Differences Between a Book Review and a Book Report

Writing GuidesBook Report
Alex Ponomarenko
Oct 4, 2019

There are many different types of written projects, but some of their aspects tend to overlap. As with the case on term papers and research papers , students find it hard to distinguish the differences between a book review and a book report. For instance, most written projects are composed of the same basic elements, like the introduction, body, and conclusion. Most of these, too, require you to do a ton of research. Say you’ve been assigned to do a review on The Catcher in the Rye by your instructor, and upon passing the paper, you feel good – your analysis of each of the characters was spot on, with themes identified clearly – you beam at that “A” grade looming across the horizon. To your shock and disappointment, however, that supposed “A” merely translated to a “D”. The pit of your stomach sinks; you’ve worked so hard for it and spend much of your free time pondering over the novel. And it’s only until you’ve spoken to your instructor that you realized that you’ve made a book report, not a book review. 

At some point in your academic life, you have been asked to write either a book report or a book review, and many of times we interchange the two writing projects. Despite their seemingly similar purpose, there is a difference between the two. Simply put, a book report is much less complex than a book review, as it does not require an in depth analysis of the text at hand. To further understand their distinctions, we have gathered everything you need to know about that book review and that book report in this master post. 

Book Review                                                                      

What is a book review?

book review is an incisive assessment of a text, object, event or phenomenon. These reviews can encompass more than just books and written texts – it can also be written for architecture, art, fashion, and food, among others. An important component of a book review is the argument, followed by the commentary, which should be more than a summary. Here, you are enabled to enter into a dialogue that centers on a discussion with the author and the intended audience. You are free to either agree or disagree, and identify which aspects in the text are exemplary or lacking. With this in mind, your opinion should be clearly stated. Usually, however, reviews are brief. While some may require an extensive analysis, such as journals and newspapers, they seldom exceed a thousand words. In whichever case, remember that reviews are always succinct. To illustrate the composition of a book review, here are its features: 

  • It must have a concise summary of the content. This concise summary should include an appropriate description of the topic, along with its general perspective, argument, or purpose.
  • It should offer an in-depth assessment of the content. This pertains to your feedback directed towards the book under review. Here, you are free to point out which parts strike you as notable, its effectiveness or persuasiveness, and how it has helped further your understanding of the issues tackled.
  • It should suggest whether or not the audience would appreciate the written work.

In addition, there are generally two approaches to writing a book review:

  • Descriptive review –  Here, the content and structure of the book is presented as objectively as possible. Only the essential information about the book’s purpose is needed. 
  • Critical review  – A critical review evaluates and describes the chosen book with relevance to literary and historical standards. It should include a statement on the author’s purpose and technique, along with how (in your perspective) the author has succeeded in doing this. 

How to Write a Book Review

As soon as you’ve gathered and made your assessments and observations of the written work, ensure that you survey your notes accordingly. This will help you combine all your impressions into statements that would best describe the purpose of your review, as well as the thesis. After doing this, the next step is to outline your entire framework according to the following: 

  • Introduction

Due to its brief and concise nature, people usually begin their reviews using anecdotes and catchy quips, so long as it effectively delivers their proposed argument. This approach varies according to the audience and argument, however, although in general, you should include the following elements:

  1. Author’s name, the book title, and main theme
  2. Relevant details about the author, such as his identity and stand on the issue. 
  3. The context of the book and/or your review, as your choice of context supports your argument.
  4. The book’s thesis. If you are reviewing fiction, however, this may be difficult since they rarely display obvious arguments. But the process of identifying the book’s angle can allow you to show what specific contribution the book is trying to make
  5. Your own thesis about the book
  •  Summary of the content

This part of the book review should be brief, as your analysis is of utmost importance. As you begin writing your assessment, remember to support your arguments with concrete evidence directly taken from the book; this means that parts of the summary will be dispersed throughout your review.

  • Your analysis and evaluation of the book

The book review’s analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs in accordance with the subdivisions of your argument. This is particularly challenging when you’re considering the entire book as a whole, but it will aid in differentiating the many elements of your arguments, which could then allow you to provide supporting evidence much clearly. As you cite evidence, make sure that you avoid the excessive use of quotations. 

What is the purpose of a book review?

The basic purpose of a book review is to help the audience or readers decide whether or not they should dedicate some time to read the book. As such, a book review should be able to identify the book’s central idea, along with the author’s approach and style, followed by a complete evaluation of its entirety. 

Book Report

What is a book report?

