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When writing a book review on any topic, a student can share his/her reactions, emotions, feelings, and opinions regarding a specific book, which can sometimes even be a book of own choice. Still, it is important to draw a distinct line between writing a book review and writing a book diary for yourself in the form of a blog whatsoever. A book review essay is an academic paper, so it cannot be written in informal writing style. You cannot use colloquial expressions, slang or some terms or concepts that the majority of people would not understand if they read your essay. Despite the fact that a critical book review is a widespread task assigned in college, many students frequently misunderstand it and confuse it with a book report. If you want to know concrete difference, read on the article and find out how to review a book.

Book Review vs Book Report

If you have got the assignment to write a book review and you are happy with the topic and are eager to start, stop for a while and make sure you know the difference of book review vs book report.
Students are used to writing book reports since the time they started studying at school. However, when they start college and they are assigned a book review, they perceive the words “review” and “report” similarly and write the book review in the same way as they would have written their report. However, these types of papers are different as a book review is more critical and analytical in nature. If you get to know the difference between these two types of writing, you will be more likely to succeed in both of these writing types.

What do Book Reports Deal with?

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Normally, a book report does not delve into critical analysis and evaluation of the assigned book. It is a more superficial writing type that mainly refers to discussing details about the very plot and the author. Regarding the author, you will have to discuss biographical information, cultural, historical or educational background of the author, as well as some reasons that made the author focus on this specific topic and write the book. You choose information about the author only by its relevance. For example, if it is relevant to mention about the author’s marital status in the context of the book, you can easily do it. The same concerns the other aspects, such as some events in the author’s life that changed his/her mindset, etc.

How to Write a Book Review?

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On the other hand, when writing a book review, you need to apply a more sophisticated approach and delve deeper into the essence of the book, its main idea, etc. You should not focus merely on the plot but investigate the problem or issue that lies at its core. You do not need to summarize each section and provide much discussion about the characters. The summative information should be provided in a brief and concise way after the introduction and the bulk of the essay should be devoted to the book in general.
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Now that you know the core difference between the book report and the book review, you can switch over to the writing process. Be sure that the assignment will be advantageous to you as it will develop your critical and analytical thinking and you will learn how to provide a book analysis from your own perspective.

Book Review Outline Writing

Book review outline is the first step towards smooth writing. When you have an outline, you will be able to see a clear picture of the whole essay. However, even before you start writing your outline, keep in mind that you need to be particularly attentive when reading the assigned book. Sometimes, apart from reading the book, you may even need to perform some extensive research to gather sufficient information, supporting evidence, and even investigate some interesting facts about the author of the book. Particularly, you may be curious to explore the following:

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  • Who is the author? Does he/she have a peculiar writing style? How does the assigned book fit into the writing style or the predominant theme of writing? Does the author have some literature awards?
  • What is the genre of the literary work? What is the main goal the author wanted to achieve when writing it?
  • Is the title catchy enough to draw readers’ attention? Is it possible to presume what the book is about after reading its title?

While you are reading the very book, be sure to take notes and pay attention to the following information:


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  • Write out the most significant or memorable quotations. Make sure you have a specific motif why they should be used in your review.
  • Jot down the main ideas of the book. What is the central idea of the book? How is it discussed? Does it make the book special or out-of-the-ordinary?
  • What about the main characters? How many of them are there? What role do they play? How do they interact? How is the whole story affected by their interaction?
  • What are the symbols or motifs that you can spot in text?

Only after you have gone through these pre-writing stages can you start devising your outline. This is one of the keys towards how to write a good book review. The outline is important as it will help you structure the paper in a logical and clear manner. You will know how many paragraphs you will have and you need to organize space in order to fit all the information you wanted into the essay.

What Should a Book Review Outline Look Like?

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  1. Provide a brief introduction. You are not required to provide the «final version» of the introduction already in the outline but try to introduce the issue to the best you can. At least provide the basic information about the book, title, author, relevant information about the author`s background, the main ideas of the book, etc. Be sure to formulate the thesis statement. When working on a review, write as though no one of your audience has read the book. Try to be concise and logical in what you narrate.
  2. Provide a brief summary about the main characters of the book and the plot. Remember that it is not a book report and you should not focus on merely summarizing the events from the book. Therefore, keep the summary short and focus only on the most topical aspects highlighted in the book. When it comes to the main characters of the book, focus only of those that arise some strong emotions in you.
  3. Move on to the very critical analysis (or book assessment). This is the bulk of the paper that is mainly considered by your professor when he/she decides on the final mark for your paper. You need to evaluate the book, so in the outline highlight the core ideas you plan to assess. Focus on the central argument and revolve your assessment round it. Take into account symbolism and literary devices that can be spotted in the paper.
  4. Your personal evaluation. Provide your own feedback on what you liked and what you disliked, what ideas you share and with what ideas you disagree, what worked for you and what did not. If you have read the other author`s books, how well does this assigned book fit into his/her other works? Finally, provide your own personal opinion.
  5. Conclusion. It is important to provide a conclusion in the outline as well. If you cannot come up with a concise paragraph yet, then provide at least one sentence. Be sure that the conclusion contains your recommendation whether you think the book is worth reading or not.

Tips for Writing a Book Review

If you are writing a book review for the very first time, the following tips for writing a book review, are a must for you to follow:

  • Does the book correspond to your mindset and to the ideas that you have about the world?
  • Were any of your views and beliefs challenged while reading? In what way exactly?
  • Investigate economic, political, social, and cultural issues that are addressed in the book. Think of the same issues in relation to the author and the period of time when he/she lived.
  • Pay specific attention to the author`s manner of writing and pay attention to the way the author develops ideas and ensures smoothness of the text.
  • Pay attention to the vocabulary choice. Are there any special words used throughout the text/repetitive words?
  • Discuss the author`s narrative style and ways of providing descriptions.
  • Using quotations from the text is encouraged but do not overdo it – use them only when they are relevant and necessary.
  • When focusing on characters, do not merely describe them but focus on their analysis and importance. Pay attention to their transformation as the story unfolds.

Hopefully, with the help of this article you have understood what purpose of a book review is and how important it is in the studying process. Book reviews are often assigned to students studying at colleges and universities. If you are just learning how to write book reviews, make sure you have a look at the book review example so that you could understand what a book review looks like and how it is different from a book report. Moreover, keep in mind that writing a book review to your professor is different from writing a book review for your blog, so mind the book review format.

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