School reports demonstrate one’s ability to present information in a clear, definitive and concise way. You, perhaps, think that such kind of essays are quite pointless and do not add anything to your knowledge or skills.
This is not true: in our era of internet technologies we are becoming very careless about presenting a piece of information adequately and without distortions. Instead of describing the plot of a movie, for instance, we prefer expressing our personal opinion on it. The same is with books: our descriptions of the books we have read render only a small part of the books’ content. Thus, it happens that when a school student hears the phrase “book report”, he/she associates it with writing personal opinion or description of a very interesting situation from the book, and that’s all.
However, writing a book report indicates good skills to understand the essence of a book and its message, and to present them properly and adequately.
How to write a book report – essential tips
Understand your task
A task has its goal and context. You cannot accomplish it without realizing what is required from you. In such sense, a short conversation with your teacher is never needless. Ask him/her what you should do, in formal (regarding the structure and length of the essay) and substantial (regarding its contents) sense. Don’t be shy and talk freely with your teacher.
You should do this preparation by reading not only the particular book, but also some critical analyses on it. Criticism is very important when you are not familiar with the author’s biography, style, personal beliefs and interests, and so forth. However, you should not go too far in reading secondary literature, as it would enforce the critics’ opinions on your mind.
Another flaw of students is to read secondary literature instead of the book in question. This is reasonable, if we take it for granted that it is difficult to read a 500-page book. But then, what is the sense to write a book report at all? You can rather write a report on the secondary literature available.
Grasp the message
Every work of art has to tell something to its audience. There is no such thing like art without meaning (even contemporary art has a message for us). Different writers have various ways for telling the message; one way is to manifest it through characters’ actions and interactions; second way is through the narrator (who could explain what is happening and why); third way is through writing an afterword. This, let’s say it again, depends on the personal style of every author.
Messages are usually very abstract. They concern social (alienation), economical (poverty), political issues (war), or explore existential topics (the meaning of life, love, friendship, loneliness). There may be a series of “small” messages, and one “big” message which serves as a basis for the whole book.
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Brevity is the soul of wit
Do not describe too much. Your task is to write a report. Traditionally, school reports are a few pages long. The key is the proper structure of the essay, and particularly, the correlation between its parts. We recommend you the following:
1. Introduction: three or four sentences regarding the topic will do.
2. Main part:
- information about the author: one short paragraph;
- plot description: two or three paragraphs. It should not exceed one-fourth of the whole text of the report;
- characters: take two or three characters as points of departure. Tell about their interactions – this may take up to four paragraphs;
- message: try to connect it logically with the previous point. The length of this part may take several paragraphs (again not more than one-fourth of the report), including references to some critical analyses. Here you can also use short quotes from the book in order to prove that your interpretation is correct.
3. Conclusion: you can recapitulate the main topic of the book and its message.
The problem how to write a book report seems to be solved when you have enough knowledge about the book and the author in question. Just be careful with your style of writing and structure of the essay. Revise it carefully and then hand it over to your teacher.