On Writing Book Reviews

I have been wondering recently about how other bloggers approach the writing of a book review. My strategy varies – sometimes I take notes while I’m reading (this is usually quite obvious in the style as these reviews feature lots of quotes), other times I just sit down and write the review, without having taken many notes. I have several reviews, half-written, awaiting quotes or references to events in the novel and a pile of books that I haven’t written reviews for yet. I’m not sure how best to approach this problem.

For recent reads, I’m planning to do a quick summing up of my thoughts on the books – I hate having un-reviewed books piling up and the longer they wait, the less likely I am to write them. I think I’m actually worse with novellas, they’re short so I always think ‘I’ll definitely remember where that sentence I really liked was’. This rarely happens. I think I need to be a note-taker, a page-referencer. I don’t generally write in the margins, and prefer to write notes on paper, although of late my 2 and a half hour round trip to work has resulted in many mini book reviews saved in Notes. This has been working well for me recently, as well as spending my lunch hour writing. It’s nice to know that I always have some dedicated time during the day to spend working on this blog. A bit of structure works for me, it seems.

If you are a blogger, how do you approach your reviews? Are there some books which you don’t write about, and just savour the book while you’re reading it? Or do you review everything, keeping meticulous notes, references to passages you like? I am intrigued, and would love to find out a little bit more about others’ approach to book blogging.

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8 Comments

Filed under Literary musings

8 responses to “On Writing Book Reviews

  1. Most of the books I read are ebooks, and so I use the “notes” function on my Kindle to keep track of thoughts as I go along (just a few words to jog my memory when I’m ready to write the review). There are many books I read for fun and don’t review. I only want to write reviews when I have something to say about the book.

    • That’s an interesting point – sometimes you just get books that you just don’t have much to say about. For me, they are usually the ones that weren’t really my thing. I also find that notes are key when I’m reading books for review – my memory is not sufficient on its own and needs a wee jolt to get it going again!

  2. I tend use similar frame work on mine start with writer then describe the book and then feelings on book maybe connection to other books films or anything and usual two quotes from book usually from parts I ve mentioned fairly simple I know but time is against me and this way takes an hour or so to do all the best stu

    • I suppose I follow a frame work too, I’ve just never really sat down and worked it out before. Mine sounds similar to yours with a few additions – where/when/how I found the book, a short description of it, then some of my own thoughts or feelings on it, what it reminds me of etc… It usually takes me a while to write a review, closer to an hour and a half/two – and then once I’m done and have published it I end up changing things. Whether it’s tweaking the layout, adding links, correcting some mistake I hadn’t noticed…I’m never happy with them!

  3. booksnyc

    I generally review everything I read but my reviews vary between being more purely just my reaction to the book to a more objective review (in which I usually include quotes). I usually annotate pages that have a line I want to consider using in the review and then thumb through those as I prep the review. Not very consistent, I am afraid . . . .

    • I totally understand – I’m pretty inconsistent too! I think I have been going through phases recently, for example there’ll be three books in a row that I’ll do reviews on and I feel like I’m keeping on top of them, then I’ll have a week where I don’t have time and those book reviews end up getting left behind! In uni I quite happily wrote all over my books, it made me feel that I would be able to look back at a later date and understand it all again. Now, I rarely write in my books, and usually only in pencil. I do however rather like finding other people’s notes in second-hand books.

  4. I don’t make notes while I am reading – though if I spot something I want to refer to later (or think I may want to refer to) or quote – I stick a little post it thing in. I generally sit down to it fairly soon after finishing a book. Sometimes within an hour or so – other times it might be nearer 24 hours. That way it is still fresh in my mind – as is my response.There have been books when I have deliberately left it a few hours to get my thoughts in gear. However I wouldn’t like to leave it longer than a day – I find I do a better job while it’s fairly fresh. I tend to open a word document and just start. That way I can go back and forth – sometimes starting int he middle and working back, I just start writing about things as they occur – and somehow things sort of come together. I’m not saying this is the best way to do it – I’m sure it’s not. I prefer to write and edit in word and then c& p into wordpress. I only write straight into wordpress when I am away from home and working on my tablet – and my posts are then generally shorter.

    • Thanks for that! I am always trying to think of better ways to approach my review-writing. It’s amazing how quickly some details of a book can fade away even within a few days of having finished them. I sometimes leave reviews up to a month after – only if I have notes that I took at the time of reading. It can be quite nice to do that sometimes, it brings the book flooding back to me and I find myself re-visiting passages that I loved. There are always some books that I find difficult to review and so they get left behind, perhaps undeservedly…

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