* This competition is now closed but you are welcome to read through the published writing and blog posts. *
“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.
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.
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 nothing like the dreaded book report—humdrum accounts of what happened from first page to last. Nor are reviews the impulsive, reactionary, and slapdash comments readers often 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:
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 asap or if this book should be at the bottom of their holiday reading pile. 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 it was about this book that made an impression on you. Why did you connect with the main character? Why were you moved by the language? How did the central question revise your own thinking about a particular issue?
Include the author’s voice:
Infuse your review with the voice of the book by incorporating two or three quotes.
Get your readers interested with a snappy or intriguing first line.
Recommend the book to a specific 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?
Hofmann’s first book of poems, Second Empire
, won the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books. He is the poetry book reviews editor of the Kenyon Review
. He is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. His work has appeared or is forthcoming from The New Yorker
, The New Republic
, and The New York Times Style Magazine
among others. With Kara van de Graaf, he founded Lightbox, an online educational resource featuring original interviews with poets and materials for classroom use.
WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT WTW COMPETITIONS?
Prizes: The winning entrant will receive $100, and the runner-up and 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 and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.