Help in Writing Book Reviews: Structuring Your Paper

At first glance, writing a book review seems straightforward. After all, there are only really two sources of information: the book and your own experience in reading it. However, book reviews commonly fall victim to becoming unfocused, rambling, or simply wishy-washy. All of these problems can be solved by structuring your ideas well in advance, creating a good outline, and following it.

You Need a Thesis

This comes as a surprise to some book reviewers, as this isn’t an essay or research assignment. But all good writing needs a strong central idea, and a book review is no different. Your thesis, in order to foster a well-structured review, needs to be more complex than “The book was enjoyable,” or “I didn’t like it.”

Brainstorming a Thesis

After reading the book, you formed an opinion of it. Jot this opinion down. It may be broad or specific. Think of one major reason why you felt this way about the book. For example, you may have felt uplifted by the book and the primary reason for that may have been the way the book ended. You may have been disappointed in the book, and the main reason for that may have been the overall poor quality of the writing.

Consider How Each Element Contributed to Your Opinion

While there may only be one or two major reasons, each element of the book contributed in some way to your overall opinion. Consider the following elements:

  • Writing Style
  • Quality of Writing
  • Plot
  • Character Development
  • Length

Pick two or three of these that most influenced your opinion. Choose one (or think of one) that didn’t support your opinion.

Write Your Thesis Statement

Incorporate all of these things into writing your book review thesis statement. For example, “East of Eden spotlights the human condition in a way that almost anyone can empathize with. Steinbeck’s clear writing and multi-generational plot painted a universe that most people can identify with, despite his occasional use of unrealistic archetypal characters.”

Create an Outline

Once you’ve drafted this sort of thesis statement, it’s easy to create a structured outline. Simply divide your review into sections which cover each element that supported your opinion and those that opposed your opinion in some way. Once you’ve outline and written the body of the review, draft a basic introduction and a strong conclusion, and you’re done.