What Is A Book Review Essay Examples

Book Review Writing Examples

Examples: Learn from the efforts of others

Learning how to write strong reviews takes time and not a little effort. Reading the reviews others have done can help you get a feel for the flow and flavor of reviews.

If I Never Forever Endeavor
Review by Hayden, age 4, Southeast Michigan Mensa

This book was about a bird who didn't yet know how to fly.

The bird has to decide if it will try to fly, but it was not sure if it wants to. The bird thought, "If I never forever endeavor" then I won't ever learn. On one wing, he worries he might fail and on the other wing he thinks of how he may succeed. He worries that if he tries, he may get lost in the world. That makes him want to stay in his nest where he's safe.

I think this book would help other children to learn that trying new things can be scary, but sometimes when we try, we can find things that make us happy too. And this book will help others know that mistakes are okay and part of learning.

My favorite part is that the bird tried and learned that she could fly. I also liked that I read this book because it gave me a chance to talk to mom about making mistakes and how I don't like making them. Then I learned they are good and part of learning.

Boys and girls who are 3 to 8 years old would like this book because it teaches about trying a new thing and how it's important to get past being scared so you can learn new things.

I give the book 5 stars since I think it's important for other children to learn about courage.


Flesh & Blood So Cheap
Review by Umar B., age 8, Central New Jersy Mensa

I liked this book. People who are interested in national disasters and US history as well as immigration will most probably be interested in reading this book.

Readers can gain knowledge of what it was like to work in New York City in the early 1900s. One of the things that was especially interesting was that there were no safety laws at work. Also, there was a big contrast between the rich and the poor. Some people may not like this book because it is very depressing, but it is an important event in history to remember.

This book was very well written. It has black and white photos along with descriptions of the photos. These photos give us a better idea of what people's lives were like. This book is suitable for 9-20 year olds.

I give this book 5 stars.


Galaxy Zach: Journey to Juno
Review by Young Mensan Connor C., age 6, Boston Mensa

Journey To Juno is the second book of the Galaxy Zack series. It is just as good as the first one. It's awesome!

Zack joins the Sprockets Academy Explorers Club at school. They fly on a special trip to Juno, a new planet no one has ever visited. Zack gets paired up with Seth, the class bully, and that's dreadful but Zack is excited when he finds a huge galaxy gemmite. A gemmite that large had not been found in 100 years! Kids will love this book!

Boys and girls will both like it. It's an easy chapter book with pictures on every page. I love the illustrations. I think ages 6-8 would like this but younger kids would like the story being read to them.

My favorite parts are the galactic blast game (it is similar to baseball except there are robots playing), recess at Zack's school where everything is 3-D holographic images, the rainbow river in a crystal cave on Juno, and the galaxy gemmite that Zack finds on Juno. I also loved when a life-size holographic image of his Earth friend appears in Zack's room because he calls him on a hyperphone. I give this book one hundred stars! There is a "to be continued" at the end so you have to read the next book see what's in store. I can't wait to find out what happens!!!


I Capture the Castle
Review by Lauren W., age 17, Mensa in Georgia

Dodie Smith's novel I Capture the Castle is a journey through the mind of a young writer as she attempts to chronicle her daily life. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain has recently learned to speed-write, and she decides to work on her writing skills by describing the actions and conversations of those around her.

Cassandra lives in a fourteenth-century English castle with an interesting cast of characters: her beautiful older sister, Rose; her rather unsociable author father and his second wife, artist-model Topaz; Stephen, the garden boy; a cat and a bull terrier; and sometimes her brother Thomas when he is home from school. One fateful day they make the acquaintance of the Cotton family, including the two sons, and a web of tangled relationships ensues.

While I definitely recommend this book to other readers, I would recommend it to older teenagers, mainly because it will resonate better with them. The writing is tame enough that younger teens could also read it, but most of the characters are adults or on the verge of adulthood. Older readers would take the most from it since they can not only relate, but they may also better pick up on and appreciate Cassandra's sometimes subtle humor.

Over the course of the novel, Cassandra undergoes a definite transformation from child to mature young adult, even though it's only over the course of several months. I love that I could see into her mindset and read exactly what she was feeling when she thought out situations. Her thoughts flowed well and moved the book along very quickly.

