One useful skill to have when reading a book is to think about how you would write a good book review. There are lots of different ways to do this, here's one way that I have found that seems to work very well.
Try dividing the book review into four parts: introduction, summary, reaction, and conclusion. By fleshing out each one of these areas you'll be able to provide interesting information to your reader as well as add your own opinion about the book.
Describing the book is a good way to begin your introduction. Give the title, author, or publisher. Provide a little background on the book by mentioning the subject, the context, and the general problem addressed. It may help to describe earlier works by the author. Sometimes just describing the overall theme of the book is useful. Remember, it's important to describe what type of book this is that you are reviewing (fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, etc.)
One of the best ways to summarize the book is to be brief. Remember the advice "Keep It Simple Stupid". If the book is a work of fiction, give the storyline but don't give away anything that could ruin the storyline for the reader. If the book is a work of nonfiction, provide an overview or overall thesis of the book. Provide some quotations, primary supporting points, or paraphrased portions of the text to provide additional interest.
Describing your reaction to the book is where you personalize your review. Give a description of something that interested you, possibly a memorable point of the story, or an entertaining or instructive part. Then tell why you found it interesting. If you can, described the author's opinion and give your response. Did you disagree or agree with the author? Why? Were there any issues that were raised? Were some possibilities left unexplained, or other parts you felt were left out? Provide your thoughts, and support that with any additional material you think is interesting. Were there issues addressed that changed your opinion about something? Did you feel that the author had a personal agenda? Most of all, describe how you felt during and after you read the book.
The conclusion is sometimes the easiest because you restate the main points and tie together the issues addressed. Make some direct comments, and provided advice, especially if you liked the book.
I hope that you find these points interesting and useful when you're writing your next book review. If you use any of these principles, drop me an e-mail, or leave us a comment. I'd love to read your opinions and insight.