Fiction vs. Non-Fiction Book Reports

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction Book Reports

A fiction book report is a summary and critique of a work of fiction.  Therefore, a fiction book report will always be summarizing and critiquing a novel, a novella, a short story, or a collection of short stories.  Fiction book reports are common assignments in both secondary and postsecondary education.

A fiction book report consists of three sections: an introduction, a plot summary, and a critique.  Though a nonfiction book report will also have three sections, it is important to note that the second section of a nonfiction book report will be markedly different from that of a fiction story review.  The second section of a fiction book report presents an overview of the plot of the novel or short story.  The second section of a nonfiction book report, however, will discuss the book's thesis statement and the way in which that thesis statement is defended or explored.  Fiction book reports and nonfiction book reports thus are often very different.

The introduction of a fiction project should identify the author of the novel or short story, the title of the novel or short story, the year in which the text was published, and the type of fiction it is (i.e.  mystery, science-fiction, young adult fiction, adult fiction, etc.).  It is also appropriate for this paragraph to provide some background information about the author of the work and, if necessary, to fill the reader in on background information that may be necessary to understanding the plot.  For instance, if the work were historical fiction and were set in the Spanish-American War, it would be helpful if the report introduction provided brief background information on the Spanish-American War so that the plot summary could be more comprehensible.

After the introduction, the writer should present a summary of the work's plot.  The plot is the action of the story: what happens and how it happens.  Therefore, the plot summary should provide the reader with the names and roles of the main characters, a description of the setting of the story, and an explanation of the primary action that evolves during the story.  

Following the plot summary, fiction book reports typically offer a few paragraphs in which the writer critiques the text.  This means that the writer offers his or her opinions on all aspects of the work, from content to style.  In terms of content, the critique will typically comment on the pacing of the story, the believability of the characters, and the level of interest of the plot.  In terms of style, the critique will comment on the writer's narration techniques, descriptive abilities, and overall writing talent.

A fiction book report will typically conclude with a brief paragraph in which the writer presents his or her summary opinion of the book; in short, this is the place where the writer offers his or her recommendations regarding whether the book is worth reading.

Article #2

A non-fiction book report is a summary of and commentary on a work of non-fiction.  Any work of literature that is true is non-fiction.  Non-fiction book reports are different from fiction book reports because rather than presenting a plot summary, a non-fiction book report will rather present a description of the book's thesis and thesis defense.  A thesis is a book's primary point or argument.  The thesis defense is the information and examples that are used to persuade the reader of the validity of that thesis.

The introductory paragraph of a non-fiction project should provide the book's complete title, the full name of the book's author, the genre of the book, and the book's primary topic.  The genre is the type of book it is, and is determined by the book's style of writing and topic.  For instance, some non-fiction books are in the autobiography genre.  Other non-fiction books are in the history genre.  Some non-fiction books are self-help books.  Whatever the genre is, it should be clearly identified in the first paragraph.  This paragraph may also briefly describe the writer's overall impression of the book.  This should only be an overall impression, however, because the majority of the writer's critical commentary will come later.

After the introduction, every non-fiction project should present a detailed description of the book's thesis and the way in which that thesis is defended.  For instance, if the book were a history text that focused on how Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon's wife, contributed to Napoleon's success as a leader, the writer of the story review would need to identify this thesis.  The writer would not simply say that the book was on Josephine Bonaparte, because the focus of the book is on Josephine's contribution to Napoleon's success.  The project should then focus on how the author of the book develops this idea.  This is the thesis defense—the way in which the author attempts to prove the thesis.  This section will be the longest in all non-fiction book reports because in order to give a comprehensive idea of the thesis defense, the writer will likely need to discuss most of the book's main chapters and how they develop the thesis.  This will usually require the writer to present a summary of each chapter or main section so they can contextualize the thesis argument.

Non-fiction book reports close by presenting the writer's opinions on the book.  This should include the writer's assessment of the content, quality of research, quality of argument, and presentation.  All of these points should be discussed before the writer concludes the report by presenting his or her recommendations on whether others should read the book.

Article #3 (re: Fictional Mystery)

Many students, especially high school students, are required to write book reports about a book that they have read for a class.  The purpose of these book reports is to prove to a teacher that the student read the book, while also giving the student a forum to practice his or her writing skills and a method to summarize large amounts of information.

Students often enjoy reading fictional mystery books for their classes.  A fictional mystery project should follow the same format as any other type of story review.  However, fictional mystery book reports will have to add a new element: analysis of the effectiveness of the mystery.  Some students will find that even though a book is in the "mystery" category, the mystery was not very difficult to solve.  Other students will find that the techniques that an author uses to uphold a mystery throughout the book were extremely effective.  Therefore, in the fictional mystery book report, students need to provide an analysis of the way that the author presented and maintained the mysterious elements of the book.  

In order to create an effective project, students need to begin by actually reading the book.  Many students think that they can take a shortcut by watching a movie version of the book or reading book summaries.  However, many teachers are aware of these techniques and will look for discrepancies in the student's story review.  After all, many films are adaptations of a book and do not follow the story directly.  

After a student has read the book, the student should begin the assignment with a rough draft.  The rough draft of the fictional mystery book report will be modified many times before the student turns the novel critique in for a grade.  

The sections of a novel critique should include: a summary of the book, an overview of characters, themes, and ideas, and a brief conclusion about what the student thought of the book.  A fictional mystery project should also include the student's reaction to the mystery.  For example, the student should state whether or not he or she solved the mystery before the end of the book.  The student can also share information about how the author used foils to confuse or mislead the reader.  

When learners write fictional mystery book reports, they need to be critical of the writing style and techniques an author has used.  For this reason, such projects often require more analysis and critical thinking than other types of book reports.  In other types of projects, students simply summarize a book and state why they liked it or did not like it.  When a student reads a fictional mystery book, the student needs to constantly be critical of methods the author uses to mislead the reader into thinking something else.  These methods should be described in the mystery story review.

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