Book reviews are a special form of academic writing. They have well-known structures with familiar components. Here, James Hartley of the School of Psychology, Keele University, UK, consults with academics on writing the perfect book review and presents a potential checklist for book reviewers.
When writing book reviews colleagues use a variety of phrases that carry hidden meanings. Consider, "This is a surprising book" or "This is a useful book for the library". What these phrases really mean are, "This book is better than I expected" and "This book is not worth buying for your personal use".
When we are familiar with the format and the hidden meanings of sentences we know that we are reading a particular text genre – in this case a book review. Essentially we can always tell we are reading a book review from the language and the structure that it employs. Writers of book reviews typically progress through four stages, as follows:
When we examine book reviews we find that most, if not all of these components are present, even if they are not always given in the order listed. Some reviewers, for example, like to start with items from Stage 4 – evaluation – then move to Stages 1-3, and finally conclude by justifying their original opening evaluation.