How do we decide what to read? Sometimes a book beckons us with a clever title or flashy cover, but more often we read on recommendation—a personal endorsement from a friend or family member . . . or a stranger who touts their “must reads” in a book review.
“The silent influence of books,” wrote the Irish preacher Henry Giles, “is a mighty power in the world… passive and noiseless though they be, they yet set in action countless multitudes, and change the order of nations.” What we read, then—and what our communities, cities, and countries read—is no small matter. By picking up a book, we are absorbing new perspectives, stepping into someone else’s shoes, widening our sense of the world and all the possibilities it holds. By picking up a book, we alter the course of our own path, and those around us.
This month, dear writers, change the order of nations. Plant your favorite pages in the hands of hungry readers by telling us what book has captured your heart and why.
What is a Book Review?
Let’s begin by talking about what book reviews are NOT. Firstly, dear writers, reviews are not the book reports you’ve all written for school—objective accounts of what happened from first page to last. Nor are reviews the impulsive, reactionary, flash-dash comments readers post on Amazon—a torrent of unpolished thoughts. And perhaps most importantly, reviews are not a spout of negative sentiment—what we think of when we hear the word “criticism.”
Reviews, while evaluating both the strengths and the weaknesses of a book, are largely positive, shining a light on pages worth reading. Here are some recommendations to get you rolling:
Who is Eligible?
- PAINT A QUICK PICTURE. Assume that your readers are unfamiliar with the book you’re reviewing. Give them a quick sense of the book’s purpose, the main characters and ideas, and the author and genre. Remember, your intention is for others to read this book, so no spoilers!
- ASSERT YOUR OPINION. Are you recommending this book whole-heartedly? Do you have some reservations? Your readers want to know whether they should rush to their local bookstore or if this book should be at the bottom of their holiday reading list. Let them know what you think.
- FOCUS ON THE WHY. Be sure to back up your opinion with two or three main reasons that this book spoke to you: ideas, theme, characters, argument etc. Get specific.
- MAKE IT PERSONAL. Let readers know what about this book impacted you on a personal level. Why did you connect with the main character? Why were you moved by the language? How did the central question revise your own thinking?
- INCLUDE THE AUTHOR'S VOICE: Infuse your review with the voice of the book by incorporating two or three quotes.
- START STRONG. Get your readers interested with a snappy or intriguing first line.
- SPECIFY THE AUDIENCE. Who out there would really love this book? Readers who devoured the Hunger Games? Great Gatsby enthusiasts? World wanderers looking for a travel companion? Make sure to recommend the book to a specific group of readers.
Young writers ages 13-18
600 – 1,000 words
Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
Runner up: $50
Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, February 11th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and education professionals.
February 4: Competition Opens
February 11: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
February 15: Reviews returned to Writers
February 19: Final Submissions Due
March 1: Winners Announced
Our Op-Ed Competition opens Monday, March 4th.
Stay tuned for more details!