Checklist for Writing Book Reviews

I have already written two posts with advice on reviewing: What do Readers need to know? 10-Point Guidelines for Reviewers  and  How to Write a Useful Book Review, on this occasion, I’ve prepared a  checklist to go through when writing, and before finishing a book review, to make sure all the main points are included.

The order of the items on the checklist is not meant to suggest that they should be addressed in this sequence in your review.  A checklist is a list of things that need to be done, it is not a suggestion for a review layout.

Checklist for Writing Book Reviews

1- Have you told the reader about the genre and style? Whether it’s a fun, easy or quick read, or a novel which will require effort, concentration or rock your world view? Will they be challenged, or amused, or shocked, in some way?

2- Have you mentioned the setting, and how it affects the plot and characters?

3- Have you spoken about the writer’s use of language? Does the writer use appropriate grammar, vocabulary, and style? Think about the quality of the descriptive elements, dialogue, and point of view.

4- Are events, characters, and themes, mostly ‘told’ or ‘shown’?

5- Have you told Readers whether the characters come alive? Do we know what they want, think, feel, and look like? Do we care what happens to them? And the secondary characters, do they feel real?

6- Have you told readers about the quality of the plot? Are there enough twists and turns, or tension and interest, to keep the reader interested? Does the action move forward towards the climax?

7- What about the conclusion, does the novel end acceptably? In spite of this does the reader want to know more about the characters and events? Is there a sequel?

8- Have we told the reader about the novel’s strong points? Something which makes it unique, innovative, or special?

9- Are there any weak points which will affect the reading experience?

10- Would you like to inform the reader about any sensitive aspects, such as the portrayal of violence?

11- Finally, have you been clear, impartial, fair, and concise?

I have not included a plot summary in the checklist. I don’t think it’s necessary to offer an exhaustive summary of the events and characters, because readers usually have that information in the blurb. The aim of the type of reviews I propose is to help readers decide whether it’s their type of book or not.

Although I make mental and written notes while I’m reading, and I write my review without a specific plan, I like to go back to my checklist while I’m writing and once I’ve finished, to make sure I haven’t left anything out. It helps me to focus, and I hope it will help you, too.


11 thoughts on “Checklist for Writing Book Reviews

  1. Good advice! Might be a bit scary for someone who isn’t perhaps that literary minded, though – sometimes it’s okay just to say why you liked it, I think; not all readers or people who want to review a book, say, on Amazon are aware of things like the genre; I certainly wasn’t before I started publishing myself. However, for a book review blog, this is a very good, concise list of what is needed.

    I really liked the fact that you mentioned not re-hashing the plot. I always feel so disappointed when a review just tells you what the book’s about – by the time I’m interested enough to read the reviews I already know all that, because I’ve read the blurb.


    1. I never used to write reviews or even make comments before I started writing myself. Now I wish I had, but I just didn’t realise how valuable it is to the author and how useful it is for readers.
      Yes, this is really part three of two previous posts. I do think short spur of the moment reviews are fine. I wish I had some of those! On the other hand, my suggestions are really for those of us who write more reflexive full length reviews. I always worry that I’ve left something out which I think the potential reader should know. This list helps me focus.
      Thank you for dropping by and commenting 🙂


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