Book reports are a common requirement for students, all the way from elementary school to university. Knowing how to write them will help you finish your assignment a lot faster, and also give you a better chance of wowing your instructors.
Book reports don’t have to be intimidating. Look at them as a way of expressing your thoughts and opinions about the books you read. Also, research shows that writing about what you read is an effective way of cementing the information in your mind, as opposed to simply reading it.
What Is a Book Report?
A book report is a written output that describes the contents of a book. Teachers often require a book report as a way of encouraging students to actually read the assigned materials. Reports also help the students to formulate their own opinions and reactions to what they read.
How Many Paragraphs is a Book Report?
The length of a book report does not guarantee the quality of the writing. Typically, though, you will have a clear introductory paragraph and a conclusion; the body paragraphs can range in number depending on how many themes you wish to explore. It will also depend greatly on the type of book report you choose to write.
3 Types of Book Reports
To write a great book report, you must first understand the different types of book reports. Sometimes your instructor may specify which type they want you to write, but if they don’t, you can choose the one that you feel most comfortable writing:
1. Plot Summary
The plot summary involves writing a summary of the book, but it doesn’t stop there: after you summarize the plot, you will also add your own thoughts and opinions. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- What did you think of the plot? Was it compelling? Unrealistic? Thought-provoking?
- Which factors helped you form that opinion? You may cite specific examples or scenes from the book.
- How did the story end? What did you think of story’s resolution?
- How would you have written things differently?
An example of an opening line for a plot summary is:
The plot of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor was compelling because it gave a very clear picture of how racial injustice looked in practical terms during the Great Depression in Mississippi.
2. Theme Analysis
Sometimes, a book you read may contain certain themes that stand out to you. When that happens, a theme analysis is a great way to structure your book report.
Remember that the theme analysis will need to include an exploration of the theme presented in the book before you start sharing your own opinions. You can do this by showing examples of how the author expressed that theme.
Some questions to think about include:
- What theme does the story focus on? How does the author emphasize this?
- Which specific scenes cement that theme in the story?
- Is there any dialogue that helps emphasize this theme?
- How does the author portray the theme?
- What did you think about the theme and the way the author portrayed it? Do you agree with their opinions? Why or why not?
An example of an opening line for a book report with the theme analysis structure would be:
The novel Watership Down by Richard Adams powerfully portrayed the theme of leadership: Hazel’s humble but effective leadership was greatly contrasted with the tyrannical and controlling style of Captain Woundwort of the Efrafa warren.
3. Character Analysis
A character analysis is another interesting way of approaching a book report. You focus on a character (or characters) in the story, and how their decisions and behaviors affect the events in the plot.
Some questions to help you analyze characters include:
- How does the character act? What impressions did you have of them?
- What positive traits do they have? Negative traits?
- What are their main motivations and desires? What about fears or wrong beliefs?
- Does he talk in a specific way that sets him apart from other characters? If so, consider giving an example, and detailing how that impacts the character development.
- How does this character affect the main storyline?
For example, you might open a book report using character analysis with a line like this:
In the novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, the main character is Scarlett O’Hara, but it was the character Melanie Wilkes who really stood out: her steadfastness and belief in the good of everyone is what finally won over even the hardhearted Scarlett.
Note: Never copy summaries or book reports directly from the internet! Your teacher will likely check your work through a submissions platform that compares your writing to what’s already out there online. For more tips, check out our post on how to avoid plagiarism.
How to Write a Great Book Report
Whichever type of book report you choose to write, here are some tips to help you write in a clearer and more engaging way.
1. Choose a book you are interested in.
Some book reports may be based on an assigned book, but more often, instructors might ask you to choose your own book. They may or may not assign a genre, such as biography, classic literature, or nonfiction.
If you can choose which book to write your report on, now’s your chance to find one that you will be interested in. Some questions that can help you find a book include:
- What topics are you already interested in? Are you interested in a specific time in history, such as World War II or the Great Depression? Are you interested in a specific theme, such as racial discrimination, slavery, or poverty?
- Which genres are you already familiar with? Historical fiction? Family sagas? Nonfiction?
- Do you have authors that you are already familiar with and would love to read more from? For example, if you have read a children’s book by Mark Twain, such as Tom Sawyer, a high school level book report might be on his book Recollections of Joan of Arc.
- How much time do you have between now and when the book is due? You need to be realistic about how much time you have to read the book, and then write a thoughtful analysis.
2. Make sure you READ the book you’re writing about!
You may be tempted to search online for a book summary and try to write a whole book report based on those findings. (This is less likely to happen if you choose a book you’re actually interested in!)
While you might be able to scrape by with a summary, we highly discourage that tactic for at least two reasons: First, actually reading the book will benefit you by expanding your worldview. Second, you can only write a thorough, quality book report if you have truly read the book yourself.
In order to make sure you read the whole book, it’s important to plan ahead. The following tips might help:
- Start as soon as possible once you’re given the assignment. As soon as you pick your book,, factor in at least two weeks for writing and wrapping up your report. Divide the number of pages by the remaining days: that will be the number of pages you will have to read per day.
- Practice narration. Charlotte Mason, a British educator-reformer in the 1800s, recommended narration as the best tool for assimilating information. Read a few pages and then write a short narration of what you read. This will help you understand the story and also give you material for writing your book report.
- Take notes. If you don’t want to write too much in way of a narration, writing down bullet points or annotating the book will be faster, and it will also give you information to use in your report.
- Start writing little bits of the report along the way. You don’t have to finish the whole book before you start writing your report! You can schedule some time once a week to write portions of your book report. You might write it as though you were writing a journal, expressing your opinions about different scenes. This is especially helpful if you are writing a character or theme analysis.
3. Outline your book report.
Even before you are more than halfway through the book, you can start to make your outline. This might change after you finish the book, but if you already have a general idea of your report’s structure, it might even help you pay more attention as you read.
Try this format for your outline:
- Summary of Book
- Book Details: Characters
- Book Details: Plot
- Evaluation and Conclusion
4. Write the contents of your book report.
Once you’ve prepared your outline, you can start to write your report. You can use headings to organize your thoughts better. (This is where your written narrations or bullet point notes will come in handy!)
If you already wrote portions of the report as you were reading it, this is the time to organize them into a coherent piece. These tips should help you:
- Organize your ideas. You can write a good book report by identifying and analyzing major themes. Organize your ideas around these themes and write about each idea. If any new themes emerge (which often happens when you’re doing this kind of analysis), add them with a new header instead of mixing them with an existing thought.
- Focus on content. Don’t worry about the word count, but instead focus on getting your thoughts down on paper. The book report will be more valuable as you express the analysis that you underwent as you read the book.
- Be clear and concise. Being clear doesn’t require lots of words; just stick to the theme in each paragraph and avoid taking rabbit trails or using unnecessary words. Keep this in mind when you edit your work later on, as well.
- Add headings where necessary. When you find yourself writing several paragraphs under the same header, consider adding a new heading to make your ideas more clear.
Ace Your Book Report
With these steps, writing a book report can be a breeze. Remember, a book report is not just about grades, but what you learn along the journey, so don’t miss out on that experience by taking short-cuts.
And even if school is a distant memory for you, taking the time to reflect on what you’ve read can help you process information and key themes, as well as make you more prepared for your next book club meeting!
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
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