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What is a Book Critic?

By B. Miller
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A book critic, also referred to as a literary critic, is a writer who is paid to analyze and critique books. Book critics frequently work for newspapers and magazines, and are similar to book reviewers; however, book critics tend to provide more in-depth analysis than book reviewers. An established book critic will receive a new book to critique, often for free, and will analyze the book and write an article regarding his or her thoughts about the achievements and failings of the book. Book critics are commonly avid readers who want to turn their love of a craft into a career.

To become a book critic, it is typically necessary to pursue a college degree. A bachelor's degree in English is common, with a combined focus on literature and writing. During college, many aspiring book critics take internships at newspapers or college literary magazines, and may start writing book reviews for those publications. Book critics who have been writing about books for a longer period of time often find it easier to secure employment, or at least freelance work, after graduation.

A book critic often begins as a freelancer, submitting reviews to local newspapers or magazines. Once he or she has built up a portfolio of published clips, the book critic may pursue more steady employment with a publication. Book critics may publish new articles on a weekly or monthly basis.

When a book critic reviews a new book, he or she typically attempts to analyze the book from a literary standpoint. This may mean analyzing the plot, characters, themes, symbolism, voice and style throughout the book, and the enjoyment and entertainment value of a book. Contrary to popular belief, book critics do not simply tear apart the hard work of authors and provide critical commentary; instead, book critics typically try to point out areas of the book where the writer succeeded and did well, in addition to areas where the writing may have fallen short.

Book critics may offer their own opinions in addition to their literary analysis. Critiquing books can be a highly subjective field, and one reviewer's opinion may be vastly different than another. Book reviews are not meant to be the final word on a piece of writing, but simply one way to think about and view the book from a different perspective. Book critics should make an effort to be as objective as possible, however.

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Discussion Comments

By anon134473 — On Dec 14, 2010

Thank you for this article. I aspire to begin writing serious reviews of books and this piece on literary critics has given me a clear idea of what would be expected of my writing. I haven't found a more concise article on the subject.

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