How to write a book review

We welcome reviews of books relevant to public relations, so here are some guidelines for contributors.

Suggested word count: 600 words

Purpose of a review:

A book review is not about your opinion on a book or its author. It’s written with the reader in mind. You are trying to help the reader decide whether a book is worth reading and worth buying. You should be encouraging readers to form a judgement rather than imposing your judgement on them.

Choosing books to review:

We usually publish reviews of recent books in the public relations field, though we might publish round-up reviews of several established texts.

Who can review books:

Anyone wanting to submit a review should first contact the editor. Anonymous reviews will not be published, and reviewers should state any connections they have to the author (through family or work).

How to read a book you are reviewing:

Ideally, you should read a book for review twice. The first reading should be at speed to gain a broad overview of the themes of the book. The second reading should allow a much more detailed analysis of the argument.

In reality, there is rarely time to do this. So you should read the book judiciously, skimming certain sections to allow a more detailed reading of key passages. Have a notebook to hand to record the page numbers of key passages you may want to cite or quote.

Academics will often read a book ‘back-to-front’, judging it by the quality – and the quantity – of the sources consulted. Does the book have an index, and does it appear comprehensive?

Suggested structure of a review:

  1. State the details of the book. Its title, author, page count, publisher and publication year.
  2. Outline the general topic. Does it support or challenge existing scholarship in the field?
  3. Indicate who the book is written for.
  4. Comment on the author’s credentials to write this book (authority).
  5. Summarise the key themes and identify some of the main arguments.
  6. Illustrate with choice quotations from the text.
  7. For academic books, you might comment on the research conducted and the sources consulted.
  8. Identify any errors or omissions.
  9. Comment on the style and structure of the book.
  10. Provide a summary of the book’s qualities (or deficiencies).

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