It started as a school assignment. I was using a humanities course that stressed reading classic literature. The course not only required students write a review of each book they read, but to identify the book’s protagonist, antagonist, the author’s worldview (and the reason why the reader thought so), five new vocabulary words with definitions, and the title of the next book they would be reading.
I was about as eager to write book reviews as most cats are to take a bath.
But even after the humanities course, I seemed to be haunted by book reviews throughout my high school years. The college prep curriculum I used featured its own book review format. It was far more casual, with just the book’s metadata and a brief summary required. (In this case, brief meant three book reviews would fit on an 8.5 x 11″ page.)
I still found writing reviews to be tedious. However, I did enjoy looking back at all the books I had read. This sliver of benefit led me to continue writing book reviews throughout high school and beyond. Even today I write reviews. Because review writing has been part of my life for over 10 years, I wanted to share the joy of book reviews.
Why Review a book?
Today we have more opportunities to review items, services and people (hello Sarahah!) than I ever remember in the past. Creating a book review for the express purpose of sharing on Goodreads, Amazon or my website provides writing encouragement.
The main reason I routinely review books, though, is to address my memory shortfalls.
If I want to remember the names of the books I’ve read, I write them down. And, because reviews are more than a book list, I have information beyond the title. Fun facts about each book stick with me through reviews. I can check how old I was when I last read a certain book and what I thought about it, which is especially helpful if I’m deciding what to recommend to a younger reader.
People who I only know as screen names have blessed my life through taking time to write reviews. I’d like to thank the hundreds of readers who have helped steer me toward books I’ve loved reading.
These reasons keep me writing about books. But how did I make writing reviews fun?
Reviews began to be fun was when I kept them brief and tried fresh ways of compiling book information.
The Index Card
For over two years now, I’ve been using index cards to take book notes. I first tried this while writing College Without the Campus. In my research for the book, I read several books about higher education, and I needed a place to write down interesting facts that I wanted to reference in my book. When I went to grab something to write on, the closest paper nearby was an index card.
Little did I realize this was going to become my favorite way of taking book notes.
Now I use the card to write key thoughts, quotes, and book titles mentioned by the author. The index card gives me a place to jot new vocabulary words, paraphrase influential statements, and write down concepts to research. When I’m finished with the book, I use the card to write my review.
It took time to find enjoyment in writing book reviews. What kept me going was being able to look back at the books I had read and remember what I thought of them. Now, writing reviews has become habit! Using index cards and keeping them brief makes it fun.
How do you like to keep track of what you read?