Book Report Writing - Explanations and Tips
Academic book report writing follows a fairly standard format whether that book report is for an English class or Economics course. A book report is not merely a summary of a book, but an analysis of the book's many components. Therefore, successful book report writing will include two essential elements: (1) a brief summary of the book's plot (if it is fiction or an autobiography) or thesis (if it is non-fiction, other than an autobiography) and (2) critical commentary on the book's clarity and effectiveness.
When writing book reports, avoid dedicating too much time or space to the summary, as the main point of the project is the author's ideas and comments on the book. The summary element of a novel critique should be no more than 1/3 the total length. This summary should highlight the main points or actions presented in the book in order to provide the reader with an understanding of what the book is about. It is customary when writing book reports about works of fiction to avoid giving away the ending so as not to spoil the action for another reader. However, it should still strive to inform the reader of the plot without revealing the entire story. For instance, if one were writing a summary of the story of Cinderella for a novel critique, it might be as follows:
After her father's death, the formerly well-to-do Cinderella is forced into a life of servitude by her stepmother and stepsisters. Though she must labor unrelentingly and forego her former life of luxury, she resists bitterness and maintains a positive and hopeful spirit. This attitude is rewarded when a fairy comes to Cinderella to grant her an opportunity to turn her rags to riches for one night in order to attend the kingdom-wide ball. At the ball, the beautiful Cinderella meets the Prince, and they fall in love. However, their bliss is cut short because Cinderella must rush away before the fairy's spell expires at midnight. She exits the palace, leaving behind only her lovely glass slipper, having never told the Prince her name. The bereft Prince embarks on a tour of the kingdom testing the slipper on the feet of all the eligible women to find his beloved. The remainder of the story is devoted to his quest.
Notice that in the summary above, the entire Cinderella story is encapsulated without giving away the end of the story. Of course, all of us can anticipate the happy reunion of Cinderella and the Prince, but most books' endings will not be so apparent, and will therefore allow the writer to hold the secrets of the story while still informing her reader about the story's main points. Notice also that the summary merely outlines the story without commenting on it. The commenting aspect of book report writing comes in part two.
After the summary has been objectively reported, the writer of the document should present his ideas of the book. This will likely include both positive and negative aspects, as it is rare that a reader will be 100% satisfied with every part of a book. This section should identify the main themes of the book (if it is fiction) or the main arguments used to defend the thesis (if it is nonfiction). It should then comment on how effectively these themes or arguments are developed, using evidence from the text. This section should also comment on the book's presentation—it's grammar, spelling, formatting, etc.—and the author's style—her way of writing and using language. When writing book reports, remember that the commentary section is more important than the summary. The commentary should be roughly 2/3 of the report and should thoroughly address the critical components discussed above.
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