How to write a review

I posted this in 2016, and am reposting it now, since a nice young man feels he is not qualified to review a book on depression, because he has no clinical training.

One of my rules is, I can ask anyone anything, as long as I accept a no. So, it is fine for him to decline. All the same, if he misunderstands what a review is and does, there must be many other people who will benefit from an explanation.

A review is a recommendation from a reader. It gives your assessment of the worth of the book for its intended purpose. An instruction manual should be an effective teaching device. An inspirational book should inspire. A novel should entertain. People sometimes tell me, “I have no qualifications for writing a review. Wouldn’t know how to go about it.” Others do write something, but put in all sorts of unnecessary and even counterproductive details, while leaving out essentials. The qualification for writing a review is that you have read the book. That makes you a reader, and a review is a reader’s opinion. So, you qualify.

What should go into a review?

  • Enough facts about the book to demonstrate that you have in fact read it.
  • How well it fits to your expectations, given its genre or type. For example, if it was a detective novel, did the detective become a real person? Were there cues that in retrospect should have enabled you to solve the crime? Did the ending surprise you?
  • Unexpected aspects that enhanced your reading; or ones that spoiled it. For example, an otherwise inspiring story may have descended into cruelty and savagery that put you off.
  • Was there some way that reading this book has improved your life, made you think differently, taught you skills, gave you new understanding?
  • Did the book have annoying aspects, such as poor spelling, grammar or punctuation, awkward sentences, two-dimensional, stereotyped characters, endless description, dialogue without a setting (word ping-pong)?
  • Above all, did you enjoy the experience? What were the best things that gave you enjoyment? What if anything got in the way of it?

What should not go into a review?

  • A review is not a synopsis. You should not have an account of “what happened,” merely enough snippets to show you’ve read it.
  • Spoilers. If there are elements in the book meant to surprise the reader, it is bad manners for you to disclose them.
  • Criticism that applies to all books of this type or genre. If you don’t like romances, then it’s unfair to be negative about a book because it is a romance.
  • Content irrelevant to the book, for example a plug inserted to promote your writing.

Some nonfiction books are for a specific readership. I once edited a wonderful book, which was basically about Buddhist Economics, Sufficiency Thinking: Thailand’s gift to an unsustainable world. Although I am not an economist, I understood it all, and when the book was published, I posted a 5-star review for it. Another person rated it at 1 star. He’d started, and got stuck in chapter 1: Harry Bergsteiner’s explanation of the model, which is complex. The right thing for this reader would have been to not post a review. He could have contacted Harry, who would certainly have helped him, and then he’d have benefited from the book.

In the case of my From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide, the target audience is anyone who can read in English. The subtitle makes it clear. The book is a failure if you need clinical training to assess it.

In today’s publishing world, writers depend on having their work reviewed. So, please, when you’ve enjoyed a book, post reviews in places where it will benefit the author. If that’s one of my books, I’ll happily print your review in Bobbing Around, and send you a list of other places. And if you bought the book, I’ll thank you with a free copy of one of my other titles.

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in Bob's Books, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to How to write a review

  1. MaanKind says:

    Good blog! I’m sharing it on a book page, where people are encouraged to write reviews.

    And I’d love to read and review! You have my contact details!
    trisa at icon dot co dot za
    Trisa Hugo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Trisa. I am delighted when people find my words useful. Will contact you privately, but you should not have your email address where a bot can harvest it. I’ll see if I can edit it out. If not, you may be able to.


  2. Pingback: Collecting Reviews – IM Light Publishing

  3. Dr Bob Rich says:

    I am delighted that you are linking our blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Dr Bob Rich,

    Thank you very much for your pointers with respect to writing satisfactory and fair reviews.

    Some of the important Manuscript Assessment Criteria contained in my page entitled “Manuscript” published at can also be used to write a review.

    Liked by 1 person

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