How To Write a Book Report
Book reports are a common school assignment. In fact, I’ve written a few during my own academic career. Writing about a novel, especially a long or complex one, can be intimidating, but if you create a plan before you crack the spine, you’ll find that writing a book report is not as hard as you thought. To help you get started, let’s answer the most common questions about how to write a book report.
Will My Assignment Tell Me How To Write a Book Report?
In many cases, your assignment will provide a guideline to writing your book report. Most teachers include instructions laying out exactly what you need to write about. The first logical thing to do is to read the assignment thoroughly. Highlight the points your instructor says must be included in your report and write them down in your notes. Many times, teachers even include the number of points each item is worth. Now that you have all the major requirements in front of you, you know exactly what to look for as you read.
Do I Have To Read the Book To Write a Book Report?
If you’re just learning how to write a book report, you may wonder if you really need to read the whole novel. The answer is: yes! You do have to read the book from start to finish, no skimming or skipping.
I know it’s hard, especially if the book is boring or if you don’t like reading. If the book is an older classic, that can make it even harder, as the vocabulary may be archaic and punctuation may not be standardized, leading to long blocks of text.
The good news is that there are ways around this. Practicing critical thinking (such as looking for scenes to satisfy your assignment requirements) can help you engage with the text, making the experience more interesting.
If you still don’t know how to write a book report because you’re not sure what’s happening in the narrative (which is fair for many classics), you may benefit from reading beyond the primary text. Many books include a foreword or introduction that spells out the narrative or gives you insight into the author’s mind and history. If your book has footnotes, you should read all of them, as they may provide historical or social context that makes the story easier to understand.
Can I Use Supplementary Materials To Write My Book Report?
Part of learning how to write a book report is using your research skills. If reading the foreword and footnotes didn’t clarify what’s going on in the novel, you can absolutely use supplementary materials to help. This includes looking up words you don’t understand and using a search engine to find more information about the author or historical context. The internet is an invaluable tool in this situation — just make sure you verify any sources you use.
Another popular tool for readers is the CliffsNotes series. Each CliffsNotes book covers a different novel and contains a treasure-trove of information, such as:
- Theme analysis
- Critical essays
- Character analysis
- Chapter summaries
- Author biographies
The important thing to remember is that these study guides are supplemental — copying them will not teach you how to write a book report. Teachers have their eye out for plagiarism, and if you’re not focused on the primary text, you’re at a greater risk of plagiarizing. Instead, use CliffsNotes to enhance your understanding of the book and fill in any gaps in your knowledge.
Remember that your teacher is there to help. If you’re stumped on how to approach this assignment, ask your instructor. Perhaps the assignment isn’t clear and other students have the same questions. It’s literally your teacher’s job to offer guidance, so don’t be embarrassed to ask for some clarification or assistance.
Should I Take Notes for My Book Report as I Read?
Part of learning how to write a book report is practicing active reading. Instead of just glossing over the printed words, study them with intent. You need to understand both what happened in the narrative and why it happened.
It can be difficult to remember all this while reading, so it’s a good idea to take notes. You can do so on a computer or in a notebook; all that matters is that you can easily read and understand these notes later while writing your report.
One of the most difficult things about taking notes, especially for people just learning how to write a book report, is figuring out if something is important enough to write down. When you start reading, it may seem like everything is important. To help you narrow down what really matters, you should ask yourself the following:
- Does the event significantly impact the narrative or a character? For example, does it take the story in another direction or change a character’s behavior?
- Is the symbol or action repeated throughout the story? For example, is there a color that reappears through multiple scenes?
- Does the stylistic or narrative choice seem intentional? For example, does a scene take place in winter, with a lot of emphasis on how cold and lonely it is?
Last but not least, you should take note of anything that relates to your assignment’s requirements. In fact, if you want to learn how to write a book report and get a high grade, you should make sure to meet all requirements in your notes before you even start writing.
What Should I Write About in My Book Report?
Obviously, you should make sure you meet all your assignment’s requirements. That’s a must. For example, if the assignment says to describe all the characters, you should write a section doing just that.
What if you do so and still have to meet the word count? Or, what if your assignment is more flexible and allows you to choose what to talk about? If you’re not sure how to write a book report, here are a few major points you should include.
Talk About the Main Characters
Use the answers to these questions to help you discuss the characters in your book report. You should describe each character that has a major impact on the narrative, then talk about the relationships between characters. For example, if the main character is a boy who lives with his parents, talk about his relationships with his parents. The relationships between characters are often an important point of tension or growth throughout the story, so it’s important to pay attention to them as you learn how to write a book report.
Explain the Setting
Where does the book take place? The setting has a huge impact on the story because it influences the characters and limits their actions. In some cases, it may even affect the dialogue; Mark Twain, for example, was famous for writing regional accents.
Is the story set in a foreign country? Do characters travel from one location to another? Is the entire story told in one place? When you’re learning how to write a book report, identifying the setting can help you answer more abstract questions later.
Explore the Themes
Exploring the book’s themes can be a little more difficult because it requires analysis. However, your notes should help you make connections between characters, the setting and the narrative. This is also an area where supplementary materials such as CliffsNotes can come in handy.
How can you identify a theme? Themes comes in all shapes and sizes, appearing as concrete symbols or abstract ideas, which makes them difficult to spot if you’re just learning how to write a book report. However, a few questions can help you out:
- Are there images that show up in multiple scenes? For example, does the narrator constantly compare things to the ocean?
- Are there ideas that show up repeatedly? For example, do several characters talk about forgiveness?
- Are there systems that show up throughout the book? For example, is the government mentioned repeatedly as a separate entity with agency?
Once you identify the recurring themes, you can write your thoughts on why the author used them.
Do I Need To Proofread My Book Report?
Yes, you absolutely must proofread your book report. Read it out loud to find any sentences that don’t flow, then look for any grammar or punctuation mistakes. Chances are your teacher expects minimal errors and will take off points for any found.
How Can I Feel Confident as I Learn How To Write a Book Report?
It can be difficult to feel confident in your writing, but that’s one of the best things about book reports — they give you the opportunity to practice. You can also ask a friend or your teacher to look over your assignment before you turn it in, just to get a second opinion.
When did you learn how to write a book report? Our team at BKA would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.