Cassandra's narrative voice is wonderful. She is serious at times, but also very witty, which makes for an engaging read. It feels absolutely real, as though I'm reading someone's actual journal. Sometimes I forget that I am reading a story and not a real-life account. Her emotions and the dialogue are so genuine, and they are spot-on for a seventeen-year-old girl in her situation.

Cassandra has many wonderful insights on life, on topics ranging from writing to faith to matters of the heart. I personally have had some of the same thoughts as Cassandra, except Ms. Smith was able to put them into words.

Capture the Castle should be essential reading for aspiring writers, those looking for historical fiction or romance, or anyone who loves reading amazing classic books. Dodie Smith is an exceptional writer, and I Capture the Castle is a book that will never become obsolete.


Frankenstein's Cat
Review by Zander H., age 12, Mid-America Mensa

I appreciated Frankenstein's Cat for its fascinating explanation about the often baffling subject of bioengineering and its sister sciences. Emily Anthes explains the many sides of today's modern technology, such as gene modification, cloning, pharmaceutical products (from the farm), prosthesis, animal tag and tracking and gene cryogenics. This book provides a well-rounded summary of these complicated sciences without being boring or simply factual. Her real world examples take us on a journey from the farm, to the pet store and then from the pharmacy to the frozen arc.

Have you ever wondered if the neighborhood cat is spying on you? Read about Operation Acoustic Kitty and find out if this feline fantasy fiction or fact. Do you think bugs are creepy? What about a zombified cyborg beetle? Is Fido so special that you want two of him? Money can buy you an almost exact copy of your pooch BUT don't expect the same personality. Emily Anthes makes you crave more information. She makes you want to know the future of Earth's flora and fauna, as well as humanity itself.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who desires a guide to the future of biological science and technology. Frankenstein's Cat is best read by the light of a glow-in-the-dark fish, while cuddling your favorite cloned dog and drinking a glass of genetically modified milk.


About Marsupials
Review by Connor C., age 6, Boston Mensa

About Marsupials is the title so the book is about...marsupials, of course. It's non-fiction. I really think everyone would like the book. I think someone who likes animals would especially like to read it.

The glossary of facts in the back of About Marsupials is the most useful part. I thought the most interesting parts were that some marsupials have their pouch at their back legs and one marsupial, the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby, is very small but can jump 13 feet wide!

Kids in the 4-8 age range would like this book. Even though it's not a story book, 4 year olds would like the few words on each page and they would love the beautiful pictures. But older kids would like it because of all the facts in the back of the book. There's a lot of information for each animal. I think boys and girls (and parents) would enjoy reading it. This book is very interesting. I give it 4 stars.


Mapping the World
Review by Umar A., age 10, Central New Jersey Mensa

Every day, people around the world use maps. Whether it is an airplane pilot or businessman, housewife or museum group, maps have always and will continue to provide useful information for all.

Mapping the World talks about the uses of maps, as well as how to differentiate between the type of map projection and type of map.

In this series, we travel to the past and learn about historical mapmakers, from Claudius Ptolemy (who stated the idea that the Earth is at the center of the universe) to Gerardus Mercator (who created one of the most widely used map projections) and more. This series goes into tremendous detail on the cartographer's life and maps. We then journey to the present era to learn about map projections and the diverse types of maps used today. You might ask, "What is the difference between the two? They sound the same to me." No map projection is perfect, because you cannot really flatten a sphere into a rectangle. An uncolored projection could be used in many ways. We could use it for population concentration, highways, land elevation, and so many other things!

For example, we could make a topographic map of the U.S., which shows land elevation. We could make it a colorful map that shows the amount of pollution in different areas, or it could be a population map, or it could even be a map that shows the 50 states, their capitals and borders! Our last step in this amazing excursion is the near future, where we see some hypothetical solutions as to what maps will be used for. Currently, we are working on better virtual map technology.

Now, scientists have been able to put maps on phones. Back in the early 1900s, people had to lug a lot of maps around to find your way from place to place, or just keep asking for directions. Now, all the information is on a phone or global positioning system (GPS). It is amazing how much maps have changed technology and the world in this century.