By textbook definition, a book report is a written composition that summarizes, describes, and at times, evaluates a written work, which can be fiction or nonfiction. While this applies, to the academe, a book report is primarily used as a school exercise, usually determining whether or not a student has indeed read and understood a book. It discusses the contents of the book, which includes the title, plot, characters, and author, as this also shows that the student understands the text at hand. To reiterate, a book report is not a book review, because the latter requires the writer to give personal critique regarding the book. A book report usually follows a basic format, which includes the following details:

  • Book’s title and year of publication
  • Author’s name
  • Book’s genre
  • The book’s primary subject, plot, or theme 
  • Concise summary of all the key points or ideas incorporated in the book 
  • The reader's reaction to the book, which can include the identification of its obvious strengths and weaknesses
  • Quotations from the book used to support general observations

To further understand what comprises a book report, its many forms should be taken into consideration. Book reports can be written in different forms, such as the plot summaries, theme analyses, and character analyses. No matter which type of book report you wish to write, necessary are the key elements which help you convey why the book should be read or not. In any book report, the following elements should always be present:

  • Book report type
  • Title
  • Author
  • Setting, which includes both place and time
  • Character names and description
  • Quotations and passages from the books as supporting evidence

How to Write a Book Report

Writing a book report can be fun and exciting, but its framework can make things quite difficult. Here’s a simple guide to help you with the process:

  • Choose the book you wish to work on

Should you be allowed to choose your book, choose a title that truly evokes enthusiasm in you. It could either be a work of fiction or nonfiction, so long as the subject remains appropriate according to the classroom setting. In case you find yourself without the luxury of that choice, try to be open-minded. Although skeptical at first, perhaps you’ll find yourself enjoying the book if you give it a chance.

  • Read the book religiously 

While much too obvious to point out, reading the book from cover to cover is essential to the process of making a book report. Some students choose to just skim over the book, reading only certain parts. Others resort to information already available online. To truly understand the book, though, you must read the book religiously, even to the point of rereading it. As you read the book, remember to take down notes. This will help you later as you begin the actual writing part. 

If you’re reading fiction, try to ponder on the following elements of a story:

  1. Story plot - what is it about?
  2. Setting - where do the events take place in the book?
  3. Characters – who are the significant characters? Identify their relationships with each other.
  4. Themes - what are the main ideas about society and life that the characters and plot symbolize? 
  5. Symbols – Are there any symbols the writer used to convey abstract concepts?

For non-fiction books, consider the following:

  1. What is the topic of the book?
  2. Identify the relevant events
  3. List down all the important people described in the text
  4. What have you learned?
  • Work on your outline

An outline serves an important purpose, as it helps you ease into the writing process quite well. It works as a sort of framework, which will give you a clear picture of what your successful book report will look like. Organize all the information you have gathered into sections that flow logically, including the introduction, body, and conclusion. Your ideas must also be included here, closely followed by your supporting evidence.

What is the purpose of a book report?

A book report serves an objective summarization of the arguments and main ideas presented in the book. The report, then, should give enough information to help decide the level of interest the book evokes.  

Book Review vs. Book Report

The two written projects are often confused with one other, and it happens so often that their respective definitions get blurry. To emphasize once more the differences between a book review and a book report, a book review is an in-depth analysis of the book in question. It requires the writer’s critique and rigorous analysis. On the other hand, a book report is an objective summarization of the book. Here, its different components are cited, such as the plot, themes, characters, and overall main ideas of the book. 

When are the book report and book review usually assigned?

It varies depending on your school’s curriculum; also keep in mind that you may be asked to accomplish this task more than once. Academic institutions usually require students to hand in their book reviews and book reports to check if one has read the book or not, as well as to evaluate how clearly they have understood the book’s message.

Book review and book report writing service for students

Although both the book review and book report come with some sense of familiarity (you’ve been doing it for quite sometime, we suppose), writing it can still be complex. The mere fact that students often think that there aren’t many differences between a book review and a book report already qualifies as a problem, thus resulting to a less than ideal grade, no matter the effort. There’s also the issue that not all students are readers, and discerning the differences between a book review and a book report becomes an even bigger obstruction. This prompts students to resort to writing services available online, such as CustomEssayMeister. As the premier academic writing service, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping students like you. Even better, though, we can make more than your book reviews and book reports for you; our writers are more than capable of taking on your other writing projects – custom essays, custom research papers and even custom term papers. If you’re interested and truly in need help, don’t hesitate to contact us! 

Written by
Alex Ponomarenko
I am a content manager from California, US. I started as a content writer intern eleven years ago and became a content manager six years after. I joined CustomEssayMeister five years ago and enjoy being a part of the team every day.

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