in your review. (This is primarily a consideration in fiction and memoir.)

6. Did it have a compelling plot? Without a compelling plot, any work involving a storyline will lose the reader’s attention. If you got bored, make it clear in your review.

7. Was the dialogue believable? If it was difficult to believe anyone would talk like the characters in the book, the characters themselves were probably difficult to imagine.

8. Were the events believable? At its core, a book (unless purely informational) is a story. If a story fails to be credible, the book cannot succeed at being a book.

9. Did any quotes strike me? Was anything said that you found interesting, thought-provoking, or tear-jerking? Note these strong moments in your review! (If this quote spoils a surprise moment in the book, include a warning at the beginning of your review.)

10. Was there any information I thought to be inaccurate? Credibility is important an any genre. If one piece of false information is presented, readers will lose trust in the entire book.

11. Are the illustrations engaging? If it includes illustrations, note if they are eye-catching or bland. Pay special attention to this if you are reviewing a children’s book.

12. Is there any questionable/profane/graphic content? Many readers want to be aware of this kind of content before picking up a book. Even if it doesn’t bother you, note anything that may be questionable to other readers.

13. What is the author’s voice like? Describe how the author approaches the reader. Is the tone comedic, conversational, professional, or aloof?

14. What is the author’s purpose? Consider why this book was written and what the author intends to convey to the audience.

15. Is the author’s purpose accomplished? Now consider how the answer above came across. Was it clear, or did you have to “dig” for it?

16. What are the author’s credentials? What makes this author the only person who could write this book? Do they have a certain education or experience that makes them unique?

17. Is there an index or bibliography? This extra material, though not necessary, is good to know about before picking up the book.

18. What other books are similar to this one? What other titles have the same style as this one? Compare it to other books to give your audience a better idea of what it is like.

19. What did I learn while reading? Did this book make you think more deeply about any academic or moral topics?

20. Who would I recommend this book to? What specific audience would enjoy this book? Is it worth the time for others to read it?

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2 thoughts on “20 Questions to Ask When Writing a Book Review

  1. This is a thoughtful article that should help a reviewer keep on task. It occurs to me that a writer could direct these questions to his own work before he publishes. Thanks for the list.

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