How to write a fantastic a book review

a glass of iced coffee next to an open book and open notebook

Years ago I had joined The OnlineBookClub to read and write book reviews. It seemed like easy cash for an avid reader as myself. But…I never followed through. Until this week.

As a reviewer you have options to read as yet unpublished books and give feedback. Any agency has specific requirements to be met. So this week I seriously began this journey. I learned that you have to earn a certain level before you can even begin reviewing. In fact there is a level and a sub level you must reach. Then, as you rise up you have more choice in what you review. Today I finally reached a Reviewer Score of 10 Level 0. I therefore had two review choices, neither of which struck me as awesome, but one seemed like it might be tolerably interesting and I had an idea for a good slant.

I downloaded my free book, which required several steps, but with internet was not difficult. I then registered that I had indeed downloaded the file which moved me to the next step telling me I had 20 days to finish reading the book. Not an issue for me, I think. Then, in a slightly reverse order of events, I read through the requirements of what I need to note while reading and what specifically I need to respond to in my review.

Include this:

  • Overall x of 4 star rating and why
  • Title and author included in review (duh!)
  • Something I really liked and something I didn’t like.
  • Examples of profanity or graphic language including the specific location
  • Also note if the language is borderline.
  • Examples of up to the first ten typos and locations.
  • And a brief summary of the book (not more than 1/2 the review)

All these requirements are easy enough although I hadn’t considered the need to record the language for profanity or graphic violence levels, but I understand why. So I begin reading and open a doc to begin taking notes. Suddenly, I realize that this book is comprised of hundreds of short stories. Just how do you summarize this so the author and publisher believe you actually read the book? I cannot possibly summarize every story without the review being approximately 1/4 the length of the whole book?!?

Begin reading, take notes…

So I conclude I have to summarize by comparing different sections of the book (as it is broken up) and talk about the chronology of characters, then a few specific examples throughout.

The way to prove to the editors and authors is that I find specific examples and locations of typos or confusing bits along with outstanding pieces. Otherwise, I just don’t know.

School day book reports

While I’m reading and taking notes I feel like a student again. Remember those boring book reports we used to write? I try really hard to avoid those for my students. My next classroom will have a challenge of a menu board of activities, I think. The problem with this is how to make it “fair” and achievable to all when there is such a variety of difficulty and length of books as well as speed in the readers…Suggestions willingly accepted!

My favorite “book report” I assigned this past year was Bloom Balls (check my Pinterest teaching board for directions). The students had no idea how much writing and analysis they were actually doing!

I encourage any avid reader to look into becoming a reviewer. There are lots of book clubs available, and eventually you might be appealing to the publishers.

What has your favorite book been to this point, either as a child or adult?


Edit: A year later I hardly ever write reviews for the Online Book Club anymore. After just a few months with them I started receiving requests from authors and publishers. Sometimes I do a review in exchange for the free book, sometimes it is for a free book and some cash. I prefer these reviews as there are not the rules that OBC enforces, and I can write about whatever aspects I wish without a formula to follow. I still recommend OBC as a place to start, but feel free to move on just as soon as you can. You will be happier.


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