How to Write a Three Paragraph Book Review

by Shannon Leigh O'Neil

A book review is a description and critical appraisal of a book's content. It is a type of essay. Since book reviews are essentially personal opinions reflecting the views of the reviewer, there is no right or wrong way to compose a book review. A review can be short or long, depending on its purpose. If you are restricted to three paragraphs, structure the review as a short essay consisting of an introduction, a supporting paragraph and a conclusion.

Prepare a brief outline for your book review before you begin writing. Although no standard method exists for writing a review, you will need to think critically about the work under consideration. Develop an argument about the book you are discussing. Did you like the book? Why or why not? Outline the points you will make to support your argument. Constructing an outline will help you write a well-organized and persuasive review.

Write an introductory paragraph presenting the basics of the review. Give essential information about the book, such as title, author and date of publication. Briefly discuss the author’s intent or purpose. Tell your readers about the genre of the book and identify the intended audience. Set up your argument about the book’s quality or significance. By this point, your reader should know whether your review will be positive or negative.

Write a supporting paragraph reinforcing your opinion of the book. Provide some details and examples. State the book’s theme and the author’s thesis. The theme is the general subject matter, whereas the thesis is the author’s perspective on the subject. Your argument can focus on how well the author approached the theme or thesis. You also could judge the book’s relevance, factual accuracy, objectivity, significance and quality of research. Examine specific points the author makes in the book you agree or disagree with and state reasons why.

Write a concluding paragraph summarizing your argument. Briefly sum up, analyze, and remark on the book’s content. Present your overall conclusions. You might discuss how the book affected you or changed your thinking. Talk about the author's conclusions and whether they were convincing. Quote material from the book to illustrate your points. You could end the review by telling readers why you would or would not recommend the book. If your argument has been presented well, the conclusion ought to flow naturally. It can be a closing summary or simply a restatement of your opinions.

Revise your book review. Remove any unneeded information. If your book review will be printed, keep in mind that journals often have word count limits because of the cost of printing, so removing unnecessary detail will be appreciated. Look for grammatical and spelling errors and fix them. Finally, check your references and make sure that they are cited in the journal's or the course's preferred style.

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