True enough, he was able to come up with interesting theories. His interpretation painted a picture of the economic struggle of American farmers and industrial workers (as represented by the Scarecrow and Tin Man, respectively) at the turn of the 20th century. Littlefield proceeds to explain how the rapid changes the Industrial Revolution brought led to consequent social repercussions in an America that was growing and expanding; but not necessarily the type of growth that was ideal and inclusive. Certain sectors (e.g., the farmers of Kansas and other Midwest states) felt excluded or did not feel their plight was recognized by the government. It is exactly this type of intensive examination of literary work that a book review can produce.   

50+ SAMPLE Book Reviews

What Is a Book Review?

A book review is a piece of writing that evaluates and scrutinizes the different parts of a book; and aims to provide a subjective but stimulating critique of a piece of literature. The goal of a book review is to unpack the story and uncover the message of a book, in order to justify an approval or disapproval. 

According to an online article on Mother Jones, a book endorsed by a popular public figure, or recommended by famous celebrities such as Oprah and her famous book club, does not always translate to better book sales. This runs contrary to public perception that famous people like Oprah Winfrey can make a book an instant best seller. In some cases, an endorsement by the famous host’s book club may affect an author or book’s publicity and sales, but it is not always a guarantee of success.     

Parts Of a Book Review

A book review may be short or long. For middle school and college undergrads, a book report or review could be an assignment for an English class. Yet for the bookworm, a book review can be a deeply personal piece of writing. Depending on how intense you plan to study the text and content, there are key parts that should be covered in a book review. Other secondary parts can either be retained or left out.

Introduction: Just like any essay, your book review should start with an introduction. Mention the title and give a brief background or history of the author. You could choose to connect the book to a related concept, a trending topic, or current event. Your introduction can be creative as you want it to be. Summary: Give a short summary of the book. It should be no more than a couple of paragraphs. What was it all about? You should be able to give a reader a vague idea of the story without going too much into detail. A summary will lay the foundation for your discussion as you probe deeper into the lessons and message of the book. Main Plot and Central Areas Of Conflict: This part is dedicated to exploring the central themes of the book and major plotlines. You can introduce the book’s primary and supporting characters in this section. Discuss the main protagonist, the antagonist, and the different characters. Examine their personal qualities and core values. How are they similar or different? How do their lives weave together within the storylines? You can pick out the central conflict in the story and dissect the problem one piece at a time: how it started, the turning point or climax, and the resolution. Personal Reflections and Opinions: Pick out the part that was most interesting to you and give an in-depth analysis of it. Maybe one chapter particularly struck you because the events reminded you of something that played out or is playing out in your own life. Use the text of the story then apply it in the context of your life and own experiences. A book review is a subjective piece and thus, you are afforded the luxury to express your opinions and reflect on the book’s message and lessons as it pertains to you. Strengths: Even if a book review is mostly a subjective piece, it’s still good to give credit where it is due. You can choose to discuss the high points of the story. What was worth highlighting in the book? What were some of the positive aspects that stood out for you? Maybe the author’s writing style was commendable. Or maybe she was skillful in creating an urgency that made it hard for you to put the book down. Perhaps there were a couple of characters that stood out in your mind. Discuss and give examples about what made them interesting. Weaknesses: To have a multi-faceted book review, you can also dissect the weak parts or negative aspects of the book. Explain how these parts could have been improved. Maybe the character development of some secondary characters was insufficient; or the main protagonist lacked depth and seemed one-dimensional. Perhaps several chapters were dragging and did little to contribute to the overall purpose of the story. You can criticize the author’s language, too. Was the story difficult to understand because it was littered with unnecessary words and pretentious speech? Conclusion: Summarize all your key ideas and explicitly state if the book met your standards or not. Your conclusion can be a direct response to the thoughts you opened with in your introduction. Keep it concise and direct. Recommendations: The point of a book review is to grade it, after all. How would you rate the book? Would you recommend it to someone else? Many websites often assign rankings or give star ratings; with the highest being five stars.

