Read a lot of other books
The more you read, the more you understand about books, about genres and storytelling. You’ll be able to tell if a book is original or not, if it is referring to other stories, if it is part of a particular genre and so on. You can compare a book with what you’ve read before and that can help you decide how good it really is and whether it is worth reading or not.
Read the book you want to review!
This might seem silly, but I know that if you have to submit a book report for class you might be tempted to just look up SparkNotes or someone else’s review. It’s useful to read these things after you read the book. It can help you put your own thoughts in order. But it isn’t a review unless you give the book a fair shot and make the review primarily about you and the book and not what some website or some other reviewer thinks.
Read with a pencil!
A pen or a marker will permanently mark your book – so sharpen a pencil before you start reading. Use it to mark interesting passages, make notes on what you think about what you’re reading and underline things you want to look up. Later on, when you’re writing your review, these annotations will help you a lot.
Don’t summarise the story
A book review or report is not a summary of the book. You don’t need to tell the whole story of the book – that’s what the original book is about! Instead, tell your readers just enough so that they have an idea of what to expect. Tell them about the genre, the setting, some of the main characters and the main premise or the main challenge the central characters have to deal with.
Write about emotions
Good books make us feel something. Were you scared when you read the book? Did you laugh out loud? Did something make you sad, or glad? Write about these feelings. People want to know if a book will move them and what sort of mood it conveys.
Write about ideas
Were there interesting ideas or themes discussed in the book? What do you think the author was trying to say with this book? Nearly any book has a few themes and ideas about them bubbling beneath the surface. Try to figure out what these are, and write about them
Write about words
A book is basically a collection of words that try to tell you a story. Think about the language used in the book you are reviewing. Is the style simple and direct or is it elaborate? Does the author use a lot of metaphors, or is the dialogue in the book especially snappy and good? Is the book fast-paced or slow? Think about the use of language and how it helps or doesn’t help the story come across.
Don’t worry that your interpretation of the book is wrong, or that other people might like it more or less than you did. Each reader has his or her own personal reaction to a book, and your reaction is as valid as anyone else’s, so trust it. If you feel unsure, then go back and read through some passages of the book again. Maybe there’s something you’ve missed, maybe there isn’t. Remember, just as you are entitled to your opinion, you are also entitled to change it!