Book review is an exercise of weekly affair in qualitative newspapers and magazines. There are academic journals wherein book reviews are done with zeal. When a book is set afloat in market, it is natural for the publishers to expect a good sales.
A review that is favorable contributes to incite interest in the reading public who go after the book. Sometimes, the publishers sent their publication known to readers. Sometimes, depending on the quality of the books concerned, newspapers, magazines and journals voluntarily review them. In both these cases, the purpose is identical. That is to keep the readers informed on the quality of the book – both get up and contents.
Newspapers, magazines and journals do not have any special desk for reviewing books. If at all there is any, it is for editing the reviews received from the reviewers who are usually academicians and personalities of high standing in the respective fields. Book review is often mistaken to be a critical appreciation of a book. But it is not so.
A book review informs the reader on the author, contents, style, contextual relevance and purpose. It represents what in reading is known as close scrutiny. It points out the various merits and shortcomings. This will facilitate the author to revise the book during the subsequent editions. The review has to be objective in its standards. But the reviewer’s personal views creep into the review and this is something inevitable in the process.
Precisely and decidedly we can say that a book review is an encapsulated informative account of the get-up, style of matter presented, the matter itself, the contextual relevance, and its possible contributive impact on the field of knowledge the book delves into.
Those readers who have penchant for books on a particular subject can have their quest slaked, for the review can guide them rightly. But it should be remembered that a book review is not an exclusive critical summary. It is informational. Writing a book review is an art. It is not a science because it does not have any set standard one has to abide by.
There is absolutely no set standard for a book review. However, there prevail certain modalities to be adopted.
The directions that would make reviews exemplary are :
- The review should have a heading. Details regarding the title, author, publisher, place of publication, year of publication, number of pages and price should figure in bold letters before the beginning of the review.
- The introductory paragraph / part of the review should contain information as to what the reviewer would say in the review. This should be followed by a short overview of the matter contained in the book. There should be a clear statement on the author’s purpose, and the audience to whom it is targeted.
- The next aspect should be brief description of the contextuality and warrant for the publication.
- Better it would be if the reviewer develops criteria for his review which is in fact his judgement on the book.
- There should be a brief summation of the book in crisp language. If needed, passages should be quoted verbatim. Any puzzling idea needs simplified presentation.
- When comparison is felt essential, it can be made in polished language, for the review should not hurt the author in any way. The ideal standard would better be avoided.
- One has to be careful in not casting aspersions as this world entail libel.
- There should not be any quote of external criticism in the review.
- The judgement of the book should follow summation. This judgement should enfold the author’s success in translating his intention, the lacuna caused , the unconvincing points. Organization and style should be dealt with analytically.
- The reviewer should introduce his views during his judgement or evaluation. Discordant opinions are to be presented in inoffensive language.
- It is better to avoid to be lengthy in reviews.
- The conclusion should suggest how the book can be useful to the reader; how it is different from other books on the subject. The reviewer’s positive recommendation of the book to the reader needs concentration on the aspects that make the book recommendatory.
- In total, the review should be able to incite the reader’s curiosity to go for the book.
- The reviewer should always be conscious that he has to cater to the common reader and not only to the educated elite.
- As regards literature, no single poem or essay can be reviewed except when such pieces are contained in anthologies. However an individual novel and play can be reviewed because of their length. Pertaining to fiction, the review should relate the theme and purpose to the plot, characters and setting.
- When the review is orally transmitted through Radio or Television, then the reviewer should be phased in speaking out the review contents. There should be animation in narration and emphasis on points that need attention.
- Long, deep and strong study of subjects in general will enable the reviewer to do his job convincingly. This is what is known as expertise on the part of the reviewer.
- Each review should have an inspiring title.