A Free Template to Streamline Online Book Reviews
It happens to me all the time. I read an amazing book, one that fills me with all these rich experiences and thoughts that I want to tell the world about it. But when I head over to Amazon or Goodreads to write a review, I’m like a deer in headlights. My mind goes blank, and suddenly I’m back in first grade trying to write a book report for English class.
“Me like book,” is all that comes to mind.
“This book good.”
“This book bad.”
Part of the difficulty, I’m sure, is that I am used to writing academic book reviews, which are a whole other animal. Informal, online book reviews require a lighter hand, a different vocabulary, a less formal structure–one that I didn’t spend years in graduate school learning and honing and being critiqued by professors on.
So I regress to paleolithic first-grade book speak.
In fact, this was partly why I set my ambitious 220-for-2020 reading goal this year. I wanted to get better not only at reading books but at reviewing them. I figured the more I read and reviewed, the better I’d become. And, so far, I think it’s working.
Why It’s Good For Writers to Strengthen Their Book Review Skills
- It helps you stay mindful of the books you read rather than being a passive consumer of content. I remember and think more deeply about books I review or journal about.
- It helps you think critically and constructively about the craft of writing. Reviewing books forces me to pay closer attention to the choices an author makes and what their rationale might have been.
- It connects you with other writers and readers. If you’re serious about writing, this is a space you want to forge relationships in.
- It’s a way to give back to authors. All writers know how precious every review is, particularly ones that are thoughtful and articulate. As writers, we can show our appreciation for authors (and “pay it forward” on the reviews we ourselves may have received from others) by setting an intention to rate and review the books we can.
- It bolsters the reading world. The more reviews there are in the world, the more it signals to publishers, authors, libraries, and other industry actors that there is a demand for well-written books.
How I Started Upping My Book Review Game
The first step I took in working to improve my book reviewing skills started a few months ago. I began paying more attention to the ways my favorite book reviewers talk about books (currently my go-to’s are fellow author + book enthusiast, Susan Cushman, as well as renaissance woman Anne Bogel over at Modern Mrs. Darcy).
Next, when I listened to podcasts or read reviews online, I began keeping track of words (especially adjectives) people used to create vivid, precise descriptions of books. This helped me move beyond the “good book/bad book” rut.
Finally, I began using a 5-point format for my reviews. It’s one I developed myself so I could write compact, encapsulated reviews that also managed to give prospective readers a taste of how I experienced the book. I don’t always include something for each of the five points, and my reviews generally end up being about 3-6 sentences.
That template is still a work in progress but I’ve decided to share it here for all of you! The first page outlines the 5-point book review template I use. Then there are three distinct lists of adjectives to use when describing a book favorably, neutrally, or negatively.
Happy reading–and reviewing!