Writing a college-level book report

on 06/06/2019

College level book report


Reading books is like eating peanut butter - some of us love it, other ones hate it. Reading assignments as parts of your Literature, Writing, or English curriculum may seem too hard to comprehend. At this moment, you start wondering why do they even assign it? Will you have some practical use out of reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy on it’s nearly fifteen hundred pages (besides intellectual arrogance)? Surely, there’s more meaning to reading books than it may seem at first. Namely, writing book reports will help you understand the value of close reading of the world’s greatest literature.

What are the most obvious advantages? First, the more you read, the better the language you obtain when you are writing. The richness of the word choice automatically stays as an asset in your memory and the next time you will be wondering how to express your thoughts and feelings - you won’t be painfully seeking for the right word anymore! Writing book reports on the books that you have surely read (not a summary on a website, no) also helps you to learn how to formulate your ideas more clearly, how to prove your point effectively, how to discern the significance of issues you investigate. And on a higher level, the close examination of those books helps you to understand the world better, to get rid of fears, insecurity, old gestalts, and other psychological aspects that burden you. A good piece of literature might enlighten you to create something, to stay strong in the difficult moments, to reach for your dreams, to help others, and make the world a better place.

Often students are afraid they will evaluate it wrong. Truth be told, there is no completely “wrong” evaluation of the subject. Instead of doubting your academic abilities, think why reading this book incited particular reactions in you? What imagery, events, or characters moved you and why? Remember, all your thoughts are important since the book was written by the author for various audiences. Furthermore, every new generation might find some new twists to the story, which keep it interesting to read. As Andy Warhol once said, the artwork doesn’t belong to its creator - for its meaning and significance is often in the eyes of a beholder.

Trust us - even the longest and the most boring fiction narrative has a purpose. Therefore, the primary task of a book report is to find and explain this purpose. You can also enrich your essay by a relevant degree of critique. For example, you could analyze what is the story background and what real-life aspects influenced its creation. Then you could also look into the future and say why it is a good idea to read this book. What your peers could learn from the story? How it can help them avoid irreversible mistakes? Indeed, writing book reports can become a really valuable thing for self-development on many levels. So why hesitate? Let’s learn how to write a perfect college-level book report!

What is a book report?


What is a book report


First and foremost, let’s discover what is a book report, really? You probably have written many reports while studying in middle and high school, but supposedly, a book report for college should look more advanced. And you would be totally right. You can use a commonplace essay format to shape the usual book report format on a college level. Thus, once more it’s all about thesis statements, introductions, bodies, and conclusions. Yet, there’s so much more to what the book report really is. And the difference, traditionally, is in details, which prove to be essential conditions to getting a much-anticipated “A” for your Literature class.

Essentially, a book report consists of two major parts: those would be, respectively, summary and evaluation. Warning! A book report doesn’t have anything to do with a plain retelling of the plot! Just like for any college homework out there, there should be more mental effort applied and you should spend some time researching, drafting, revising, and editing your book report.

Other names of the similar assignment type may also apply depending on the general direction of academic discourse in your educational institution. Hence, you know you want to write something similar to what is called a book report when your teacher gives you an assignment to perform some of these types of homework:

  • critique

  • summary essay

  • response paper

  • book review


Even though this type of assignment is somewhat different from what is known by a literature analysis, the use of critical thinking is required to convey the overall value of the literary text as well as your interpretation of the symbolism applied to deliver this meaning. Now when you know for sure what factors are common for the book report of the college level, let’s discuss more in detail how to write a book report.

What are the features of an excellent book report?


Excellent book report


Moving on with our comprehensive guide on how to do a book report, let’s discuss the common book report form that you will have to cover as a part of the conventional academic essay standard. Note, by the latter we mean the accordance to the commonly approved essay structure, which obligatory has to include an introduction, a thesis statement, the body of the essay, and the conclusion at the end. Last but not least, don’t forget to maintain a clear logical sequence of thought while adding transition phrases and words to link your arguments.

So, how to start a book report? It is not as hard as you were thinking before granting the fact that you have closely read and understood the book you are going to talk about. The sample essay structure described below may also apply in cases when you write a nonfiction book report.

But before we start crafting an engaging and excellent book report, let’s not forget one more essential feature of this genre. You have to start a book report by listing some of the most important information for the reader to know. Thus, they must necessarily get to know in your introduction section, what is the title of the book and what is the name of its author. Next up, you can give a little overview of the genre, date of publication, widespread critical opinion about this book, the overview of its structural organization. Other secondary details like the historical and cultural background of the literary work, the history of publications and filming, the main problem and solution, characters and their journey - this all might also help you give an engaging insight into your book report. Ignite the interest of the audience and introduce your thesis statement.

