The Book Report – What to Do when You Haven’t Read It (or even if you have)
All of us remember our elementary school years. We went to the school library and picked out a book. Then, of course, we read it and prepared a book report. We wrote a page that gave a summary of the plot, and then we revealed whether we liked it or not and why.
As we got into middle school, things didn’t change a whole lot, except that sometimes we had to read non-fiction books too. We prepared book reports that still summarized the contents, and then perhaps focused on a character or a couple of important events, or spoke to a theme.
From Book Report to Book Review
The transition from book report to book review comes in high school. Teachers no longer want students to write a plot summary and express their like or dislike for a book. Instead they want an analysis of all the elements of a book. If it’s fiction, they want only a short plot summary, perhaps a paragraph; they want a discussion of the conflict, an analysis of the major characters, and, of course a discussion of the author’s theme(s). Non-fiction books don’t have a plot, but there are themes and other points the author is trying to make. These must be fully discussed.
In sum, do not confuse book reviews with book reports.
- Book reports are generally 250-500 words and focus mainly on providing a summary of the plot and the characters. Sometimes, they may address the main idea, especially in non-fiction. These are assignment mainly given to elementary and middle school students.
- Book reviews are usually upper high school and college assignments. These are longer, usually 500-750 words. They will give the audience just a peak at what the book is about, but focus more on other aspects – theme, character analysis, tone and style, etc.
Process for Completing a Book Review Assignment
Yes, there is a process, like there is for any assignment you might get. Here are the steps
- Make sure you understand the assignment. Has your instructor or professor given specific instructions about what you are to cover? If he only wants a discussion of the theme, then you are not going to analyze the characters, except as they relate to the theme(s).
- Read the book jacket. These are like small reviews that will give you a good preview.
- As you read the book, focus on the specifics of the assignment, and take notes. Yes, this is pretty old school, but you will be happy you did in the long run. If you are supposed to do a character analysis, for example, you will follow that character all the way through and analyze behavior, psychological traits, etc. Consider Ahab in Moby Dick for example. What motivated him? Why was he willing to put his entire crew at risk to chase one particular whale?
- Are there quotes that relate directly to the specifics of the assignment? Write them down.
- You can also read what others have written about this book. One word of caution here, however. Do not use Cliff’s Notes or other common online book review sources. The temptation is to use the same terminology and thoughts of these review sources, and your instructor or professor is all too familiar with them.
- Remember this: a book review is a type of essay writing. You do need an introduction, body and conclusion. Sometimes, starting with a startling, poignant, or humorous snippet from the book itself will be a great starter and engage your reader right away. Your conclusion is your chance to give your overall impression and recommendation, or, in the case of non-fiction, speak to the impact the work has had on you.
When You Need Help
You’re busy. We get that. Sometimes, getting the time to read a book for a report or review is just not there. Certainly, you can read summaries of the book all over the Internet, but, again, be cautious. Many students have used these same sources and professors are very familiar with them.
You better bet is to find an online writing service that will assign an expert on the book to write a creative, compelling, and completely original book report or review for you.
At Premier Essay, we have just such people, no matter what the book may be, and no matter how soon you need it. Whether you need to review a novel, a piece of non-fiction, or a Shakespearian play, we have a writer who knows the work intimately and who can produce an exceptional piece for you.
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