A book report should introduce its reader to the book, the author of the book, and the general subject, then it should briefly summarize the work as a whole. Following this, a book report should give a rough sense of the reviewer's response to the text. The structure or outline of the book should be critiqued, as well as the quality of the language.
The research or central ideas of the book should be described at length, and any problems should be noted plainly, but in a fair way. Finally, the book reviewer should contextualize the tome and its success or failure as a work. What, culturally speaking, is the book a response to? What is its role in the larger academic discourse? Are there any books on the same subject that are more effective, which the reviewer might recommend?
A good book review takes longer to write than almost any other kind of research paper or critique. The work itself must be read multiple times, and given the reviewer's utmost attention and devoted criticism. The work should be read in private and in absolute quiet, so the reviewer may focus. All criticism of the text that occur the reviewer as he or she reads should be marked in the margins of the text, or in a notebook with page numbers indicated. After the first round of criticism and reading has passed, a second reading must be conducted (following a brief break), to ensure the reader's initial impressions are well founded.
After thoroughly reading the text multiple times and taking meticulous notes, the reviewer must take the long view. The book as a whole work or general gestalt should be considered. Now is a good time for the reader to expose him or herself to other texts on the same topic area, to serve as a basis for comparison and contextualization. Finally, the reader should draft and compose the essay, ever mindful of the larger impact of the book.
The reviewer must consider multiple factors before arriving at a proper word count goal. First, consider the outlet the book report will run in. If it is a popular press magazine or online site, the review should only be a thousand words or fewer, with little extra embellishment added to the prose. If the outlet is a newspaper, a special interest magazine, or an academic outlet such as a peer reviewed journal, the reviewer's ideas can be more developed and expanded upon, and the text can be several thousands words long.