The Mapping the World 8-book set goes into amazing levels of detail. It is a long read, but it gives an immense range and amount of information that you would not find in any other book or series on maps. The flowing way the chapters and books are organized makes it easy to link passages from different books in this series together. Mapping the World is a treasure box, filled with the seeds of cartography. Collect and plant them, and you soon will have the fruits of cartography, beneficial to those who want to be cartographers. Use this series to the utmost, then the fruits of mapping will be sweet for all who endeavor to succeed in cartography.

I. Bibliographic Information

Provide the essential information about each book using the writing style asked for by your professor [e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.]. Depending on how your professor wants you to organize your review, the bibliographic information represents the heading of your review. In general, they would be arranged alphabetically by title and look like this:

Racing the Storm: Racial Implications and Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina. Hillary Potter, ed. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007. 320 pp)
The Sociology of Katrina: Perspectives on a Modern Catastrophe. David L. Brunsma, David Overfelt, and J. Steven Picou, eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007. 288 pp.)
Through the Eye of Katrina: Social Justice in the United States. Kristin A. Bates and Richelle S. Swan, eds. (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007. 440 pp.)

Reviewed by [your name]


II. Thesis Statement

The thesis statement of an essay that compares and contrasts multiple works should contain an idea or claim that unites the discussion of each texts under review. It should include the argument that will be advanced in support of the claims that are being made. To begin, ask yourself: "What is the overarching subject or issue that ties together all of the books?" Why is it important?" In most scholarly works, the author(s) will state the purpose of their book in the preface or in an introductory chapter. Look for common themes as well as points of divergence among the books.

If you cannot find an adequate statement in the author's own words or if you find that the thesis statement is not well-developed, then you will have to compose your own introductory thesis statement that does cover all the material. The comparative thesis statement will vary in length depending on the number and complexity of books under review. Regardless of length, it must be succinct, accurate, unbiased, and clear.

If you find it difficult to discern the overall aims and objectives of each book [and, be sure to point this out in your review if you believe it to be a deficiency], you may arrive at an understanding of the purpose by asking yourself a the following questions:

  • Scan the table of contents because it can help you understand how the book is organized and will aid in determining the author's main ideas and how they are developed [e.g., chronologically, topically, etc.].
  • Why did the authors write on this subject rather than on some other subject?
  • From what point of view is each work written?
  • Were the authors trying to give information, to explain something technical, or to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?
  • What is the general field or genre, and how does each book fit into it? If necessary, review related literature from other books and journal articles to familiarize yourself with the field.
  • Who is the intended audience for each book? Is it the same or are the books intended for difference sets of readers?
  • What is each author's style? Is it formal or informal? You can evaluate the quality of the writing style by noting some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, accurate use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, and fluidity.
  • How did the books affect you? Were any prior assumptions you had on the subject that were changed, abandoned, or reinforced after reading the books? How are the books related to your own personal beliefs or assumptions? What personal experiences have you had that relate to the subject?
  • How well has each book achieved the goal(s) set forth in the preface, introduction, and/or foreword?
  • Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?

A useful strategy to help organize your thoughts is to create a table with a column for each book and rows for each of the questions. Enter your answer to each book in the chart. When completed, you'll have an easy guide to how each author has addressed the questions.

NOTE:  Your thesis statement underpins the purpose of your review and helps the reader understand how the books are related. However, while a book review essay should evaluate books about the same topic [e.g., Katrina recovery], there may not be an overarching issue that ties the books together. If this is the case, then the thesis could, for example, center around the diversity of issues scholars have chosen to examine or the fractured nature of scholarship on the topic.

ANOTHER NOTEYour thesis statement should include the rationale for why the key points you highlight or compare and contrast among the books being reviewed were deliberate and meaningful and not random. Explain their significance.


III. Methods of Organization

Organization is critical to writing an essay that compares and contrasts multiple works because you will most likely be discussing a variety of evidence and you must be certain that the logic and narrative flow of your paper can be understood by the reader. Here are some general guidelines to consider:

  1. If your professor asks you to choose the books to review, identify works that are closely related in some way so they can be easily compared or contrasted.
  2. Compare according to a single organizing idea [e.g., analysis of how each author assessed the effectiveness of post-Katrina recovery].
  3. Choose a method of development [see below] that works well with your organizing idea.
  4. Use specific and relevant examples to support your analysis.
  5. Use transitional words or phrases to help the reader understand the similarities and differences in your subject.
  6. Conclude your paper by restating your thesis, summarizing the main points, and giving the reader the final "so what" of the major similarities and/or differences that you discussed. Why are they important?

