As an author who has been much reviewed, Joseph Epstein shares his frustrations over reviewers. This is an older essay, but well worth reading–particularly for students who have to write reviews.
What is a good book review? A first blush answer is, I suppose, the product of an interesting mind thinking about a book. But there is more to it than that. A reviewer has certain obligations to the book he’s reviewing and to his own readers: he must report what the book is saying; he must make a judgment about how well the author gets it said; and he must determine if what has been said was worth saying in the first place. Not to be dull, not to be fearful, not to scamp the duties of clear summary—these are the minimum requirements that a good book reviewer must meet.