13 March 2011


Blogging as a Writing Challenge

Remember those new handbooks I featured in my first Bargain Books Bonanza? I was flipping through Write on Track in between tutorial sessions one day, glancing at the sections on writing different kinds of documents, when I found one on book reviews. Of course I paused to read it more carefully.

And I was delighted at how beautifully it breaks down the dreaded book review form . . .

Book reviews usually answer three questions:

What is the book about?

Why do I like this book?

What main idea did the author share?

These three questions totally explain why I haven't cared for most of the book reviews I've stumbled upon since I started blogging.

Some reviews are clear about what the reviewer thinks of the book (#2), but not what the book is about (#1) or what the author's main idea is (#3). Others make both the book's content (#1) and the reader's opinion (#2) very clear, but say nothing about the theme that holds everything together--not just all the elements of the text, but also all the reactions of the reader. And that can make their reviews very two-dimensional.

This section of Write on Track includes a collection chart with helpful guide questions for each of the three "pillars" of a book review. Here are the guide questions for the main idea:

What main idea did the author share?

Fiction: What did you learn in this book?

Non-fiction: Why do you think the author wrote this book? What did you learn?

When I started this semi-bookish blog a year and a half ago, I rebelled against what I perceived as a poor form by refusing to write anything that fit it. And now I see I was unfair to the form. It's a perfectly decent, if secondary genre, and I find I want to try my hand at it as well.

Image Source: Write on Track


Syrin said...

I always have a hard time finding the balance in my reviews. Talking about what the book/movie/show/video game is about can lead to recapping rather than reviewing. But of course I want to provide more than just an opinion piece as well.

Regardless, thanks for posting this, as it's a good reminder of what to strive for! :)

Enbrethiliel said...


A lot of "reviews" I come across are really just "recaps"--or mostly recaps with the review portion saved for last.

I tried drafting a book review based on the three "pillars" last night. I ended up putting all the content under #3. =P So the critique does work both ways: sometimes I get so carried away by the main idea that I forget to say what the book is about.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I can't stand reading most reviews, because it seems like so many bloggers lean so heavily on the "plot recap" rather than actually saying anything about the book.

I also don't generally read reviews until after I've read the book, so that probably has something to do with it.

Enbrethiliel said...


I will read reviews beforehand if I'm unsure about whether or not to buy a book--but I'm very rarely unsure. Like you, I prefer reading what other people think after I know what I think. But if what they've got is a plot recap and a few lines to say, "It was so cool! Go out and buy it now!!!" (or an equivalent), then there's no point in a conversation, is there? =P