Today’s Summer Reading post is about writing (and sharing) book reviews, When to write them. How to write them. Why they matter. Most of this is going to be covered by a very special guest writer today, my friend and yours: Kym. I asked her because I think she writes excellent book reviews. They are thoughtful and useful, and always leave me with a sense of how a book might make me feel, which is one of the most important things I consider when it comes to choosing a book.
Without further words from me, here is what Kym has to say about her book review writing process . . .
A few years ago (just looked it up; it was 2017), I got frustrated with myself because it felt like I was “processing” books . . . instead of “reading” them. I’d pick up a book, tear through it, and as soon as I was finished . . . I’d pick up the next one and do it again. I realized I’d read so many books for so many years that they were really becoming a muddle in my brain. I wanted to try and make books “stick” more with me after I’d closed the cover and moved on to the next one, and decided I actually needed to . . . slow my reading down; to build in some “white space” between books.
In 2018, I started taking notes while I read, and using those notes to write little mini-reviews for my Goodreads account. I’m sure this sounds rather “school assignment” to most folks, but it’s not like that. I’m talking very quick notes, nothing formal or “fancy.” I use the Notes app on my phone, and I just jot down a list of main characters as I read (with my eyes or ears). I make note of any short quotes or page numbers I may want to revisit later. That’s pretty much it. Very brief little jog-your-memory notes. And then, after I finish the book (but before I pick up the next one), I rate the book using Goodreads’ 5-star rating scale, and write a little quick-and-dirty review.
What goes into my review? Basically, I try to capture my immediate thoughts and impressions about the book – how it made me feel, what I liked or didn’t like about it, why I found it compelling (or didn’t) . . . that sort of thing. I especially focus on character development, language, setting, and pacing. (Those tend to be the most interesting things about books for me.) I try to write my review as soon as I’m finished with a book. If I wait too long afterward (even a couple of days later), I tend to overthink, and then it becomes a lot harder. I really try to capture my thoughts immediately after finishing.
What doesn’t go into my review? A summary of the plot! Why? Because I’m not writing a book report here. I’m only trying to capture my impressions of the book immediately after reading it. (Besides, I can read the summary on Goodreads or inside the book flap if I need one.) I find it much easier to just quickly jot down my impressions and not worry about the details or the nuances of plot.
I’ve discovered that jotting these brief notes while reading, and then following up with a quick review immediately afterward, really does make a difference in how I remember what I’ve read, longer term. Writing reviews has become a solid reading habit for me; just a normal part of how I read books, and not a chore at all. I find it enhances my reading, brings closure to the book, and helps me remember what I’ve read.
I have to say, my review writing process is pretty similar to Kym’s. I don’t always take notes but I often highlight passages that feel important to me (it’s very easy to do with the kindle) and those passages help me when I sit down to review a completed book. I also wholeheartedly embrace the concept of a review not providing details of the plot because that is readily available elsewhere and feels redundant to me. And I couldn’t agree more about writing a review while the book is still fresh. I sometimes delay a day but never more than that because it takes longer and never feels as genuine.
I know writing reviews isn’t for everyone but I really want to urge you to give it a try. It will (probably) help you to remember a book better and it will (definitely) help you when a friend asks you to recommend something great for them to read. As a librarian I’m all about those recommendations! And it gets easier the more you do it. So go on and practice (see what I did there) your review writing skills.
Thanks for the suggestion. I write short to nonexistent reviews but I will try this with the next book I finish.
Gale Z says
This is so great, I always love reading Kym’s reviews. It’s true that writing them the way she does would help me process the books I read!
I would love to write better reviews! Thank-you Carole and Kym for this helpful and inspiring post! (And those Goodreads reviews that tell the plot – what’s up with that!) 🙂
I’m very much with you and Kym — when I write a review, I want to capture what I liked (or didn’t) about a book. The description of the book does a fine job of summarizing the plot, usually, and I know that when I’m trying to figure out if a book will be for me or not, I often turn to the reviews of people who I know have similar taste in books. I am so thankful for folks like you and Kym who take the time to share their thoughts!
Excellent suggestions! Thank you (and Kym!) for sharing!
Thanks to you and Kym for highlighting the importance of reviews and how to write better ones. I’m picky about the reviews I read and like on goodreads. I don’t think of books as “good” or “bad” but I do want to know about character development, language, setting, and timeline so I can better judge if a book is for me and worth valuable reading time. Those reviews are sometimes hard to find!
Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts on your blog, Carole! XO
I always appreciate the reviews I read on many blogs and love when those reviews are not just plot summaries. Feel like we have some wonderful reviews on our blog community. I am keeping notes and reflections in my book journal. I have met some amazing characters in my reading these last few years.
I always appreciate your (and Kym’s) reviews. Thank you for sharing them – and your process to write them! – with us.
Great info! I just give it my star rating and I’m done. I also like not having to read through a synopsis. If I’m reading reviews, I know what the book is about and don’t need to read it in a bunch of reviews to find out what someone thinks about it.
Count me as another one who always enjoys your reviews (and Kym’s). There are some who write such detailed reviews that I feel like I don’t need (or want!) to read the book after reading their review. I keep a journal of sorts where I record what I read and give it a 1-5 star rating. Sometimes I jot down a fact or two about the book but often I don’t bother.
Margene Smith says
Reading and retaining, writing reviews and knowing the variety and genre of so many books must make you the go to person at your library when people need help. Your reviews are very helpful. I am one who never writes a word. I retain much of what I read, but have trouble sharing it through a review.