You vacantly nod your head as your teacher keeps repeating the words, “It won’t be that hard. It’s just a book report,” but inside, you’re quaking.
When was the last time you wrote a book report?
Do you even remember how to write a book report?
You look around at your peers who don’t seem daunted by the task and tremble. When the assignment gets passed out to you, you can’t help it. You have to scream, “PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!”
Yeah, the paper’s still there on your desk untouched, and now all your classmates know you’re a big Harry Potter nerd. Great. This is turning out to be a great day.
But now, you’ve got Kibin to save you (and we’re Harry Potter nerds, too, so you have nothing to be ashamed of). This post will teach you how to write a book report that doesn’t suck.
What Is a Book Report, Exactly?
Essentially, a book report offers
- a summary of the book,
- an in-depth look at the themes, characters, motifs, and main ideas of the book,
- and sometimes your opinion of the book depending on your instructor’s directions.
There are many variations of the traditional book report format, so make sure that you adhere to the assignment your instructor gave you and the guidelines he or she mentioned.
And, if you want to learn by example, you can check out some of these book report samples to give your brain a jumpstart.
Know that most book reports have at least the title of the book and the author’s name in the first paragraph and that high school and college book reports should also include the publishing information in the first paragraph.
Choosing the Book and Prewriting
Often your teacher or professor will let you choose the book, maybe from a list of approved books. Choosing the book can be the most important step of the entire book report writing process.
Make sure that you choose a book that
- you find interesting
- is on your reading level
- you will be able to finish well before the report is due
- fits the assignment requirements
Ask for help from your peers, and see what books they would recommend so you have some viable choices before you make your final decision.
Let’s say you chose Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for your book report because that’s just too awesome to pass up.
So, great, you have your book. Now what?
As you read, make a note of the important characters; recurring words, images, or symbols; key events in the plot; and major themes or concepts from the book. For help with this, look into finding a theme of a book.
Make a plot outline as you read so you can remember the order of events later. You should also make notes of repeated events within the book.
For example, the most frightening and darkest moments that Harry experiences during the novel happen while he is alone without the support of his friends, so indicating that in your notes will later help you discuss important events in your book report.
Keep taking notes like these until you successfully finish the book. Then, it’s time to review your notes.
Putting the Rough Draft to Paper
Though learning how to write a book report might feel scary, at least it’s nothing compared to any of the events in the Triwizard Tournament.
The most important thing to keep in mind while you draft your book report is to not summarize too much.
Although you have to include a summary of the main plot events, you don’t want to go through every chapter and give details about every single thing that happened. No instructor would want to read that, and besides, that would be far too long. No one’s asking you to rewrite Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. J.K. Rowling did a fine job, thank you.
So, how do you know when your summary gives enough information without giving too many details? The solution is to hit all the key events in the plot and interweave some analysis about how that all ties into the themes, motifs, or symbols in the book. Think about how the individual plot elements make up the whole. Think about why they are important.
Here’s an example to help you get the ball rolling.
This is a pretty sucky paragraph from a theoretical book report:
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Cedric died. Before that, Harry went to the Wizard Cup via portkey. The portkey journey was very uncomfortable for everyone involved. Later, Voldemort tricked Harry and Cedric into traveling by portkey.
Because the paragraph above discusses events out of order, leaves out a lot of things that happened in between, and gives too many specific details such as how it feels to travel by portkey, this is a subpar example of a book report paragraph. (It sucks!)
Let’s see if we can rewrite that to sound better and more appropriate for a quality book report:
After Harry and Cedric decide to work together during the maze portion of the Triwizard Tournament, they find the trophy. However, when they both grab ahold of it, they discover that it is a portkey. When they arrive, Harry and Cedric come face to face with Voldemort and several of his Deatheaters. This method of travel is reminiscent of the travel Harry used when he traveled to the Quidditich World Cup, which successfully introduced the portkey concept and set up the premise for the end of the novel.
Assuming that this paragraph would go near the end of the book report, this would be great information to add to a book report. (It doesn’t suck!)
The second example is better than the first because it provides a brief overview of the most crucial plot events and tries to find some meaning in them. It connects two similar events together and makes a conclusion about them–in this case that the author employed foreshadowing with the use of portkeys. Analysis like this will give your book report more substance and prevent you from spending too much time on unimportant details.
Adding Your Own Opinion to Your Book Report
If personal information is critical to your book report, it’s important that you know how best to express your impressions of the book.
After all, there is a right way and a wrong way to do so.
While you might be excited to talk about exactly how much you loved Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, good book reports will focus on the why behind liking or disliking a book. Giving your opinion without explanation is just not enough in most cases.
Consider the examples below:
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was great. I read it straight through without stopping to eat or sleep, and I even took it into the bathroom with me. It is probably the best book of all time.
This type of response might be great when recommending a book to your friends, but it doesn’t have a place in your book report. The opinion your instructor wants you to include will look something more like this:
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire furthered the Harry Potter series by emphasizing the importance of having the support of friends when one is facing great evil. Unlike in many of the previous books, in Goblet of Fire Harry primarily had to manage his problems alone and experienced limited success. This shift in tone, not to mention the emotional impact that Cedric’s death had on me, made me enjoy this novel more than its predecessors.
Here, I gave the why behind liking the book, which is far more interesting to your professor than the fact that you read it in the bathroom.
Including a hint about the way you feel about the book in the introduction typically works well, and giving the why behind your opinion can be a great way to conclude the book report. Here are some other ways to write a killer conclusion.
More Resources on How to Write a Book Report
When it comes to writing a great book report, it’s important to go beyond just summarizing the story. For more information, read How to Write a Good Essay, Stop Summarizing and Start Commentating.
Sparknotes.com is a great place to go to get information on the main characters, plot, and themes of a book you are writing about, and it can help you think about the book in new ways. (Here are the Spark Notes on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)
When you have your rough draft of your book report finished, getting feedback from others who understand the techniques behind book reports is invaluable. Our editors at Kibin know the ropes about how to write a book report and would be more than happy to point out where you are including too much summary and where your writing could be a bit more analytical.
To get your book report polished up all nice and tidy, check out Kibin’s essay editing services!