writing book reviews

9 Ways to Write More Creative Book Reviews

Posted 15 August, 2015 in Blogging Tips / 20 Comments

Read on for a free download of 10 blog post ideas for book bloggers!

I have a confession to make: I don’t read many book reviews.

I know, that’s a weird thing for a book blogger to say. If I don’t read other people’s reviews, why should I expect others to read my own?

But I don’t expect anything. When I’m writing book reviews, I know I need to earn my readers. And for me, the way to do that is by trying to write reviews that stand out.

Do I accomplish that? I don’t know; you tell me. At the very least, it’s what I aim for.

It’s what we should all aim for. Enough with spending 400 words summarizing the book. Leave room for readers to be surprised. And they’re going to read the book’s description anyway.

While I like to think my reviews are personal, unique, and entertaining, they’re still pretty generic. I want to start trying harder. So I made myself a list of ways I can start changing up my reviews. Here’s the list for you to use, too.

Why switch things up?

Book reviews are standard, right? They’re what people expect, so it’s what we should give them. Well, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that outlook.

But it’s not the best, either.

For one, these are still book reviews, just in a different format. It’s a way to stand out from all the other book bloggers in our very crowded niche. To readers, to publishers, and to authors. Something unique like that is a great branding opportunity. You could be known as the blogger who writes _______ reviews (fill in the blank with something from the list below).

But more importantly, for me at least, it’s a way to beat book blogger burnout. Switching things up and trying something new is a way to break out of your routine and take a break from what you normally do, without taking a blogging break entirely. It’s also fun to experiment, isn’t it?

9 tips for writing creative book reviews

1. Liveblog the book

Do you ever livetweet TV shows? I’d say that’s what 75% of my tweets are. I love sharing my reactions, my immediate thoughts – the things I’d say to a friend if they were sitting on the couch watching with me. Even more than that, I love putting it out there so I can start conversations with other people about it.

Well, liveblogging existed long before livetweeting. I remember liveblogging the VMAs on my music blog on Livejournal in 9th grade. And it’s time I bring that back – to this blog.

How to liveblog your next book:

  1. As you’re reading, take notes of your immediate thoughts, reactions, feels – all the things you want to (or actually do) yell out loud. Think of the notes as your thoughts, unfiltered.
  2. Compile all your notes somewhere. I usually write them as comments in the book – either with the notes feature on Kindle books or post-its in paperbacks. This is so I can easily look back to what passage the note’s referring to. You could also take notes in a notebook or piece of scrap paper, in a note-taking app, or in a blog post draft.
  3. Publish them. If you had a ton of thoughts, you might want to edit them and cut it down for the sake of brevity, or if some things start to get repetitive.

2. Draw comparisons

A great way to describe something is by comparing it to something else. Drawing connections can really help your readers paint a picture, when they’re familiar with what you’re comparing the book to.

And if they’re not familiar, explain it to them. It’s kind of like describing the book without spoilers, since you’re not actually describing the book.

What should you compare?

You could compare the book to something – take the plot, characters, tropes, or themes, and talk about what they had in common with another story. That story could be from another book, a TV show or movie, hypothetical story, or one of your own experiences. Anything goes!

You could also choose to compare your reaction to the book. Instead of focusing on the book itself, focus on your experience with it. What else drew similar reactions from you? Made you feel the same feels, think the same thoughts, cry the same cries?

3. Write a themed listicle

I know, the word “listicle”…ugh. But the actual post type? Awesome.

We’re all hardwired in our brains to like lists. When someone else has already organized the information for us, our brain has to less work, and our brains are lazy. Plus, list posts have high click-through rates on search engines, social media, and in emails. The headline sets clear expectations of what’s going to be in the post (for example, 9 ways to write book reviews). Again, that leaves less work for your brain, which it appreciates.

Book listicles you can write:

  • My # Favorite Lines from [Book Name]
  • # [Book Name] Moments that Made Me Ugly Cry
  • # Scenes I’m going to Re-Read [Book Name] for
  • # Times [Character Name] was the Best Part of [Book Name]

So go ‘head, and bring out your inner BuzzFeed blogger.

Write more creative book reviews with these 10 list post ideas ideas for book bloggers!

4. Write an activity log

August 11, lunchtime: Reading chapter 5 and wondering when ________ is going to happen.

August 11: before bed: Wondering why _______ is acting like such an idiot in chapter 6.

August 12: subway to work: Oh god, this scene in chapter 8 is getting steamy. I hope no one is looking over my shoulder. I better make the font smaller and screen dimmer…

Writing an activity log and tracking your journey of reading the book is a lot like liveblogging (point #1). But with an activity log, it’s more about the chronological order of things.

Comments and thoughts are directly tied to moments in the book. Highlights and comments make this easy for ebooks. For hard copies, you can use post-its, highlighter, bookmarks, or margin notes.