There are two general methods of organizing your book review essay. If you believe one work extends another, you'll probably use the block method; if you find that two or more works are essentially engaged in a debate or examine a topic from different perspectives, the point-by-point method will help draw attention to the conflict. However, the point-by-point method can come off as a rhetorical ping-pong match. You can avoid this effect by grouping more than one point together, thereby cutting down on the number of times you alternate from one work to another.

No matter which method you choose, you do not need to give equal time to similarities and differences. In fact, your paper will be more interesting if you state your main argument(s) as quickly as possible. For example, a book review essay evaluating three research studies that examine different interpretations of conflict resolution among nations in the Middle East might have as few as two or three sentences in the introduction regarding similarities and only a paragraph or two to set up the contrast between the author’s positions. The rest of the essay, whether organized by block method or point-by-point, will be your analysis of the key differences among the books.

The Block Method
Present all the information about A, and then present parallel information about B. This pattern tends to work better for shorter book review essays, and those with few sub-topics. The method looks like this:

I. Introduction
    A. Briefly introduce the significance of the overall subject matter
    B. Thesis Statement
        --First supporting point
        --Second supporting point
        --Third supporting point

II. First book
    A. Summary of book
        --Relationship of work to first point
        --Relationship of work to second point
        --Relationship of work to third point

III. Second book
    A. Summary of book
        --Relationship of work to first point
        --Relationship of work to second point
        --Relationship of work to third point

IV. Third book
    A. Summary of book
        --Relationship of work to first point
        --Relationship of work to second point
        --Relationship of work to third point

V. Conclusion
    A. Restate thesis
    B. Briefly summarize how you proved your argument

The Point-by-Point Method
Present one point about A, and then go to the parallel point about B. Move to the next point, and do the same thing. This pattern tends to work better for long book review essays and those with many sub-topics. The method looks like this:

I. Introduction
    A. Briefly introduce significance of overall subject matter
    B. Thesis statement

II. Brief explanation of first book

III. Brief explanation of second book

IV. First comparative point
    A. Relation of point to first book
    B. Relation of point to second book

V. Second comparative point
    A. Relation of point to first book
    B. Relation of point to second book

VI. Third comparative point
    A. Relation of point to first book
    B. Relation of point to second book

VII. Conclusion
    A. Restate thesis
    B. Briefly summarize how your proved your argument


IV.  Critically Evaluate the Contents

Regardless of whether you choose the block method or the point-by-point method, critical comments should form the bulk of your book review essay. State whether or not you feel the author's treatment of the subject matter is appropriate for the intended audience. Ask yourself:

  • Has the purpose of the books been achieved?
  • What contribution do the books make to the field of study or discipline?
  • Is the treatment of the subject matter objective?
  • Are there facts and evidence that have been omitted, either in one of the books or collectively?
  • What kinds of data, if any, are used to support each author's thesis statement?
  • Can the same data be interpreted to alternate ends?
  • Is the writing style clear and effective?
  • Do the books raise important or provocative issues or topics for discussion and further research?
  • What has been left out?

Support your evaluation with evidence from each text and, when possible, in relation to other sources. If relevant, make note of each book's format, such as, layout, binding, typography, etc. Are there maps, illustrations? Do they aid in understanding the research problem? This is particular important in books that contain a lot of non-textual elements, such as tables, charts, and illustrations.

NOTE:  It is important to carefully distinguish your views from those of the authors, so that you don’t confuse your reader.


V.  Examine the Front Matter and Back Matter

Front matter refers to anything before the first chapter of the book. Back matter refers to any information included after the final chapter of the book. Front matter is most often numbered separately from the rest of the text in lower case Roman numerals [i.e. i-xi]. Critical commentary about front or back matter is generally only necessary if you believe there is something that diminishes the overall quality of the work [e.g., the indexing is poor] or there is something that is particularly helpful in understanding the book's contents [e.g., foreword places the book in an important context].

