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    How to Write Book Reviews

    by Nishank Khanna
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    Reviewing a book may not be an easy task for all of us, especially for those of us who do not read often. Sometimes, however, the task is inevitable, whether as a school or work assignment, and it is hard to think of what to say. There are a few things a book review should cover, which are sometimes missed as people fall into the trap of writing a summary instead, and if you keep these things in mind, an effective, coherent book review is no daunting task.

    Firstly, read the book. Well, that wasn't completely a joke. Sometimes one tends to just skim over the pages, or even simply read the back cover and work from there, especially when one is pressed for time. Read the book properly once so you will know what you're talking about...unless you're a master of bull excrement, you won't be able to write a review that reads off impressively otherwise.

    So you've read the book. The next hardest step is getting started. How does one introduce a book? If you have knowledge of the genre, it is a good idea to start off by comparing it with works you've found similar. ' by Terry Goodkind is as compelling and as intricately woven as Tolkien...' , might be an example. This immediately gives the reader an idea of what standard the book is, at least in someone's opinion, and also lets him know what to expect if he reads the book. In the event that you don't know the genre, say, the case being that you've been asked to do a review on a book in a genre you don't usually read, start off with an interesting 'leading in' sentence about the book. 'Of burning passion, deceit and suspense, does not lack.' Is an example of this. Whatever the case is, give an overall feeling of the book in your opening paragraph. Stylistic modifications are perfectly fine, and do in fact add to the interest a reader would have in your review, but that is the standard objective your first paragraph should aim to achieve. Elaborate on your opening sentence...give reasons Elaborate on your opening sentence...give reasons why you say the book is like this, but do not worry if you can't say much. It's an introduction.

    Avoid re-telling the story, in the case of a novellistic, narrative work. A common mistake is to summarize the storyline immediately following the introduction. No. No. No. You are here to give your sentiments on the book, and to give a rough feel of it. Doing the above is like telling someone what happens in a movie. You'll ruin it for them...and ruin your review in the process. Focus on elements. Aspects. Major players in the novel that you yourself found interesting. Say a bit about a character...that's alright. Or give an overview of a fictional race of people in the book. Of a central Spice/Melange is in Frank Herbert's . Intrigue without exposing. Tease the reader with details. Work the way a movie trailer does. This should be your focus for up to 5 paragraphs. Anything more is usually too much tantalizing.

    For a non-fictional book, the idea is much the same. This time, comment on the ideas brought up in the book, and how it does it. Quote interesting examples, like ' delightfully illustrates the idea of with what he calls '. The concept is the same. Here, however, you are welcome to put in your own opinions. In fact, as philosophically-inclined books are usually meant for academic discussion, you should bring in your own views. Bring in one idea of the author's, then contrast it with your own. State how much you agree/disagree and why. Argue merits. Point out flaws. Apply the same technique of elementing the book. Break it down into points you want to cover. You don't actually have to comb it from tip to toe...just the issues you feel are important should suffice, as long as you have something to say about it.

    After the elementing, you have to tie it up neatly. Under no circumstance leave the review as done after the last element you cover. Make a coherent, graceful exit. It is always good to end off by saying how you felt about the book. 'Overall, I enjoyed immensely. Drake's characterization and plot-weaving are something that leaves you breathless.', is a good example. Otherwise, tie it up in your own way, either with an impact or a subtle comment. Never leave loose threads. The review should have a sense of finality.

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