A Simple Way to Write an Effective Book Review

When you read a book you value, the best thing you can do to support the author and publisher is to write a review. The interconnected digital conversation that swirls around us daily is the modern equivalent of village talk around the well or in the marketplace. A good word passed from one villager to another will always be the most effective way to share news. A review is that good word! When you increase the digital conversation about a book, you increase the likelihood that more books like that can be published.

It’s not hard!

Any villager can write a review. If you read and speak a known language and can type (even with your thumbs), you have all the credentials you need. Your opinion is interesting and worth sharing. Books are made for people. Are you a person? Then the author and publisher want to know what you thought of the book and how it added value (or didn’t!) to your life.

Not long ago, publishers sought established bloggers when they wanted a book review. If you didn’t have a big platform, you probably wouldn’t find yourself receiving complimentary copies and attributed reviews. But social media has changed the way books, and products of every kind, are shared. Your Facebook wall, your Instagram account, your Pinterest board, your Tweets – these are the new “platform,” and if you’re reading this post, you probably have one. Blogs are still good. But they are no longer the only way to share your views about what you’re reading with the author, the publisher, and other readers.

Three points and a picture

Many people will read the preceding paragraph and say, “Yes, that’s lovely, but what on earth will I say?” Do you stare at the blank screen and suddenly struggle to organize all those thoughts you had while you were reading? Do you wonder if the review is long enough, or too long, or just weird?

Fear not. There’s an easy technique we suggest to our invited reviewers, and it works for everyone. Are you ready? Here it is.

Make three points and post a picture.

There’s no magic word count you have to achieve. There’s nothing fancy you have to do. Just make three points and if the platform allows you to post a picture, post one. There’s a simple rubric for picking your three points. Write one or more sentences for each of these three, and presto! You have a solid review.

Topic, Construction, Application

What are the three points, the three topics you can hit in every review you write? Topic, Construction, Application. What’s the book about, how well is it written, and did it apply to your life? Answer those three questions, and you’ve got a substantial and helpful review for any type of book.

  1. Topic. Start with the easy point. What was the book about? Why did you want to read a book about that topic? Example: “A Child’s Guide to Confession explains to children what confession is, why we do it, and how to prepare for it. I bought this book because my twins are ready to learn about confession, and I wanted help explaining it to them.”
  2. Construction. When you talk about a book, construction means two things: the quality of the writing and (especially for picture books and specialty books) the quality of the book itself. The book’s topic might be the most important topic in the world, but if the book is poorly written or the illustrations are ugly, it will fail to achieve it’s purpose. Did you think the book was well written? What did you like/dislike about the writing, or the way the author built an argument or made points? If there were pictures, what did you think of them? Example: “A Child’s Guide to Confession is great because it is kid-friendly, with simple concepts for little ones and some added material for older kids. I loved the pictures because they gave the book a gentle, loving feeling. The binding was really sturdy. It will survive my twins.”
  3. Application. Perhaps the most important thing about any book is whether it made a positive contribution to your life. Did it teach you? Entertain you? Support you on your journey? How did it make a difference in your life? Our world and the hours of our days are crowded, often stressful. We make difficult choices about how to spend our time and what we can fit into our lives. You want to finish a book feeling that it was worth the time spent reading it. So, for your third point, talk about how it applied to your life. Why was it helpful/unhelpful? Example: “I found this book really encouraging. It helped me talk about a life-changing sacrament with my children, and it helped them learn about confession at their own speed. This was a problem-solver for us.”

We want to hear from you!

You may have noticed a plethora of gold stars showing up in the Ancient Faith Store. Those sparkly markers are ratings left by readers like you, using the new review system that now runs on our website. Hundreds of reviews have already come in since the system launched, and we can’t wait to read more of them! If you have a book or product from Ancient Faith, take a minute and post a review in our store. It’s simple! Go to the product page, scroll down below the blurb, and you’ll see stars, buttons, and everything you need to post your views.

Ancient Faith Store product review


About Melinda Johnson

Melinda Johnson is an Orthodox Christian, wife, mama, writer, and the author of Letters to Saint Lydia (AFP 2010) and the Sam and Saucer books (AFP), among others. Melinda has a Master’s in English Literature because she loved taking literature classes so much she couldn’t stop doing it. When she is not seeing “heaven in a wildflower,” Melinda enjoys writing for children, walking and talking, and baking bread.

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