Book reviews are a strange animal. There’s a lot to consider:
- How many words to use
- How much summary is needed
- How much commentary should you offer
…things like these.
But there’s one factor that, for me, is more important than any of the above: how much time should I spend between reading the book and writing the review.
The answer, of course, is it depends.
Some books require a great deal of time to properly process and critically evaluate. This is work that, very often, can’t be done while you’re reading the book. You need time to work through it all and make sure you’re not making a judgment in the heat of the moment (like when the author writes something that’s embarrassingly stupid, for example).
More important, though, is when you’re reading a great book—when you’re in the middle of it, your fired up, super-excited and ready to give a glowing recommendation. Maybe, though, it’s better to give it a few days, even a few weeks, breathing room.
See if the passion you felt for the book is still there.
See if you’ve done anything with the content you’ve read.
Let that temper what you write.
This is my normal practice for book reviews. I typically try to leave as much as four weeks between reading a book and reviewing it. I need to make sure I’m not just saying something’s great and life-changing, but am actually trying to apply the positive take-aways.
Truthfully, it’s rare that I review anything immediately after reading it. For me, it’s just unwise.
I want to be thoughtful and careful about what I say about a book, largely because I don’t want to mislead a reader. I also don’t want to have to go back and say, “Whoops I changed my mind” unless I really have to (and so far, I think there’s only one or two books I’ve reviewed where I’d probably change a few things about what I’ve said).
The Bible encourages us to be slow to speak, to restrain our lips (James 1:19; Prov. 10:19); this should be reflected in how we critically evaluate movies, books and articles. It’s always better to take a bit of time to think things through (and sometimes seek advice when needed). The results will always be worth it.