How do we decide what to read? Sometimes a book beckons us with a clever title or flashy cover, but more often we read on recommendation—a personal endorsement from a friend or family member . . . or a stranger who touts their “must reads” in a book review! This month, we invite you to tell us what book has captured your heart and why. We are partnering with The Coop
, the Harvard/MIT bookstore, which was founded by Harvard students in 1882 to help defray student living costs. We hope this venerable institution will motivate you to write a book review and plant one of your favorites—from fantasy to biography to memoir to history, or any other genre of your liking—in the hands of hungry readers..
“The silent influence of books,” wrote the Irish preacher Henry Giles, “is a mighty power in the world… passive and noiseless though they be, they yet set in action countless multitudes, and change the order of nations.” What we read, then—and what our communities, cities, and countries read—is no small matter. By picking up a book, we are absorbing new perspectives, stepping into someone else’s shoes, widening our sense of the world and all the possibilities it holds. By picking up a book, we alter the course of our own path, and those around us.
This month, dear writers, change the order of nations
. Plant your favorite pages in the hands of hungry readers by telling us what book has captured your heart and why.
What is a Book Review?
Let’s begin by talking about what book reviews are NOT. Firstly, dear writers, reviews are not book reports—routine/objective accounts of what happened from first page to last. Nor are reviews the impulsive, reactionary, flash-dash comments readers post on Amazon—a torrent of unpolished thoughts. And perhaps most importantly, reviews are not a spout of negative sentiment—what we think of when we hear the word “criticism.”
Reviews, while evaluating both the strengths and the weaknesses of a book, are largely positive, shining a light on pages worth reading. Here are some recommendations to get you rolling:
PAINT A QUICK PICTURE. Assume that your readers are unfamiliar with the book you’re reviewing. Give them a quick sense of the book’s purpose, the main characters and ideas, and the author and genre. Remember, your intention is for others to read this book, so no spoilers!
ASSERT YOUR OPINION. Are you recommending this book whole-heartedly? Do you have some reservations? Your readers want to know whether they should rush to their local bookstore or if this book should be at the bottom of their holiday reading list. Let them know what you think.
FOCUS ON THE WHY
. Be sure to back up your opinion with two or three main reasons that this book spoke to you: ideas, theme, characters, argument etc. Get specific.
MAKE IT PERSONAL. Let readers know what about this book impacted you on a personal level. Why did you connect with the main character? Why were you moved by the language? How did the central question revise your own thinking?
INCLUDE THE AUTHOR’S VOICE: Infuse your review with the voice of the book by incorporating two or three quotes.
START STRONG. Get your readers interested with a snappy or intriguing first line.
SPECIFY THE AUDIENCE. Who out there would really love this book? Readers who devoured the Hunger Games
? Great Gatsby
enthusiasts? World wanderers looking for a travel companion? Make sure to recommend the book to a specific group of readers.
Who is Eligible?
Young writers ages 13-18
is passionate about children’s and YA literature and sharing it with young and old alike. She is the author of Raising Readers
and curates the popular Children’s Books Daily
—an online library of YA and children’s book reviews and resources. In daylight hours, Megan is a teacher librarian.
The Harvard Cooperative Society (The Coop)
The Harvard Coop was founded by Harvard College students in a student dorm in 1882. Today, The Coop is the oldest and one of the largest college bookstores in the United States, serving the Harvard and MIT academic communities. Write the World launched its first two literary journals
at The Coop in Harvard Square, Cambridge.
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Best Entry: $100 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the winning piece, and an interview with the author will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Runner up: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the piece will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Best Peer Review: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the best peer review and an interview with the reviewer will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Prizes: The winning entrant will receive $100, and the runner-up and best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, January 11 and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
- January 4: Competition Opens
- January 11: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
- January 15: Reviews returned to Writers
- January 19: Final Submissions Due
- January 29: Winners Announced
Our Song Writing Competition opens Monday, February 1st.
Stay tuned for more details!
The power of our writing goes hand in hand with responsibility. Make sure that you’re supporting other people through your writing rather than pulling them down. The types of content that will be removed from the site include, but are not limited to:
- Anything that may be deemed hurtful, defamatory or discriminatory in nature.
- Anything deemed explicit or gratuitously violent.
- Anything referencing self-harm.
- Any commercial posts and/or spam.
- Plagiarism (see more at our Writing Guidelines page).
- Personal contact information—including usernames on social media or other platforms. This is to protect the privacy of our members.
- Links to any external websites, with the exception of links to citations as part of an essay, or including links to illustrations or audio as part of a Write the World competition or prompt.
If a writer posts content that violates our terms or goes against our guidelines, we will remove the post and contact the writer when necessary. Please refer to our Writing Guidelines
and site’s terms
for further information.