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How to Write a Nonfiction Book Review


A nonfiction book review is a critical analysis of a work of nonfiction. This includes reading the book, determining the author's thesis, or theme, and deciding if the author successfully achieved his goals for the book and why. This can be determined by discussing the author's research methods, source materials, approach to the subject matter, and whether or not the book meets its audience's expectation as set up by the author.

Read the nonfiction book you will review. While you are reading, use notecards to take notes on specific aspects of the book. These notes might include references about the book's subject, how the author viewed the topic, the source materials used in the book, and whether or not the author used a journalistic approach or a more creative approach to developing the book's theme. Organize your notes with colored highlighters by subject for easier access when you begin writing the review.

Arrange your notecards in front of you sorted by the topics you want to discuss in your book review. A book review set for publication, or as a classroom assignment, will have a specific word count. Choose the elements you will expand on in your review according to this count.

Write the title of the book you will be reviewing, the author's name, the name of the publisher and the date the book came out, if you are discussing timely material, in the opening section of your review. Include a brief description about the book in your opening paragraph.

Construct an opening paragraph that alerts the audience to whether or not your review is scholarly or formal. This tone can be established by word choice. Also make clear whether the book review is going to be positive or negative and list a few reasons why you came to this decision.

Agree with, or refute, the author's thesis statement either as a whole or by citing specific aspects of the book that resonated with you or that you disagreed with. This will form the basis of your review, along with bullet points previously written down on your notecards.

Recommend, or do not recommend, the book in your concluding statement. If there are other books on the topic that you enjoyed more, mention those in relation to the book you are reviewing. List for your audience places to access the book and any other critical information or discussions available.

Tips
  • Do not try to cover every aspect of the book in your review. Be selective with the scope of the review and focus on a few elements rather than the book as a whole. Reread any sections of the book that are confusing, or interesting, before you start.
  • Do not give away too much of the book and spoil it for other readers.
Warnings
  • If you really don't like a book, skip doing the review instead of submitting a harsh or severely negative review.
  • Only write a review for books that you take the time to read for yourself.
Items you will need
Notecards
About the Author

Suzanne Burns began writing in 1991 and currently writes for the "Source Weekly" and "Central Oregon Magazine." She has published three poetry collections and one short-story collection. After attending Central Oregon Community College, she left the degree program to become a freelance editor and writer. She has studied creative writing with Sarah Heekin Redfield, Primus St. John and Ken Kesey.