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How to Write a Book Report

Book reports should not be confused with book reviews. A book report summarizes the important aspects of a book such as the title, author, plot, and characters. On the other hand, a book review allows the writer to interject personal opinion about the book: if it was good or bad, interesting or boring, and what the best and worst parts were. To complete a book report, students need to follow a few simple steps prior to writing their book reports.

Steps to Writing a Book Report

Choosing the Book

If book choice is an option, then choosing a book on a topic of interest will work well. This could be a fiction or nonfiction book. Students should choose a book in which they are interested because that interest will carry them all the way through the book. Not many people really like to read a book that they do not get to choose.
Unfortunately, choosing is not always an option. In this case, students should be open minded. Although some students believe that they will not like a book merely because it is assigned, they end up liking the book once they give it a chance.

Reading the Book

It seems logical that reading the book is needed in order to write a book report. Some students may choose to just skim a book, read only certain parts or access information about the book online. However, to really know and understand the book, a thorough reading should be done in a quiet place free from distractions.
While reading this book, the student should take notes. Specific areas of focus should be on the many different parts of the book depending on if the book is fiction or nonfiction.

Notes to Take for Fiction Books

  • Plot – what the book is about.
  • Setting – where the events of the book take place.
  • Characters – move the story along. (Setting can sometimes act as a character.)
  • Themes – the main ideas about life and society that the plot and characters embody, which are implied and not stated directly. Some literary themes include greed, pride, freedom, or revenge.
  • Symbols – concrete objects or items in a story that stand for abstract concepts. For example, a flag can mean freedom.
  • Point of view – how the author writes the story in either first, second, or third person.

Notes to Take for Non-Fiction Books

The type of book will determine the type of information that is important. For example, if a student writes a book report on a biography, then the different and important parts of the person’s life should be in the report.
Often, a student can use the chapter break down as a good indication of the important parts of the book and, therefore, the important information that should be in the book report.

Writing an Outline

An outline helps a writer by giving a clear picture of what the intended book report will look like. After writing an outline, the writer can follow it to make sure that all relevant and important information is included in the writing. Outlines are flexible in that they can change as the writer decides to add or subtract information.

Write and Edit the Book Report

The writer’s first few writing attempts is considered the draft, which is the fleshed out version of the outline. Here, the writer puts all of his or her ideas into sentence and paragraph form.
Writers often produce more than one draft as they write, edit, and rewrite the paper. This is often called process writing. Writers move in and out of these different stages throughout the writing process.
This part may take longer because writers often edit and proofread while they are writing the draft. Some writers complete those tasks at different times. However, separating the drafting process from the editing process can be beneficial for those who dwell over grammar and mechanical issues before getting the necessary information down on paper or on the computer screen.
Learning how to write a book report is an important for students as they will need to complete book reports throughout their academic careers. These skills can then be carried forward into a job that requires reporting of factual information in and organized manner. Book reports should not contain personal opinions of the reading; that is called a book review.


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