Tackling a Book Report
By Emily Alvarez
If you are anything like me, you probably detest book reports. As much as we love books and reading those books, writing up a summary on one never sounds appealing and doesn’t exactly inspire creativity. But why is that? Should we not feel inspired by a great piece of literature? I know, you were probably not blessed with my 9th grade English teacher who had us read Silence of the Lambs. You, like many others, probably got stuck with Of Mice and Men.
[Enter a really awesome Shakespearean chorus]
All is not lost!
Behold this sacred pamphlet on how to write that wickedly amazing book report you have been putting off while catching up on your TV shows!
[Quickly skips off the stage]
Whether you love or hate the book, it really doesn’t matter because you have to write a report on it. So here are my tips on how to not only get through it, but actually get some enjoyment out of the process!
1) Produce a compelling introduction
~You know how many music executives say they’ll know whether or not a song will sell within the first thirty seconds of a song? That’s basically the same thing here. You have to catch your instructor’s attention right off the bat. Open the paper with a fascinating scene from the book and why this scene made the book special to you and how you’re going to explain the events and characters within the following paragraphs. It’s supposed to be a mini-introduction of what is to come, so make it catchy.
2) Be sure to explain the causes behind the actions of the key characters
~One of the biggest complaints I heard from my teachers and professors was the lack of evidence students provided to back up their claims on a character. Yes Ben’s Dad walked out on the family but why did that encourage Ben to be a screenwriter? Did this relate to the overall theme of the book?
3) Try and point out something that might be autobiographical
~Writers often base a certain character or a certain situation based on themselves or their personal experiences. It’s a way to vent while giving a realistic touch to their work. This will show your instructor that you were not only paying attention to the work, but also interested in the material.
4) Don’t be afraid to use other sources to aid in your reporting
~A lot of people don’t have that creative streak where they can view a work abstractly and that’s okay. We’re all different! Try using a literary resource to help you sum up and clearly state your ideas. The library always has great resources and even online sites like JSTOR can be a big help. Besides, most instructors require more than one source for papers so it’s a win-win!
5) Lastly, There is a simple format, but try coloring outside the lines.
~A basic book report format consists of an introductory paragraph, a character paragraph, a plot/setting summary, and a conclusion. While this is a great format, don’t be afraid to blend them together a little bit. For example, it’s okay to mention how a character’s traits are mirrored in his/her environment. Yes, you’ll want to sum up key parts of the story in the conclusion, but don’t be afraid to vocalize your views on the happenings within the book at different points. Instructors for the most part appreciate a unique approach to the work, especially in a college setting. It gets pretty boring for them to read the same thing over and over again.
Emily Alvarez is an avid writer and reader of historical fiction and comedy. She loves witty, unforgettable characters that represent the true ups and downs of human life. Emily is a southern California native and received her Bachelors Degree in English from the University of California, Fullerton. She is currently working on several writing projects and is part of the River Ram Press editorial team.