How not to write a book report

If you did not like the book, do not insult the author for writing it. It is not fair to attack someone’s person for a book they have poured their heart and soul into. In fact, even if the book is a propaganda that you believe is inherently wrong, attack only the ideas, not the author.

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How not to write a book report

High school English classes are notorious for assigning countless book reports. The Great Gatsby, To Kill A Mockingbird, Animal Farm, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Scarlet Letter are some of the most common books assigned to high school students. The ideal is that high school students will gain the analytical and writing skills before they get to college. Given that you already have these skills to write a book report, how can you meet the higher expectations of college? 

writing book reports

Here are 7 things might be doing in your book report and how to correct them:

Do not simply summarize the entire contents of the book, but do begin provide the basic information about the book.

A book report is more of an argumentative essay than an opinion piece or reaction paper, so treat it as one. Your book report’s thesis statement should not be anchored on your opinion alone. It should present your evaluation of the book’s usage of the elements, its ideas, purpose, as well as the attitudes of the author as well. A thesis that states that a book is good or bad is not a thesis for a college-level book report. Go beyond the black-and-white and explore the nuances in your evaluation of the book.

Students trying to stick to a black-and-white evaluation of a book is what makes many book reports sound elementary. Don’t be like these people. Understand that any book can have strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, your opinion of a book may be subjective; and objectively speaking, the book may actually be good.

Instead of simply saying that you did not like the book, talk about the author’s purpose for writing the book. Then talk about whether they were able to fulfill this purpose and how.

meaning of book report

Do not simply say that you like or dislike it, instead form nuanced opinion about the book.

A book report is more of an argumentative essay than an opinion piece, so treat it as one. Your book report’s thesis statement should not be anchored on your opinion alone. It should present your evaluation of the book’s usage of the elements, its ideas, purpose, as well as the attitudes of the author as well. A thesis that states that a book is good or bad is not a thesis for a college-level book report. Go beyond the black and white and explore the nuances in your evaluation of the book.

Students trying to stick to a black-and-white evaluation of a book is what makes many book reports sound elementary. Don’t be like these people. Understand that any book can have strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, your opinion of a book may be subjective; and objectively speaking, the book may actually be good. 

Instead of simply saying that you did not like the book, talk about the author’s purpose for writing the book. Then talk about whether they were able to fulfill this purpose and how.  

Do not assume that the reader knows what you’re talking about, do contextualize your statements.

Naturally, your professor has read the book, but that does not mean that their appreciation for the book is the same as yours. You may see some things in the book that they don’t, but that doesn’t automatically invalidate your ideas. The point of writing a book report is for you to communicate and explain your ideas about the book, and that is what you should do. Explain your ideas clearly as well as the connections between your ideas and the supporting evidence you present. This is what contextualization means. Your reader needs to see what part of the book gave you your ideas.

As with any essay, supporting details are expected as follow-up for any claims. The same goes for your evaluation of a book.

Do not attack the author of the book, but do keep in mind that the author is a big part of the book.

If you did not like the book, do not insult the author for writing it. It is not fair to attack someone’s person for a book they have poured their heart and soul into. In fact, even if the book is a propaganda that you believe is inherently wrong, attack only the ideas, not the author. Perhaps you already know this. Ad hominem is no stranger to most students. 

Accordingly, students take ad hominem seriously. They are too serious at not committing this logical fallacy that they tend to completely sever the author from the work when writing a book review. While this is not a “no-no,” it does cripple the book review. Whether we like it or not, the book reflects parts of the author. An author’s true purpose for writing the book may be discerned through the way they present ideas and elements of the story, in their language. In order to see these things clearly, you need to step back and consider the author in your perspective.

Do not excessively criticize or praise the book, instead present strengths and weaknesses of the book.

Whether your book review is inclined to be negative or positive, you still need to instill a kind of balance. Make sure to support your criticism with analysis and textual evidence. After criticizing the book you are writing about, do not forget to mention some positive aspects. There must be something that the author did well. 

It is worth noting as well that you do not need to write a strictly negative or strictly positive book review. The book can be somewhere in between, where it has redeeming qualities amidst the negative aspects. 

Do not reference heavily, but do conduct due research.

As with any academic writing, it is always best practice to survey what literary experts are saying about the book you are writing about. Reading other people’s reviews or analysis of the book could enrich your own understanding and even your thesis. Most importantly, these sources can be used as reference for some of your statements. Research about the author would also be useful. You can learn about the author's style and common themes in his work. These are just some types of information that can enrich your book report.

Still, there is the danger of over-referencing. This is a particularly big no-no for book reports. Unless you are criticizing or conversing with another author’s opinion on the book, your ideas need to be original as much as possible. There is actually no right or wrong answer when it comes to writing book reports, as long as you are able to prove and support your claims.

Do not try to write about everything, instead focus on the aspect on which you have the strongest and clearest points/opinion. 

There are a lot of things that goes on in a book. It is highly likely that you have an opinion on all of them, but trust us when we say that not all of them deserve air time in your book report. Choose only one aspect or point to focus on. For you to write an impressive critical book review, focus on the aspect where you have a strong and clear thesis. Consider also the amount and quality of supporting evidence you found.

Final thoughts

What all these do’s and don’ts point to is that you need to prepare—read the book, take notes, do your research, and take the time to analyze—before proceeding to write. These tips will help you avoid making rookie mistakes and stand out from the pile of book reports.

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Writing a book report can be daunting, yes, but we hope that our carefully curated tips above make the difference. As CustomEssayMeister is an essay writing service, however, we hope to help students like yourself in ways other than with these tips. Should you find that you need further help writing a book report, you know who to turn to.