How to Write a Book Report

Writing a book report may not seem fun at first, but it gives you a great chance to really understand a work and its author. Unlike a book review, a book report requires that you give a straightforward summary of the text. Your first step is to pick up the book and start reading. Take detailed notes as you go along. These will help you to build a solid outline, which will make the writing process much easier.

Researching and Outlining Your Report:

  1. Follow the requirements of your assignment. Read through the assignment sheet carefully and make note of any questions that you have. Raise your hand during class or talk with your teacher afterwards to go over any concerns. Make sure that you know the required paper length, due date, and any formatting requirements, like double-spacing.
    • For example, you’ll need to find out if your teacher wants you to include citations, such as page numbers from the book, in your paper.
    • It’s also a good idea to ask your teacher how much of your paper you should devote to summary versus analysis. Most book reports are direct summaries with only a few opinions mixed in. In contrast, a book review is more opinion-driven.
  2. Read the entire book. This is the most important step. Before you even think about writing, sit down and read the text. Find a quiet place where you can concentrate on the book and nothing else. It helps to keep your paper in mind as you read, paying particular attention to any important plot points or characters.[2]
    • Read in hour-long stretches with breaks in between to keep your attention sharp.
    • Make sure to give yourself enough time to get through the entire book. It’s very difficult to write a book report if you’ve just skimmed over everything.
    • Don’t trust online book summaries. You can’t guarantee that they are accurate or true to the text.
  3. Take careful notes when reading. Keep a pencil, highlighter, or sticky notes handy as you read. If you find something that you are curious or confused about, mark it. When the author discusses a major plot point or character, do the same thing. Start identifying evidence and details that you can use in your report by bracketing or placing a note by quotations or good examples.
    • For example, look for a sentence that clearly describes a main setting in the book, such as, “the castle was gloomy and made out of large black stones.”
  4. Create an outline. This should be a paragraph-by-paragraph listing of how your paper will be organized. Include what each paragraph will discuss and the details from the work that you’ll include. Expect that this outline might change a bit when you start writing.
    • When you are finished with your outline, go back through it to see if it makes sense. If the paragraphs don’t flow into one another, move them around or add/delete new ones until they do. Also, check to see if your outline covers all of the major elements of the book, such as the plot, characters, and setting.
    • Outlining does take a bit of time, but it will save you time in the proofreading stage.
    • Some people prefer to outline with pen and paper, while others just type up a list on the computer. Choose the method that works the best for you.
  5. Intermix examples and quotations from the text. As you construct your outline, try to pair any general points of summary with specific details from the book. This will show your teacher that not only have you read the book, you understand it. Vary your examples and keep your quotations brief.[5]
    • Be careful not to overuse quotes. If it seems like every other line is a quote, try to dial back. Aim to include a maximum of one quotation per paragraph. Quotes and examples should still take a backseat your summary.
  6. Don’t try to cover everything. It’s just not possible to discuss every piece of the book thoroughly. So, don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to do this. Instead, make sure that your report includes the most important ideas and gives your reader a real feel for the book.
    • For example, you’ll likely need to focus primarily on discussing the most important characters or the characters that appear most frequently in the text.

 

Sample Book Report and Summaries:

Sample Book Report
Sample Summary Plot of Macbeth
Sample Summary Plot of My Sister’s Keeper
Sample Summary Plot of The Lottery Rose

Posted in DIY, Education, English.

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