Hey y’all! I’m always torn on when I should write a book review, and essentially the only firm answer I’ve come up with is “at least within 2 weeks of finishing the book or else I’ve totally forgotten the main points I wanted to mention.” Besides that admittedly not very rigorous refinement though, when would it really work best?
I know, I know: this sounds completely absurd. How can you write a review of book if you haven’t read the book? But take a look at any Goodreads page for a popular upcoming release and you’re sure to see many reviews from people who are just so hyped that they’ll rate it 5 stars and say something like “Sees X author. Immediately buys book. I’m literally dying until this comes out!!!” I think my final judgment here is that this timing, er, has some obvious issues. 😅
I recently read a comment from someone about how they’ll write their review of a book while reading it, by composing emails to themselves with notes along the way as they read, and at the end they simply compile all the notes and polish it up a little. I think that’s absolutely brilliant for someone who can manage to do it!
At best, I try to add little progress notes to Storygraph while I read now that they have that feature (which I adore!). If I’m reading digitally, I’ll add highlights and notes in the text to review after and remind myself of favorite passages, moments of revelation, or some plot “twist” that I was unimpressed by. I think this would be a solid way to do it, but alas, I personally don’t have the commitment to constantly interrupt my reading to write a few lines about what I think.
Immediately after finishing
I finish the book, I set it down, and I immediately write my review. Pros: well, I know I won’t forget to write it! And it will be so fresh in my head! Cons: much like that Stephen Chbosky quote, my favorite book is often whatever one I’ve most recently finished. If I write a review the day I finish a book, I’m probably going to be on that reader’s high still and inflate my opinion a bit without realizing.
That’s not the worst thing, but I do like to ensure my reviews are true reflections of my experience, particularly when compared to other books I’ve read. If I rate this book 10/10, then read a book after that COMPLETELY CHANGES MY LIFE, how can I have those two experiences be given the same rating?
For this one, I’d say it’s not a terrible method, but has some personal pitfalls for me.
A few days or a week after finishing
I’ve given the book some time to settle in my head. I’ve had a few days to see if anything from it lingers with me, or had a lasting impression enough to stay on my mind for a while. If moments and quotes float back to me while daydreaming, it was probably a decent read after all.
But then again… I’m probably reading at least one new book by now, and that thing that happened, was it this book or the other? And what was the main character’s friends’ name again? Was the discovery of the dog before or after the tree that gave birth? If I wait a few days after finishing a book, details start to slip that I might have otherwise wanted to include in the review.
This time frame also works okay, but my sieve of a memory might start to drop some aspects that I would have wanted to mention. This happens a lot with romance novels or thriller / horror stories, when I want to capture the emotions elicited from their titular themes (the sex scene! the exorcism scene! maybe that’s the same scene!)
2+ weeks after finishing
Well at this point, I have probably forgotten the way the book ended, all of the characters names, and retained maybe the overall sense of the plot and one or two iconic moments (if the book had any).
That’s slightly exaggerated — my memory isn’t SO terrible — but for the purposes of writing a detailed and useful review? This is definitely going to be too far gone for me to put one together. At this point, you’re likely going to see one of my 2-second reviews of overall impressions as opposed to a whole review of thoughts, emotions, and recommendations.
If you haven’t guessed, all of this post is truly to say that I have reviews to write and I have not done so. 😅