Someone asks you to write a non-fiction book review. This first question you need to answer is:
Is This a Good Subject for You?
Consider the subject matter. Do you know anything about it? Whether you do or not, does it interest you?
These really are separate questions. You might, for example, know a lot about a subject that bores you. You’re not going to enjoy reading about it, and you’ll do the author no favors by agreeing.
If the subject interests you, knowledge of it will obviously help you to point out how the strengths of the book. Even if you’re unfamiliar with it, you can have the valuable perspective of many potential readers in your position.
Whatever your knowledge level is, you can comment on the organization, pace, and general interest of the book.
Do You Feel Qualified to Write a Non-Fiction Book review?
By this I mean do you feel that you have the ability to critique the book? (Clearly many reviewers are free to offer their opinions, sometimes about topics that they are not knowledgeable about.)
You may think, “I’ve never done this before, and I wouldn’t want to let the author down.” That may or may not be a valid reason to turn down the request.
Lack of experience isn’t in itself a reason not to agree. “There’s a first time for everything” is a cliché, but it’s still true.
Ask yourself instead if, when you read books, you think of things that could make it better. You recognize what you find boring. You think of areas you’d like to know more about. In other words, you have a critical mind in the best possible sense. If you also have the ability to lucidly express your criticisms, you have another qualification.
However, if you rarely read books, this is the best possible reason to decline the request.
Do You Consider Yourself a Fair Person If You Write a Non-Fiction Book Review?
When you must be critical in other areas of life: in personal matters, in terms of a job review, or any area of life, do you think of the most effective way to state your criticisms?
Do you take into account how the other person will receive what you say?
Do you structure your review in a way that offers constructive points for improvement?
If you can answer yes to all of the above, you are a good candidate to critique a book.
Do You Have Time to Do This?
How you answer this question is very important. Look at your schedule carefully. Is it going to stress you to do this? Is there a possibility that you will end up feeling impatient and resentful?
If so, decline. Whatever negativity gets connected with this additional responsibility may affect the quality of your review. That’s not fair to the author, and taking on something too burdensome isn’t fair to you.
If you commit to writing the review, then follow through. There are a surprising number of people who make promises and never carry them out.
If You Decline
Give the author a thoughtful and honest response. Say you appreciate the honor of being considered to write a nonfiction book review, and explain why you have to give his or her project a pass. Wish the author the best of success in the project.
Pat Iyer loves it when she gets reviews of her books on Amazon. Just saying.