How to Write a Book Report: a Comprehensive GuideJune 08, 2017

A book report can be defined as an essay discussing the contents of a particular book. It's a class assignment in school, where teachers give students a short list of titles to choose from. There are cases when the students can suggest their own titles, but it must have their teacher's approval.

A book report is different from a book review, as the former has one template while the latter can be written in different forms. (Check out the Kirkus reviews.) Some students (and teachers) will point out that there are other templates (for a book report), but let's stick to one. This should give readers, presumably students, a clear idea.

In this case, a book review is an analysis of a book's content, merit, and style. It can be as short as one paragraph and as long as a scholarly essay. Personal taste can influence the style of writing (in a book review). A book report must include a bibliographical information, the summary of the book, and the student's recommendation. There are three options: plot, characters, and theme(s).

Guidelines for Writing a Book Report

Bibliographical Information

A student must provide a brief background about the author, which should be related to the book report. The author can only write what he/she knows, so an account of the author's life can be valuable information (to support the student's discussion of the book). Likewise, the author's works have a common theme. It can also be a common denominator. (Recurring characters, same setting, consistent theme.) A student doesn't need to provide details, as there will be more opportunities to do it on the next stage of the book report.

This will comprise the introduction of a book report, which must be a few paragraphs at the least. The first paragraph, if not the first sentence, must give readers an idea of what the report is all about. A student can opt for an inverted-pyramid type of essay, where the essential information and personal opinion are found in the introduction and body of the book report.

Summary of the Book

If it's a plot, then the student doesn't have to retell the events (in the book). Is it an engaging story? Is it boring after a few chapters? The student should have an idea after several chapters.

Aside from the plot, a student can figure out the tone right away. Whether it's sappy or brooding (in tone), this can influence the student's approach (to the book report).

If it's the characters, then there are many things to cover in this area. What will be the impression of a particular character to readers? How does this character affect the others (in the story)? In what way does this character make the plot move forward?

If it's a theme, a student should pick one. (There's nothing wrong about writing two themes or more, but students might end up with more than they can handle.) Cite a quotation from the book, which will relate to the theme. And examine if this will have an impact on the book.

A Student's Recommendation

Based on the information and opinion above, the student must be able to decide if this particular book is useful to readers or not. It will be the other students (in this case).

It will be different from a book review, where the author will recommend a particular book to potential readers. (If the author doesn't like it, then there may be a choice of strong words. It doesn't have to be the case in a book report.)

Either way, a student must make an opinion (or reveal his/her feelings) towards a book. It's a subjective matter, so there's no need to check out the opinion of others (who read it). In other words, there's no room for fence sitters.

Helpful Tips on How You Should Approach a Book Report

A student is expected to read a book, which can take a lot of time. Priorities must be straightened out, as it won't be possible to read it in one sitting. Assuming that it can be done, then a student can't expect to write the report right after finishing the book.

The student must do something else, as a distraction will enable him/her to look back at the story (with recharged energy and a clear mind). It's also not advisable to read at night time, as this may affect the student's routine the following day. Perhaps one chapter may be good enough.

There's a possible temptation for students to consult Cliff Notes or do an online research. It's not about being the best in the class, but rather trying to do it to the best of their abilities.

Writing can be an arduous process, so students must not be too eager to finish the book report. The brain may (or may not) react positively to pressure, so they must spend a lot of time on it. (In short, there will be some sacrifices to make along the way. The telly can wait for another day.)

Proofreading is important as well, so let someone you trust read it. Your peers can provide valuable input. Comparing notes with other students would be a big NO.

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