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This Is Gonna Be Big, I Can Tell: The Review Haiku

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and assume you’ve had the experience of reading a dull book review. You open the pages of that newspaper and skim line after line of plot summary, topped off with those favorite descriptors of the jaded reviewer: “breath-taking,” “engaging,” “a tour de force,” or “compelling.” Even the negative reviews (which, in my opinion, have potential to be infinitely more entertaining) have their expected lines about flat characters, clunky plot devices and one-note authors.

Book blogging is one of the cures for the illness of reviewing malaise. The democratization of the book review opens the doors for more creative, inventive and smart-ass ways of approaching a work. An example is the book review haiku; or as I like to call it, Snark in 17 Syllables. The book review haiku will force you to condense your thoughts (which, if you’re me, are always a voyage into the sarcastic) into the smallest of possible packages, leaving no room for tired and cliché turns of phrase.

The formula is simple: three lines, the first and last of which have five syllables, the middle of which has seven syllables. There are other rules about including a seasonal word in the poem, but hey. This is my trip so STOP BOSSING ME AROUND, POEM. Admittedly, review haikus are probably best used when discussing books that are well-read, like classics or major prize winners/best sellers. Then you can include inside jokes! Of course, you can be as earnest as you like. But that’s not funny.


Here are a few examples to get you started:

The Giver

Apples are shiny.

Parents are murdering freaks.

Sled away home, kid.


Atlas Shrugged

John Galt? He’s an ass

and his girlfriend is crazy.

So stop asking, thanks.


Mrs. Dalloway

Middle class party

proves heart breaking, soul crunching-

Read it in silence.


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Never climb into

a well or a subconscious

without a few beers.

Even if you’re not a book blogger or reviewer, the book review haiku is an excellent way to record your strongest thoughts about a work for posterity (so your grandchildren have a reason to run from you when you start telling them about your ‘booky poems’). Or to turn in to your takes-himself-too-seriously-and-needs-a-brain-whoopin’ English professor. But that’s only for the very, very brave. Sally forth, poets!