I’ve had plenty of comments about my book reviews I write and one of my readers and good friend, Khalid, asked how I go about actually writing one. Its a great question and I never really thought about it much until asked so I’ll let you know what I’ve learned from book reviews and how I go about writing them.
Keep in Mind the Review
This is something I think a lot of people neglect when reading a book and I think it is very important. To me, it helps me look at the book from a high level and watch specifically for overall themes and concepts that the author is getting trying to make a point of. If you don’t look for these, sometimes you can get through a book and while you may pick up on little bits of useful information, you may not be left with an overall single theme or concept that the author was making. This doesn’t always work since it obviously depends on the author, however, I find that more often than not, if you are thinking about this, it will be more obvious as well.
Look through the chapter headers, reread any summaries that may be given and look for commonalities between different concepts and chapters. There is often a single underlying theme and that is important to capture whenever possible. Put what you discover on paper and describe it in your own words. This is important for your own learning from the book since once you’ve thought about it and paraphrased it, you will remember much longer than if you simple copy or re-write something the author said in the first place.
Take Notes, Underline or Highlight Important Content
Marking important points in a book is very valuable. I use a technique of simply drawing a line down the page beside any content I thought was very important or useful. Just a simple mark in the margins and nothing more. That way, I can easily flip through a book and quickly see the pages that have points of interest on them and I can reread those parts and refresh my memory. This is particularly useful if you reread a book a year or more later and have forgotten a lot fo the content. Rereading just those important areas will quickly let you remind yourself of all the important points in the book and it just takes a few minutes to have a great refresher!
Some people (and I’ve done this too) will write notes, underline or even yellow highlight important text right in there book. Not everyone will be willing to do this and I’ve had discussions with some friends that would NEVER write in a book since they want to preserve the authors writing without adding your own thoughts for the next reader. You can always make notes in a notepad while you read or just jot down page numbers to come back to that you felt were particularly useful. Tear that page out and leave it in the book so you can easily come back to it at a later date.
Always Include Your Own Opinion
People are social beings and love the opinion of others. They like to make their own opinions as well, but for something new, they will latch on to yours until they form there own, so your opinion is particularly useful for a book review. Think of these two examples, which are you more likely to read?
- This book was a superbly written and one of the best books in its genre, but I really didn’t enjoy reading it personally, I couldn’t relate to it.
- This book got bad ratings and some people said they didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved it! It is now one of my favorite books of all time and I’ll definitely be reading it again sometime!
Did you pick #1, or #2. Most people pick #2, especially if that is from someone they know, since we all value a personal opinion more than ratings or a critic.
A book review should always include your personal opinion of the book and how you felt about it. Did you like it, was it enjoyable, useful or easy to relate to? How did it make you feel? Was it easy to read? Exciting? Boring? Whatever you felt while reading it, capture that in your review. It’s often great to make comparisons to other similar books as the reader may have read that book so will easily connect your references to your new review.
Apply Something From the Book and Your Review
The best part of any book is remembering it and whenever possible using that in your life somehow. A great way for this is to look for at minimum, one thing, you will definitely apply from the book. I usually have a few items that I look to apply and if you always plan to apply something from a book, its much easier to find things that are practical and easy to apply, no matter how subtle they are presented in the book. Mark them down, remind yourself of them after the book and schedule yourself a follow up to check if you’ve done it in a week and then a month later. No matter what it is, applying something from a book will help you remember other content from the book as well, as actions are always more tightly associated in your mind so those actions help strengthen your memory recall with others portions of the book as well.
Tell Someone Else About the Book
One more things that makes your review even more useful and easier to remember is to tell someone else about it. Whether this is written or just spoken with a friend or colleague, its great to share something you’ve learned from a book. Its even better to share with them what you plan to apply and your opinions on the book if they are curious or interested in reading it as well. Even though I put up a review of many of the books I read here on LearnThis.ca , I always make a habit of telling someone in person about my latest book I’ve read as well. Don’t always tell the same person about every book you read unless you know they are interested. If you own it the book, always offer to lend it to them if they are interested in reading it themselves after your recommendation or review.
I hope this was useful to see not only how to write a review about a book, but how to take something from reading any book. I started reading reviews on books as a tool to remember them and that eventually spun off into a desire to write other topics which is why I started this blog in the first place. I’ve certainly refined my reviews in the last couple of years and I’d love to hear from others any way I could improve them further and if you have any suggestions on writing great book reviews. If you are just interested in reading and learning them well, here is a great article at The Practice of Leadership called, How to read a Business Book . Enjoy!
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