Five ways writing book reviews builds skills for work

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Chances are that you’ve written quite a few book reviews in your time. These tasks ask us to not only read a book, but to also critically analyse the book, then write a summary and review of our thoughts which adds up to quite a bit of work. It can also be difficult to understand why we need to know this particular book in quite so much detail.

Five skills you can learn from book reviews:

  1. How to share ideas with others
  2. Where to find the important bits
  3. How to critically reflect and analyse documents
  4. Ways to hone your writing skills
  5. How to give your opinion (and back it up)

The thing is that adults use the skills they learnt writing book reviews all the time. For example, engineers use their skills to analyse client briefs and identify the key points, and office managers often take notes in meetings and summarise them into reports for other departments.

When you practice these skills at school on a random book, you’re building skills you’ll need throughout your life, and in practically every career path.

Here are five transferable skills you’ll learn when writing book reviews:

Skill #1 – Learn how to share your idea with others

Book reviews aren’t written to sit in a folder (although your primary school ones may collect a bit of dust), they’re written so that other people can get the main points about a book (or other document) without needing to read it for themselves.

This way, they can make a decision about whether or not they commit their time to the book, or it could help them clarify their own thoughts on the book or document. Sharing your ideas is an important skill for almost all career paths, and particularly for professional careers where you will be expected to be a subject matter expert. That’s why taking the time now to learn how to write succinct and insightful reviews could be beneficial down the track, when you need to convey your opinion on a regular basis.

Skill #2 – Book reviews teach you how to find the important bits

Workplace documents can be long, and you often won’t need to read the entire thing cover to cover, but you will need to know how to find the most important parts. When you write a book review, part of the process is separating plot from characters and setting, so that you can analyse each section independently as well as part of a whole. One day, you may use these skills to separate marketing from finance and product development in an annual report, or to find the section you need within a complex legal document.

This process also helps you learn how to work out what has been left out – because you are specifically setting out to identify each aspect of the text individually, you’ll be able to work out where the details may be lacking. Sometimes this may be done deliberately, for example if the author wanted you to use your imagination to flesh out the gaps, but on occasion this may be an oversight on the part of the author. At work, you may need to be able to identify when elements of a document or report are missing, or where there is room for more detail.

Skill #3 – Learn how to critically reflect and analyse documents

At work, you’ll need to stop and think before accepting any and all information that comes your way. For example, you may need to review an offer of purchase for your company, and at that point you’ll need the skills that help you analyse the offer and critically reflect on what it could mean. In other work settings, you may need to analyse technical manuals or style guides, or reflect on reports and research from other groups in your industry, all of which will require the ability to reflect and review.

Skill #4 – Book reviews help hone your writing skills

Most jobs have some element of writing, even if it’s just writing quotes or product descriptions, and your written communication skills can help you look professional. When you write a book review, you’re not only working on your core writing skills, like grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but you’re also learning how to summarise the key parts into your own words.

Formal, professional writing often needs to conform to specific document structures, which are similar to the structures you’ll be expected to follow when writing a book review, so practising now will help you adjust down the track when you get to the workplace.

Skill #5 – You’ll be able to give your opinion and back it up

Reviews are basically your summary and analysis, which then justifies your opinion. You are entitled to have any opinion you like, as long as you can explain how you have come to that opinion, and you’ll need this skill throughout your career. For example, if you become a small business owner you’ll need to set your own prices, and if you are able to show how you reached the price you have set then your customers will be able to see your reasoning and make their own judgements.

Book reviews also teach you how to separate your personal preferences from your opinions; you don’t need to like the book to be able to find it successful. You’re being asked to critically analyse the book, and base your opinion on what you know of writing and communication, and the author can make different choices to the ones you would have made and still be correct. At work, there will be many, many times when someone else has a different way of doing things, which conflicts with yours. Being able to stand back and let them go for it their way is a skill, and people who don’t learn it become micro-managers.

Can you think of any other career-skills you’ll gain from writing a book review?

There’s a lot to gain, so next time you’re asked to write a book review take a minute to imagine how this is helping you prefer for the careers you’re considering.

If you’d like to learn more, check out these tips for writing a book review from Book Trust, or these from Grammarly. You could also take a look at these 25 fantastic reviews from the New York Times, or find the latest reviews at The Guardian. If you’re ready to start writing for yourself, check out Medium – they give you a platform to start writing straight away, or read about how to become a writer from Study Work Grow.  

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