I’m not going to elaborate on the names of site/blogs or reviewers, as that would only advertise them. However, we should not be intimidated by the learned, lengthy essays that appear in the Times Literary Supplement or The New York Review of Books. Moreover, if, by chance, we are interested in perusing such an article online, we sometimes find we can begin it but will have to subscribe to continue.
Not everyone, however, wants to spend their precious time laboring over a scholarly piece which is intended mainly to demonstrate the reviewer’s erudition. A catchy, concise review can do the job equally well. But, we might ask, what job? What is the object of a review?
Whether you’re a professional reviewer or a lay person like me, there are a few rough rules to follow when writing a review: state the purpose of the book (if it has one), outline its plot (if it has one), analyze its structure and style, and round it off with some concluding remarks. Certainly, the idea is not to sell the book but to appraise it.
And basically, that’s all we need do. Just stick to those basic guidelines and keep it clear and concise. I also try to add a personal note so that it doesn’t sound too dry. So, is writing a review such a big deal? Not really.
To quote Mark Flanagan, in “How to Write a Book Review”:
Remember, the review is a tool for your readers, not a showcase for the breadth of your literary acumen. Consider your audience and go easy on the jargon. I try to approach each review as a form of personal essay that illuminates my response and relationship to the work being reviewed. This affords me a measure of creativity that makes the book review a lot more fun to write… and to read.