We live in an age when it’s becoming easier than ever to share our thoughts regarding products and services. With this ability, however, comes a great responsibility—our thoughts need to be thoughtful and truthful. Over the past five years I’ve had the opportunity to read and review books from every major Christian publisher. My wife often comments, “I’m so glad you get all these books for free to read.” Even before I started reviewing, I was reading a lot of books every year. A good review not only looks at the contents of the book, but also analyzes it with a goal of providing thoughtful reasons why the book accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish its intended purpose. It is important to note that this article is not meant to be a full-scope breakdown of the format for a “good review”, but hopefully the information presented here will inspire others to take care in future book-reviewing endeavors.
The Nuts and Bolts of Writing Reviews
When writing a review, I typically start with an introduction of the topic the book discuses. This can be done in as few as two to three sentences, and should conclude with the title of the book, the author’s name, and the main theme of the book. After introducing the book and the topic, I move on to providing a summary of the contents. Depending on where the review will be published, this can be as few as two to three sentences or as much as three to four paragraphs. From this point in the review, I usually take one to four paragraphs analyzing the book. It is within the analysis of the book that I share which parts I agreed with and where I disagreed with the book. Finally, I conclude the book review with why (or why not) I would recommend the book to others. If it is a book I would recommend, I will also include a target audience that I believe it would best benefit. If I am unable to recommend the book, I note why and try to suggest a few other resources on the same or similar topics.
My process, as outlined above, is not necessarily the one that is appropriate for every book-reviewer. Each reviewer’s process may be different, however the principles of my method are helpful regardless of how you write your reviews. I encourage you to think over your own process in light of what I’ve shared to perhaps improve your method, while maintaining your own writing voice and style.
Good Book Reviews Are a Blessing to the Church
Good reviews are a blessing to the Church (both inside and outside the local gathering). A good book review will not only help people interested in determining if they should buy the book, it will also help Christians to be discerning; something that should define the Christian life. Good reviews help Christians be discerning by allowing them to see which books are worth their time and which ones they should avoid. For example, when writing a critical book-review, try to not only state what you disagreed with (and why), but also state what you liked or found helpful about the book. This helps the reader see the value in the book, despite your areas of disagreement with the author.
You’ve written your review now—great! Now be sure you carefully proof-read your review. There’s nothing more embarrassing than realizing that your critical feedback of someone else’s work contains spelling and grammar issues. Not to mention that it also lowers your credibility as a book-reviewer if you don’t bother correcting your own mistakes. After you’ve hit Publish, don’t be afraid to share your review with your friends and followers on social media. Be creative with how you share your reviews, I’ve found that people appreciate thoughtful and creative updates. Use of eye-catching graphics (possibly of the book’s cover) can be used to draw attention as well; remember—you are writing this as a public service, and people should be made aware of it.
Writing good reviews that are thoughtful, without being “nit-picky”, is hard work. As with writing anything worthwhile, write your review with the author’s purpose in mind. Ask yourself, “Would the author of this book consider my review to be in alignment with his/her intent?” If the answer is no, I would encourage you to rethink how you’ll proceed in writing this review.
Book reviewing can be a difficult process, which often requires slowly working through the material in the book, and thoughtfully considering what you’ve read. Good reviews will include an introduction, summary of the book, an analysis of the book—either positive or negative, and a conclusion with a recommendation or non-recommendation of the book.
A Final Thought
Good reviews matter; they matter because we live in a world where people are searching for thoughtful feedback on products and services. As our society is becoming increasingly more connected, it will become ever more important to provide thoughtful and helpful reviews of product and services (including books). I encourage you to write good, thoughtful, and helpful reviews. People will not only appreciate what you’ve shared, they will pass it on, and perhaps even look for additional reviews from you in the future. It is my hope that you have found this article helpful and that others may benefit from the gift of your next “good review”.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Parler, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.