How to Write an Engaging & Informative Online Book Review that Your Fellow Researchers Will Thank You For
Why are book reviews important?
There are a lot of books out there for anyone wanting to learn more about the field of educational administration & leadership. And I mean, a lot. A recent search on Amazon.com gave me more than 6,000 results. That’s a lot of potential books to scroll through, just to find one that you want to read!
So how do you figure out which books are 1) most relevant to your interests, 2) most current and up-to-date, and 3) worth reading? Unless you’re looking for a specific title, choosing a book can be a complete shot in the dark.
But as educational administration researchers, we can help each other out by writing helpful, detailed book reviews that let others know which books are worth investing time into.
Now I’m not suggesting that you need to write an essay on the book or anything. When I say detailed, all I mean is we should try to include key information to help others decide if this is the book for them. Learning how to write a useful online book review not only helps your peers to save time and money, but your personal recommendation could make all the difference between whether someone decides to check out the book or not.
Where Can I Post Online Book Reviews?
Thankfully many decent reviews can be found on the Internet and reading apps, though they can vary greatly and are more often than not very brief and unhelpful (e.g. “I didn’t like it, wouldn’t recommend it”).
Some websites that would benefit from consistently well-written book reviews are:
Reading apps such as Goodreads.
Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and other major book distributor websites.
Author and publisher websites.
Your local library’s website.
Your local bookstore’s website.
Your university library’s website.
Your own blog, website, or social media accounts.
And while not all of these websites may allow book reviews, it’s worth checking them out!
Note! What is missing on the list above is educational administration journals. While many journals do accept book reviews, those are academic book reviews and they follow a specific format that is more detailed than what you’d want to write for an app or website. However, if you’d like to learn more about writing academic book reviews, there are some great resources online.
The 3 Elements of an Online Book Review
A good book review has these common elements: 1) purpose, 2) synopsis, and 3) commentary and views. These are the three elements that I use in my own book reviews (e.g. Check out my review of Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration & Leadership on Goodreads).
Note: This is a lengthier book review, perhaps longer than something you want to write for a website like Amazon or Indigo, but the important thing is that all three elements are in your review - whether it’s 100 or 1,000 words long.
Include (in 3-5 sentences) what the main purpose of the book is and whether you think the book achieved this purpose. Keep this section brief, but include these details up-front in case someone only scans the review and reads the first few sentences.
The synopsis section is where you can provide a concise (and I mean very concise, maybe 5-10 sentences) summary of the content, which could include:
How the book is structured (the number of parts or chapters in the book).
The main themes or topics discussed in the book.
The purpose of the book (why does it exist and what is this book trying to help people understand).
Who would most benefit from reading this book (e.g. K-12 leaders, higher education administrators, etc.).
Commentary & Views
At least, we’ve come to the heart of any good book review! This is the place where you should go into more detail about what you thought of the book. Here are a few questions to think about:
How do you feel this book helped (or didn’t help) your understanding of a particular topic?
Do you think this book is unique, or is it similar to other books you’ve read on this topic?
What was the author’s point and did they do a good job of making their argument?
Did the author use a good variety of legitimate sources?
How might educational administrators/ researchers use the information in this book to take some kind of action?
The possibilities are endless here, so try writing a few sentences that capture how you felt about the book, its usefulness, and include if you would use this book as a resource or reference book for your own research - your fellow researchers will be happy to know what you think!
Are there other elements of a book review that you feel are important? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to share a link to a book review you’ve written that you want other educational administration researchers to know about!