What Makes a Good Review?

what makes a good review

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what makes a book review a good book review. It began when we discussed this topic in my modern literature class, and I felt like I didn’t really agree with the strict rules most people thought a review should adhere to.

And then there was the impromptu book blogger chat that happened on Twitter this week (and which I totally missed – darn those time zones). I read this really helpful recap post by Emily from Emily’s Reading Room to catch up on what was said during the chat, and she had included one of her own tweets:

This got me thinking even more. Is the traditional “book review” really dead? Or have our ideas about what makes a good and entertaining book review simply changed? I feel this whole book review dilemma is definitely something worth exploring.

The book reviews we talked about in my literature class were the more traditional book reviews you encounter in newspapers and what not. During our discussion it became clear that most people thought a book review should include a short summary of the book (without any spoilers) as well as some context – who is the author, have they written other stuff as well, what are some other important books that have appeared in this genre, that kind of thing. Then follows the actual review, which should be a balanced piece that includes aspects (themes, plot, characters, style etc.) you liked and aspects you didn’t like and, most importantly, why. You should end with a summary of the good and/or bad points and then conclude whether or not the book is worth reading.

Pretty strict rules, I’d say. However, the book blogging community seems to have different views on all this. Mostly, I think the big difference is that we aim to be much more personal in our reviews than is customary in “traditional” reviews. We write our reviews to present our ideas about the book and tell our readers about our feelings and thoughts. At least, that’s how I feel when I look around this community. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have meaningful contributions or discussions, because we do. We just take a different approach, and I love that about the book blogging community!

I do recognise Emily’s feeling that the book review as we know it might be “dead” though. I love writing book reviews, but I skip reading most of the book reviews that appear in my Bloglovin feed, except when the title sounds interesting or if it’s a book I especially want to know other people’s thoughts about. And this book blogger chat has made clear to me that I’m definitely not the only one! Most of us seem to enjoy reading discussion posts or other book related posts more than we do book reviews, even our own non-traditional ones.

On the one hand, that makes me kind of sad, since, like I said, I love writing reviews. However, it also encourages us to be more creative, which is always a good thing, I’d say. Emily states that we need to innovate, and I think she might be right, but I also think book reviews are an important part of our community and I’d be sad to see them disappear. I will keep on writing book reviews, but I do think I will try to think of a way to make them a bit different. How? I have no clue as of yet.

What do you think makes a good review? Is the book review on its way out in the book blogging world? What kind of posts do you most enjoy reading? I’d love to hear your views, so let me know in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Review?

  1. I think its sad that we don’t read as many reviews as we might write. I still read a lot of reviews, especially of book s I have read or want to read. I like to read discussion posts, though I haven’t written any of my own yet. I will be interested in how you write your reviews to be a bit different, maybe thats what we need to make people keep reading them.
    Amanda.

    • I think it’s quite sad too! This blog would be really quite empty without any book reviews, and I love to write them, but I’m usually more interested in reading discussion posts than reviews myself. They’re a lot harder to come up with though, in my opinion. I will keep on writing reviews, and I’ll try to read more of them. However, I’m just not very inclined to go read a review of a book I either have never heard about or am just not interested in… Sad, but true. I’m going to think about how to change my reviews, but for now I’ll just keep them like they are, I think!
      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I generally only look at book reviews on the blogosphere for books that I have already read. If it’s something that I’m planning to read, I don’t want to go into it with any prior emotions attached to it from other reviewers. If I’m uncertain whether or not to read a book, however, I’ll often look at how many stars it’s gotten on Amazon. The thing I like about this book blogging community is that it’s often a lot more emotional than something that might be published in the NYT. I like seeing other bloggers “fangirling” over books that they particularly enjoyed. At the same time, I often don’t have the patience to read through long reviews, so I appreciate when bloggers can really get to the point quickly. This is a great post–really thought provoking.

    • Sounds like common sense. 🙂 I do sometimes read reviews of books I still want to read, but it does influence me sometimes, and that’s not always a good thing. That’s exactly what I love about it too! It makes me so happy to see someone go absolutely nuts about a book they loved, and you just don’t really get that with the “traditional” reviews. I’m the same, though, I often lack the patience to read the entire thing, except if it’s about a book I have strong feelings about myself. I tried making my reviews shorter myself, but I always find it difficult to take stuff out… I think I might need to work on that! Thank you very much. 🙂

  3. I usually read book reviews after I have read the book on Goodreads, I occasionally read Amazon reviews as well but not often. Sometimes after I have read a book I’m so overwhelmed by its overall effect on me my mind is blank and reading other people’s reviews gets me to put the book into perspective. When reading other reviews I am more interested in picking out what a reviewer felt about a book as well as how they interpret the story (without spoilers-which can be hard especially when writing summaries for mysteries and psychological thrillers with a twist) and although I don’t write critical reviews myself (I hate the thought of someone not reading a book because of me) I do find it interesting to read what didn’t work for others in a book I loved. I love reading books and with that in mind try to keep my own reviews succinct to not take up too much of anybody else’s time.

    • I’ve got the same thing! It helps me a lot too to read other people’s thoughts on the book I’ve just read, although I wonder if that might actually sometimes change my views. That’s an interesting point of view as well, keeping it short to not take up too much time. Hadn’t even thought about that! I usually just think about the average person’s attention span, haha. Lots to think about here, thanks for your comment!

  4. Awesome post! 🙂 I typically skim book reviews, usually to ensure I don’t read any spoilers or find out TOO much about the book. I love seeing the ratings bloggers give books more than anything, especially if I’m interested in the books being reviewed already. Like you, I enjoy writing reviews! I mostly write them for ARCs or review requests, but also for books I have strong opinions about! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and happy reading! 🙂

    • Thank you, Maggie! 🙂 Yes, reading a spoiler can spoil so much (hence the name, lol), so I’m always a bit wary of that as well, although most bloggers know how to avoid them. I love seeing other bloggers’ custom rating systems as well, which is why I introduced my own a while back. It’s such a little thing, but it does definitely add something to the review. Thanks again for your lovely comment!

  5. Pingback: Monthly Recap – October | Books Baking and Blogging

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