Areas to Critique In a Book Review 

If you don’t know how to begin criticizing a book, there are several areas you can choose to focus on. The following are typical areas where you can either expand or limit your scope of review

Content: Aside from the plot, you can also criticize the chapter titles, chapter summaries, and the main characters. Were the characters complex and interesting? Or were some of them dull and bland? Was there sufficient character development and build up? Were the backstories believable and relatable to audiences? Writing Style: Another area you can focus on is the author’s writing style. Was the author’s tone and voice effective in conveying the story and message of the book? If you have read the writer’s works in the past, how does it compare to the current book? Is there a consistency in his or her style? You can justify whether or not it measures up in comparison to previous works.Themes: Another common area you can weigh on are the themes presented in the book. Discuss the common and central themes of the book, both the obvious and underlying. It’s your duty to uncover these subtle themes and uncover the deeper meaning and intention of the author. What was the writer trying to convey with his or her main characters? The English novelist, Jane Austen is famous for her themes of not just romance and complicated women; but the critique of the social norms of her time. Her stories are different but carry similar, recurring themes and it shows in her work. Format: You may also scrutinize the format of the novel. Perhaps the content was stimulating and commendable yet the organization and presentation was not as well executed. Discuss the format of the book and argue if there was clarity, cohesion, and organization. Evaluate the consistency, the thought flow, and the ease of reading the book. Relevance: Discuss the significance of the book when you apply it in the current context. Maybe the message speaks volumes and is highly applicable in real world affairs. What lessons can be taken from the book and how do these shape the reader’s thinking?

How to Write a Book Review

While keeping in mind the important areas to critique, you can now begin organizing your book review into one coherent and unified commentary. Once you have decided on what book to review, follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way!  

Step 1: Introduction 

How you frame your introduction will entirely depend on you. There are a number of possible ways to start your book review. You can begin by asking or theorizing what the author’s purpose was in writing the book. What were the conditions surrounding him or her when the story was written? What do you think the writer’s intention was for his or her audience? You could provide a brief background into the author’s life and works; just to give the reader enough context. The introduction should set the stage, tone, and framework for your review. 

Step 2: Summarize the Content Of the Book

Your main ideas should center on the content of the book and your commentary. Provide a condensed story of the book. Pick out the key events and identify the main characters. You should be able to tackle the major plots and turning points of the book.   

Step 3: Analyze and Critique 

Once you have established the central events of the book, you can start interpreting the story and analyzing its meaning. It helps to prepare an outline of the ideas you want to focus on, prior to writing your review. Choose one or a combination of the several areas of critique mentioned above. Make sure to establish your main concepts and substantiate them with sufficient supporting ideas.     

Step 4: Conclude and Recommend 

End your review by summarizing your key points; and by judging whether it was a good book overall, or was lacking in many ways and could have been better. You can also tie up any loose ends in your introduction and give them closure in your last few paragraphs. Lastly, state your approval or disapproval by rating the book. Was the read worth five stars? Is the book worth recommending to a friend? Will you read it again if given the chance? 


What is a good book review?

A good book review is structured, creative, and fair. It presents a thorough commentary of the main ideas contained in a book or written prose, covers the different aspects, and analyzes it rationally and innovatively. A good review does not judge only for the sake of criticizing; but offers a deeper analysis and new way of approaching the text or literature.

Why write a book review?

Book reviews help people make informed choices. They provide audiences with enough details about the positive and negative aspects of a book. In the same way, writing a book review is not only meant for other people’s consumption. But perhaps more profoundly, it allows you to examine your inner self. As you let your thoughts and ideas run free, you are also able to reflect on them but with a deeper and richer understanding.

Why is a book review important for students?

Writing a book review helps students hone vital skills needed not just to pass a course, but important skills for when they enter the ‘real world’. These include basic critical thinking, effective communication, creativity, logic, and reasoning. Reflecting and engaging in useful commentary about any written work can help develop and refine the student’s thought processes and creative flair.

What is the purpose of a book review?

The purpose of a book review is to help both the writer (of the review) and the audience understand the complexities of the story. It helps the person process the information and messaging in a novel or any piece of literature, but in a more meaningful and comprehensive manner. Many people check online book reviews first before purchasing a book. A thoughtful and well written book review can sometimes be enough to either persuade a reader or discourage him to buy the book.

What Henry Littlefield managed to do with his interpretation of the Wizard of Oz was to refuse to take something at face value. He chose to write with a greater sense of awareness and as a result, created a sound socio-economic and political commentary. It all comes down to learning how to pay attention and noticing the subtle symbolisms, contradictions, and metaphors in a book. Perhaps we can learn a few things from Henry Littlefield. If we can treat a novel or any written work as a vast field filled with buried treasure, who knows what we could find? Download a sample template and write a book review today!