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4 History Bloggers Share How to Write a History Book Review

If you’ve ever thought about adding book reviews to your history blog but are not sure how to craft one, then here are some top tips from four experienced history bloggers about how to write a history book review. Perfect eh!

How do you structure a book review?

“My tip is NOT to restate the synopsis/description in your review- I include the Goodreads description as a quote, with the review separately. A lot of reviews are actually just restating the description, and that doesn’t help readers!”

Jessica, An Historian About Town

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Related Link: You’ll find book review templates and many more in The Ultimate History Blogging Planner’

How do you manage the expectations of an ‘honest’ and positive’ review?

“Find out if the publisher you are writing reviews for wants a ‘positive’ review or an ‘honest’ review.

If the publisher just wants positive reviews, they are generally just after positive 5-star reviews whether the book deserves it or not. If they want an honest review, the publisher generally won’t mind if you find a couple of minor faults with the book.

But you should always be able to back up why you think there are faults. Whether they choose to use it is then up to the publisher,

My publisher always publishes mine because at the end of the day I’m just being honest and saying what others will probably pick up.”

Ben, UK Historian

Discover more at UK Historian Ben Davidson

What if you don’t like the book you’re reviewing?

“Pay attention to how you write about the book – don’t be mean. Critique and point out any inaccuracies or places where you think more detail would have been beneficial, but remember that a writer would have probably put their heart and soul into the book as well as months or even years of work. No one likes to see something they’ve worked so hard on being torn apart. Be kind.”

Helene, TudorBlogger

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Discover more at Lifelong History Lover Blog and HistoryArt10

How do you take notes and read the book at the same time?

“It can be quite distracting at first, it is something you get used to doing the more books you review. If I think something stands out and should be mentioned in the review, then I write it down in a notebook or on my phone. Tabs or bookmarks are also useful to save pages of interest, then you can go back once you have finished reading and make a note of it.”

How do you write a history book review that stands out?

“I think the reviewer should have a genuine love for books, and the genre they are reading about. Your enthusiasm will make your review stand out.

Make sure you utilise social media.

Sharing your post to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook will help more people see your review. A nice image of the book is worth adding, this is what people will initially see and could be a deciding factor in whether they click the link or not. Make sure you tag the author and publisher too so that they see your post and so your readers know who’s book it is.”

If the book is massive, how do you condense it into a not too long review that doesn’t take an age to write?

“Try not to get too overwhelmed.

Look at your notes, what are the key points of the book that you think the reader needs to know? Remember they don’t need to know every detail! People ultimately just want to know a little about the book and read your honest thoughts.” 

Is there a word limit when writing a history book review? 

“It’s hard to know when to stop writing a book review.

You don’t want it to turn into a long essay, but you also want to make sure that you’re including everything you want to say. It also depends on where you are posting your review. You can write a lengthier post on your blog, whereas on Instagram you are more limited.

Just remember that if a publisher or author has sent you a book, then they deserve more than a few sentences from you.”

Where do I get an image of the book?

“If you are taking part in a book tour, then the publisher may send you a media pack in advance, which will include a high-quality image of the book to use on your blog. If not, you could take your own photo of the book. If you take a nice photo for Instagram this could stop people scrolling and read your review. It’s worth taking the time. You can also find images of the book from amazon too.”

How do you get free history books to review : )

“If you love a particular publishing house, then check if they are looking for reviewers. They may have a form on their website that you can fill in to become a reviewer of their books.

Also, if you notice a publisher/author is doing a book tour on Instagram, then you could message them and ask if they might consider letting you be part of the next one.

There are also people who organise book tours. You select the genre that you are interested in reviewing, such as history, and then when they are putting together a book tour for a history book, they email you and ask if you would like to be part of it.

Physical copies of books are expensive to make, so if you are being sent a book to review, make sure you’re genuinely interested in the title and that you can definitely make the time to read the book and review it.” 

What kind of areas should you include in the review?

“Ask yourself what you like to read in a review and take it from there. Your readers want to know a little about the book and what you thought about it. Some ideas for what you could include:

  • The synopsis.
  • When the book is set and where.
  • If it is a novel: Characters, their ages, their backstory if relevant, how they meet and their first interaction. A summary of the plot.
  • If it’s a biography: Who is the person, how they started out in life, what are they famous for? Is there an interesting fact you could include? Why this biography is different to others that may have been written about the person.
  • What you thought about the book. Your likes, dislikes, and how it made you feel. Why you think it would potentially appeal to others.
  • Something about the author.
  • A link to where people can buy the book.”

How do you best present negative comments?

“Thankfully, I haven’t had to do this yet. It’s extremely rare that I dislike a book. If I do come across a book in the future that I dislike or if I disagree with something the author has written, then I will include it in my review.

Honesty is the best policy. 

I believe you should always be truthful to those who are reading your review. If I know the author will be seeing my post, for example, if I am on a book tour, then I will present this in a respectful way. There is no reason to be mean! Remember, the author has potentially spent years writing this book, it is their baby. Absolutely write your opinion, but do so respectfully!”

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this post and I hope it has encouraged you to write a history book review for your next post. If you want to keep track of all those great history reads check out the history-themed and rainbow bookshelf-inspired printable trackers in my shop.

Elizabeth Hill-Scott

Elizabeth Hill-Scott teaches entrepreneurs and bloggers who want to start, grow and monetise a successful niche blog in the fascinating field of history. She is also a post-graduate and communications expert who spent over 15 years advising senior UK politicians and public figures.