I don’t know about you, but I thrive on following rules. This isn’t always the best thing, and it’s something that God has been working on in me for quite a few years. Back in my in-school years though, it was out full-force. I loved it when an assignment told me exactly what to do. I could do precisely what it asked for and turn it in knowing that I had done a complete job and fulfilled every requirement. This wasn’t necessarily a bad approach, but let’s just say it didn’t do much for my creativity, especially when I applied it to writing!
Yes, we had “creative writing” time when I would let my imagination and pen wander at will (it was even a real pen then, and not a keyboard!), but assign me a report on anything and any accumulated creativity flew out the window. I have distinct memories of my freer-spirited sister and I critiquing each other’s reports (we were only a grade apart and so my mom had us sometimes do that as a writing exercise) — I found all her grammar mistakes and she repeatedly made the point that my reports were incredibly dry and boring!
During those years, when I set out to write a book report/review, the steps were quite simple. I needed to give a brief synopsis of the book’s contents and main points, summarize the things I did and didn’t like in the book, and let the reader know if I would recommend the book or not. The end. So I did that and thought I was doing great. My mom tried to communicate to me different ways that I could make my writing more interesting, but unfortunately my rule-following brain didn’t take in much of it (my poor mom had to put up with so much from me in school!).
Fast forward to the years after I graduated from high school, and I was starting to enjoy writing more. I also started to read more book reviews done by others, mostly on blogs. And I noticed something — in the really good book reviews, the author didn’t just tell me about book, but related to the book and/or told me a story about the book. This was a huge step beyond the “this book is about such-and-such and I liked it because of such-and-such” reviews I had been writing.
As the reader, I realized that making the review personal and story-related causes it to stick in the reader’s mind. Nowadays, if I want a book summary, I can go to Amazon and easily get their brief synopsis. If I’m really brave, and want to hear what people did and did not like about it, I can read the Amazon reviews. However, chances are, I probably won’t read the book if all I hear is the plot summary and the pros and cons. But, if I’m reading someone’s blog and they share a story from their life and how it relates to a specific book, I’m much more likely to read that book.
Here are three tips for writing more creative book reviews.
1. Relate your experience reading the book.
Anyone can find out the main points of a book by checking the chapter list or the Amazon preview. Let someone in on your own personal experience reading the book. Tell them about what your children said when you read it to them, what made you laugh, or what memories you have associated with reading it. Share where you where you were at while reading (either geographically or emotionally/spiritually) or the snacks you enjoyed as you read. Make the post enjoyable to read even if someone doesn’t care about the specific book you’re writing about.
2. Tell a story related to the book.
Sometimes it takes writing the review part, putting that safely out of sight, and then telling the story part reintegrating parts of the review without ever looking back at it. Most likely, if a person is reading your review of a book, they already want to hear your stories. And stories are always more exciting than a chapter-by-chapter analysis!
3. Share a nugget from the book.
One of my goals is always to make sure that someone has a real take-away to chew on after reading the book review, so that even if they never buy the book they can feel like the book and author have touched their lives. And in this world of random pinnable quotes everywhere, knowing that a particular piece of truth has resonated with the person writing the review makes me much more likely to seriously look at what they share from the book.
What are your favorite aspects of book reviews? Comment and tell us! Have you read a creative review lately? Please share the link!
- “How to Write a Book Review” by Rachelle Rea
- “How to Review a Book” by Tim Challies
- “Can’t judge a book by its…review?” from Kindred Grace
- “Creating Buzz About Your Favorite Books” from Kindred Grace
Photo Credit: Jenni Marie Photography