What this ends up doing is basically building a timeline of your reading journey. A play-by-play, making it easy to imaging your audience reading the book themselves. I’ve never tried it or seen it done, but I feel like it could be really cool.

5. Review the fake movie

I feel like this could only work with a book that hasn’t already been adapted for the big or small screen. Again, it’s not something that I know has been done, but I definitely want to try.

Write a review of a hypothetical movie based on the book. Cast the characters (but don’t use copyrighted images!), describe the pivotal scenes, what the actors got right and wrong. If the book you’re reviewing has already been adapted for screen, you could combine this idea with #2.

Compare the book to the movie, critically and objectively and/or in your subjective opinions. Did the casting match the book descriptions? Did the actors portray the characters well? Were any super important scenes cut out, or any major changes made?

6. Spotlight a minor leaguer

Most reviews don’t talk much about the secondary characters. But I’ve always appreciated when the “funny best friend” or “friend who marches to their own drum,” or “best friend of the opposite sex” is done well.

Don’t you sometimes love a minor leaguer more than any of the main characters? Write a spotlight of one of the book’s secondary characters. You could make a list of what qualities you love about them, collect your favorite quotes or scenes with them, or write a fictional Q&A interviewing them. And it’ll be awesome karma that a “little guy” is getting some love.

7. Get personal

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to get personal in reviews. Regular readers know my first name, where I live, when I moved here, what I do for a living, my boyfriend’s name…

Is it a risk? Sure. But it’s also a connection. I love connecting with readers and other bloggers. Many of my IRL friendships have even started this way.

Getting personal builds loyalty, both for you to your readers, and them to your blog. That kind of relationship is great for long-term blogging growth, plus having that community gives you all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings.

8. Write a recommendation list

Like I said in #2, connecting a book to something through comparisons helps your reader understand it, without spoiling anything. So what other books are similar to what you just read? A post like “Read ______ if You Like These 10 Books” is a great way to recommend a book based on other readers.

9. Reflect on your opinions

Our opinions change over time – even over very short amounts of time.

Has there ever been a book that you thought you hated while reading it, only to realized you actually hated how much you loved it? Or vice versa?

It’s interesting to observe how our feelings for a book change. A cool way to do that might be writing mini-reviews at different points in your “reading journey” (I know that sounds super corny and I keep using it, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it).

For example, jot down a few sentences at the climax of the plot. Then write another short recap as soon as you finish the book. Then reflect on everything again a few days later, after you’ve slept on it a few times and have probably started a new book.

Do you ever write “non-generic” reviews? What review formats have you tried?

Write more creative book reviews with these 10 list post ideas ideas for book bloggers!

9 Tips for Writing More Creative Book Reviews - Plus a Free Download

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20 Responses to “9 Ways to Write More Creative Book Reviews”

  1. These are great ideas! I love lists and lately quite a few of my reviews have been in that format. Thanks for sharing more ideas :).

  2. Wow. I really like this. This will definitely help!
    I love the list idea and the log. I definitely will try to do those. (Sadly, I do sometimes sit and read for hours, so the latter doesn’t always work.)
    These are great ideas. Thanks!

  3. Interesting ideas! I’ve got to try some of them! I’ve actually tried taking notes as I read the book, but yeah… wayyyyyyy too many things got to me and when things got interesting, I couldn’t stop to take notes, I had to sprint to the end! So that didn’t work. lol. I do live-post on Instagram though, sometimes. My favorite idea is the listicle one. Simple and fun. =D Thanks for sharing!

    • Haha yeah I tend to mostly highlight since it’s quick, and highlight like everything. What I use for my reviews are the Kindle comments – those take longer so it’s easier to say, “eh, not important to mention in the review” for things, and I end up only writing down the good stuff haha.

      Glad you like the listicle idea! Did you download the full list of ideas?

  4. love your comment about not reading reviews even though you are a book blogger and reader. I’m the same way. Enough with the 400 word description. Give it to me short and sweet. Tell me what you really thought of book are the ones I read. Yours always crack me up because they are so honest and to the point.

    • So glad you like my reviews! Sometimes I feel weird even calling them that since they’re so random and off-the-wall, and I feel like a review is more like a critique or something more professional lol. But yeah, I definitely hate when a review summarizes. Reviews aren’t for recaps – leave me a surprise when I read the book, and let me know what you really thought.

  5. I read this post ages ago, but finally got up the gumption to actually post a “different” kind of review…. I did a “listicle” type thing on my last review and it was SO.MUCH.FUN! So thanks for the great ideas:-)

  6. I *whispers* don’t read many reviews and if I do I skim through them. It’s totally because of this I write the reviews I’d like to read. There is so much to look at online and my attention span doesn’t allow for reading long reviews. My reviews are short, no spoilers and mostly just giving my emotional response so they are very personal. I like the idea of live blogging. Thanks for sharing.

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