Today I was asked: “How do I write a book review?”
Here’s a quick trip about what I found:
My first stop was at Amazon. With each book is a snippet of a responses from readers/buyers/sellers. The purpose of the reviews are simple – take a few seconds to write a sharply worded sentence or two and recommend the book for sale. In a few minutes and swift clicking I can read hundreds of reviews. The reviews are brief, many amounting to glowing praise or stark rebuffs. Some attention is made by review writers to carefully craft sentences, few reviews amount to more than a sternly worded paragraph. The reviews are focused on the text and personal preference, but with so many sweeping generalizations there was rarely a focus at all. Little is learned about the reviewer. These “pesky” reviews are not what we need to mimic.
My second stop was the more personally focused site, One Minute Reviews. The reviews here are written by one reviewer. The reviews range in length, depth. Some a few sentences to recommend a sale, others quite elaborately synthesize a variety of information. The summum bonum of the experience is to grow in an understanding of the reviewer. I like this approach to the book review better. However, I could not relate to the bulk of the experiences of the reviewer, and shared few if any common interests. The focus was too narrow and I lost interest in the site.
Quality Book Reviews was just too busy. Too many links, too many distractions, too many book reviews. It would take a while to find a reviewer I liked as the “finding” would be left to chance. Something this big is more than I need. Searching for author, title, reviewer is useful, but I need a smaller focus, a more modest audience, a warmer welcoming.
Real Reader Reviews looked the most familiar to what I’d expect for beginning reviewers. But again, the focus was amiss. After a few clicks, it felt like I was reading the same review over and over again, with no real exposure to the personality of the reviewer.
The Teen Book Review is by far the best fit in my hastily assembled survey. I spent so much time reading and marveling, that I have run out of time to write much here. The focus was clear. The text easy to read. The text linked/bolded. There were no distractions in the sidebars. The post layouts were simple and varied. The variety of posts reflected the author’s identity. The personality of the reviewer beams through: “Gone is a huge book, over 550 pages, but the time passed so quickly while I was reading it, and I just couldn’t put it down! Last night, taking a break from my history homework, I picked it up, intending to read a chapter or two and then get my brain back on track. Instead, I read two hundred pages. That’s how absolutely engrossing this book is!”
Have a long close look at Teen Book Review. These are reviews we should mimic.