The following front matter may be included in a book and may be considered for evaluation when reviewing its overall quality:

  • Table of contents -- is it clear? Is it detailed or general? Does it reflect the true contents of the book?
  • Author biography -- also found as back matter, the biography of author(s) can be useful in determining the authority of the writer and whether the book builds on prior research or represents new research. In scholarly reviews, noting the author's affiliation can be a factor in helping the reader determine the overall validity of the work [i.e., are they associated with a research center devoted to studying the research problem under investigation].
  • Foreword -- the purpose of a foreword is to introduce the reader to the author as well as the book itself, and to help establish credibility for both. A foreword may not contribute any additional information about the book's subject matter, but it serves as a means of validating the book's existence. Later editions of a book sometimes have a new foreword prepended [appearing before an older foreword, if there was one], which may be included to explain in how the latest edition differs from previous ones.
  • Acknowledgements -- scholarly studies in the social sciences often take many years to write, so authors frequently acknowledge the help and support of others in getting their research published. This can be as innocuous as acknowledging the author's family or the publisher. However, an author may acknowledge prominent scholars or subject experts, staff at key research centers, or people who curate important archival collections. In these particular cases, it may be worth noting these sources of support in your review.
  • Preface -- generally describes the genesis, purpose, limitations, and scope of the book and may include acknowledgments of indebtedness to people who have helped the author complete the study. Is the preface helpful in understanding the study? Does it provide an effective framework for understanding what's to follow?
  • Chronology -- also may be found as back matter, a chronology is generally included to highlight key events related to the subject of the book. Do the entries contribute to the overall work? Is it detailed or very general?
  • List of non-textual elements -- a book that contains a lot of charts, photographs, maps, etc. will often list these items after the table of contents in order that they appear in the text. Is it useful?

The following back matter may be included in a book and may be considered for evaluation when reviewing the overall quality of the book:

  • Afterword -- this is a short, reflective piece written by the author that takes the form of a concluding section, final commentary, or closing statement. It is worth mentioning in a review if it contributes information about the purpose of the book, gives a call to action, or asks the reader to consider key points made in the book.
  • Appendix -- is the supplementary material in the appendix or appendices well organized? Do they relate to the contents or appear superfluous? Does it contain any essential information that would have been more appropriately integrated into the text?
  • Index -- is the index thorough and accurate? Are elements used, such as, bold or italic fonts to help identify specific places in the book?
  • Glossary of Terms -- are the definitions clearly written? Is the glossary comprehensive or are key terms missing? Are any terms or concepts mentioned in the text not included?
  • Footnotes/Endnotes -- examine any footnotes or endnotes as you read from chapter to chapter. Do they provide important additional information? Do they clarify or extend points made in the body of the text?
  • Bibliography/References/Further Readings -- review any bibliography, list of references to sources, and/or further readings the author may have included. What kinds of sources appear [e.g., primary or secondary, recent or old, scholarly or popular, etc.]? How does the author make use of them? Be sure to note important omissions of sources that you believe should have been utilized.

NOTE:  Typically, multiple book review essays do not compare and contrast the quality of the back and front matter unless the books share a common deficiency [e.g., poor indexing] or the front or back matter is particularly important in supplementing the primary content of the books.


VI.  Summarize and Comment

Your conclusion should synthesize the key similarities and differences among the books and their collective contributions to understanding of the research problem. Avoid re-stating your assessment word for word; your goal is to provide a sense of closure and to leave the reader with a final perspective about the overall subject under review and whether you believe each book has effectively contributed to the overall research literature on the subject. Do not introduce new information in the conclusion. If you've compared the books to any other studies or used other sources in writing the review, be sure to cite them at the end of your book review essay.


Bazerman, Charles. Comparing and Synthesizing Sources. The Informed Writer: Using Sources in the Disciplines. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Comparing and Contrasting. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Comparison and Contrast Essays. Writing Support Centre. University of Western Ontario; Rhetorical Strategies: Comparison and Contrast. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Hartley, James. “Reading and Writing Book Reviews Across the Disciplines.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57 (July 2006): 1194-1207; Hooker, Fran and Kate James. Apples to Oranges: Writing a Compare and Contrast Paper. The Writing Center. Webster University; Oinas, Päivi and Samuli Leppälä. “Views on Book Reviews.” Regional Studies 47 (2013): 1785-1789; Visvis, Vikki and Jerry Plotnick. The Comparative Essay. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Writing a Compare/Contrast Essay. CLRC Writing Center. Santa Barbara City College.

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