book review outline

book review outline

The Power of Persuasion: A Guide to Writing Effective Book Reviews

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1. Introduction

The goal of our site is to better the mass of book reviews on the internet. Reviews are a multi-million dollar industry, and book publishing is one of the largest entertainment industries in the entire world. It is our belief that many who write reviews do not understand the impact their words can have on an author or a work. It is also our belief that a fewer number of those know the full literary potential of a book review. By analyzing the efforts of those writing for Amazon and The New York Times Book Review, we can decipher what works best and why. Using this, we can better any review, whether it be for personal or financial gain. By doing what we consider to be the best book review writing possible, we hope to set a new standard that others will strive to mimic.

There are countless book review based websites offering what they consider to be the best in the way of book review writing. Many sites are devoted to this very art form, and it would be unreasonable to think that we could cover them all in just one short chapter. Therefore, we are going to be focusing our attention on the two largest and most in-depth: Amazon and the New York Times Book Review. They are well known and highly regarded in the literary world. Each tackles the task of book reviewing in a different manner and both offer valuable insight to those wishing to better their writing.

2. Analyzing the Book

A book analysis is a reflective process and the final product demonstrates your knowledge of the work. As with any analysis, this requires you to break the subject down into its component parts. Examining the different elements of a piece of literature is not an end in itself, but rather a process to help you better understand and appreciate the work of literature as a whole. For instance, an analysis of a poem might deal with the different types of images and metaphors in the poem, or with the relationship between the form and content of the work. Meanwhile, an analysis of a fiction might deal with the plot, character, setting, and theme. An analysis of a non-fiction work might focus more on the support the work provides and the method used to convey the author’s message. This is always the case. For instance, an analysis of poetry might deal with the different types of images or with the relationship between the form and content of the work, while an analysis of fiction might deal with the plot, character, setting, and theme. An analysis of a non-fiction work might focus more on the support the work provides and the method used to convey the author’s message. This study of the elements of literature is also true for reviews.

3. Crafting a Compelling Review

Create a catchy closer. The closing should review the main premises of the essay, and reiterate the thesis. This is your last chance to reinforce your opinion, and it must be memorable. A good closer can transform people who are otherwise opposed to your opinion, it is your last opportunity to stick a favorable opinion in their minds.

Refute any counter arguments. This can be done anywhere in the crafting of the review, but is most effective when done immediately after stating a controversial opinion. This is the kill two birds with one stone method. Not only do you reinforce your opinion with the probable inferiority of the counter argument, you also help to convert your opposition by inferring that people who hold that counter argument are of inferior knowledge, otherwise they would not hold it.

Support your conclusions and opinions with solid evidence and examples from the book you are reviewing. This is where your typical writing skills will come into play. You must be able to convince your readers with examples from your book that your viewpoint is the correct one, and you must do it with concise and effective prose. This is the Power of Persuasion at its essence. Be sure to quote from the book, and if possible, use a quote to which you can later refute to show the strength of your opinion.

Divide the essay into large sections. Be sure that each section has multiple paragraphs. This will optimize the process of convincing the reader to your opinion. Use good topic sentences to convey the subject and purpose of the section.

Anticipate and address the opposition. This is a very effective method – if it is a good review, then there will be a point where the author tries to convince the opposition. GetValueNow is an example of a good review. While the objective of a review is to convince somebody over a product, it serves as a good contemporary example and anticipates opposition: “It’s pro. Plain and simple. That’s what GetValueNow delivers in a time when developed software seems to be handicapped by an obsession with frugality…It could be a great product, no it IS a great product, IB useless. How did you get it, you stole it, plain and simple.” This excerpt from the review of GetValueNow’s IB Documentor is very clearly a persuasive essay. The author’s statement that “It’s pro” is a clear-cut opinion which he wishes to promote. The irony in the next sentence serves to reinforce his opinion by calling all other similar products “developed software…handicapped by an obsession with frugality.” The author quite clearly does not consider those versions to be good. This is a solid, and deliberate opinion followed by the statement of what the product reviewed is.

Generate a thesis statement.

Create an opening statement.

4. Engaging the Reader

Discussing the book’s characters, setting, and plot helps prepare readers to experience the book themselves. Imagine discussing a book’s setting and having the reader assume you did not enjoy the book because the setting was in a dull, lifeless town. Also, imagine the confusion if you were to say that a certain character in the book reminded you of a neighbor and then not go on to say if that was a positive or negative reminder. While this is engaging to a certain extent, discussion alone of these aspects will not fully engage a reader. What will engage a reader is your personal analysis of these elements and your commentary on how these elements affected your experience with the book, whether or not you believe what the author produced was effective. An effective technique when engaging the reader in this type of discussion is by asking rhetorical questions. When you ask the reader a question and then answer the question in a following sentence, you are setting them up to agree or disagree with your answer, which is an effective way to persuade them to read the book and then read your review of the book. The best thing you can do when engaging the reader with your analysis is comparing what the author produced with something that the reader is very familiar with, as I did in the example discussing a character. This is because people are drawn to what is familiar to them, so if you are able to persuade a reader to believe that what the author produced was effective, the reader will likely be more interested in experiencing that thing for themselves.

5. Conclusion

At first glance, writing a review of a book might seem boring compared to a work of creative fiction. But, the writers do an excellent job of proving otherwise. By using multiple genre prompts and relatively spoiler-free, a good assignment helps students to analyze, summarize and review a book; providing a useful skill for future analysis work. Additionally, an author bio assignment can be very engrossing, especially if the teacher allows students to dress up as their author, or has a ‘tea party’ where each student speaks about their author and book in first person. Finally, a dialogue assignment takes an interesting twist by having students write dialogue the characters would say in an interview about the book. This challenges the students to really grasp their book at a character level. All of these assignments can be used in a cumulative fashion to create a final review of the book. By not simply telling students to go off and review the book on their own, these assignments help students to understand and analyze the book at different levels in order to construct a quality review. The assignments are flexible and can be modified for different genres and difficulties of books. Overall, a review assignment has potential to be very stimulating for students and can promote some useful skills. Many different teachers have a wide variety of subjects that they can teach through book reviews. For example, by differentiating the type of book each student can review, a teacher of history can have students review a historical fiction book that relates to the curriculum. A science teacher can assign a review of a nonfiction book about a certain topic. The possibilities are abundant for book reviews that can cover any subject and/or grade level. Given that they are relatively easy to assign and modify, a book review is a versatile tool that can be used to promote various skills related to reading and analysis. It’s a good alternative to a test and it doesn’t take long to argue that it is more fun.

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