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What does a Book Reviewer do?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A book reviewer reads books and provides reviews for a medium such as a newspaper, magazine, radio show, or television show. Like other critics such as movie critics and music critics, book reviewers aim to provide information about books which people can use to decide whether or not they are interested in reading them. Book reviewers can also grow prominent enough to shape literary culture and they are sometimes viewed as arbiters of taste when they write for notable publications.

Many publishers provide book reviewers with review copies before the official release date. This allows the reviewer time to read and finish the book before it is scheduled to be sold to members of the public, so that the review can be published on or close to the release date. The book reviewer is typically asked to observe an embargo set by the publisher and to avoid talking about the book before it is officially on sale.

The type of reviews a book reviewer writers can vary considerably. Most include a brief synopsis of the book, accompanied with commentary. The reviewer might comment on the writing style, whether or not the story felt compelling, and the writer's other works. In the case of non-fiction, a book reviewer may discuss the scholarship behind the book and whether or not the book will feel accessible to readers. On occasion, publications ask someone such as a prominent scientist, historian, or other scholar to review a major work in order to receive the perspective of someone from the same academic field as the author.

Literary criticism can grow quite complex at more advanced publications, and a book reviewer with a well known name can make or break authors with a single review. These reviewers are often aware of their clout in the publishing industry and they try to use it with care. Some book reviewers also write about literature in general, moving beyond reviews of specific books and into discussions about the climate of the literary community.

There are no specific training requirements for someone who wants to become a book reviewer. Some have college degrees, while others may start out writing small reviews for regional publications and gradually work their way into positions of more experience. A book reviewer does need to be well read and to have an understanding of the history of literature so that he or she can consider books in context when reviewing them. Writing a review of a Hemingway biography, for example, would be difficult for a reviewer who knew nothing about Hemingway, the period in which he wrote, and his contemporaries.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Mar 13, 2014

I prefer reading book reviews over book reports. So often, reviewers tell me everything about the book, but not whether it's a good read, well-written or anything like that. Ideally, a book review should be 10 percent report, 90 percent review.

Anyone can write a book report, but a writer needs to carefully consider the work in order to do a well-written review. I've been guilty of giving too much plot in my book reviews, and I've had to revise them as a result. I find that stepping away from something like that for a while and going back to it helps me focus on what I need to change.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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