Meanwhile, the succeeding body paragraphs may include a few or all the pieces of evidence stated below. You can apply various forms of reasoning and organization styles: by importance, chronological, or by blocks of certain themes. Your main purpose here is to clarify your thesis statement and prove your point. So, you may want to mix and match some of these approaches in your book report for college:

Sample book report outline for a college-level student


Book report outline


  • Summary - there is no way of rationalizing about the book meaning without letting your reader know what the book is all about. Meanwhile, you should also never underestimate this academic genre. Remember: a summary is just the beginning of the college-level book report, not its exhaustive content.

  • Teller - what is the author’s role in the storyline? Who’s telling you what happens and how the teller influences the meaning and value of the story?

  • Plot - what is the sequence of events? Try to recognize the movement of the action in the book. How dialogues are developed? What is the dynamics of those? How the change of setting and scenes affect your emotions and thoughts?

  • Subplots - are there any of these? What do they mean in regards to the main storyline?

  • Characters -  describe their appearance, traits, background, destiny in the book, goals, deeds, outcome, overall role, motivation, how they represent themes and ideas (the moral of the story).

  • Leading theme - what is the main motif? Jealousy, pride, creed, love?

  • A story arc - indicate the inciting incident of the plot, the main conflict, its development, climax, a denouement, and the long-term consequences.

  • Symbolism - highlight sensual and symbolistic details that highlight the hidden meaning essential to the understanding of the book.

  • What is literary style? Describe the specialties of the rhythm of speech, language use, the imagery, which allows understanding the inner world of characters and the main thought of the book.

  • What is the emotional tone, atmosphere, mood of the story?

  • Trace the interior logic of the story, motivations and modus operandi, the story’s world order presented by the author. Is it fair or unfair, positive or cruel? Why? How it affects the meaning of the plot?

  • Examine the cultural/social/political times when the story was written, a real location where the author lived, author’s professional and personal background, intentions, life circumstances, external influences, which presumably made for the story to be conceived.

  • What is the lesson of the story? What can you read between the lines? Indicate the general idea of the book and its significance. Mention how the characters changed and why.

  • Give some more of the critical evaluation of the book. Introduce and explain your opinion about the story, personal impression after the reading. don’t focus on details regarding one specific motif (it is more a subject of a literary analysis essay). Yet, you should still briefly outline any specific view on the book and back it with sufficient evidence.

  • What is the significance of the story? Why would you recommend it to your classmates? What makes it relevant in our times?

  • What could be done more consistently to deliver the main author’s idea in this book? Maybe you saw some flaws in this book?

  • What literature experts say about this book? Do you agree or disagree with it? Why? Also, you can draw the analogy with another book and its critique. alternatively, a part of the author’s interview, a prologue, a related article are also great pieces of evidence, which help you to shape your book report.


This list above may seem a quite exhaustive one, yet you shouldn’t dedicate a whole paragraph to each bullet point. Instead, you can integrate a few sections into one paragraph by explaining some key aspect of the book report. Just make sure you stick to the main point and don’t lose it while retelling the story or focusing on some character’s trait.

How to write a book report: a simple worksheet


Book report worksheet


When learning how to make a book report, it is essential to keep a perfect balance of precision and meaning. Find key elements that can tell the reader a lot by only a few lines of text and analyze them carefully while avoiding the vague language. Likewise, when writing a book report, don’t be afraid to use ornate descriptive language for you are trying to deliver the meaning of the work of art, not the results of lab experimentation.

Another great advice is not to shy away from performing a close reading over and over again. Make notes about where you have lost interest, what are your book report questions, what was unclear, what was good, what thoughts it provoked, etc. Only read when you have no trouble concentrating, not just for mindlessly sliding across the pages. Don’t hurry. Book reporting is like tasting gourmet treats rather than stuffing yourself with fast food. Each time during the next close reading session you may find the new interesting turns and meanings of the story. And even if it first appeared hard to comprehend, by peeling it like this mentally, and by reading with a purpose to find exceptional literary treasures, - you will certainly get the grip of how to write a good book report.

Literature critique experts also note that as a rule, the narrative element is about a plot just the same as about the author. Thus, some considerable amount of the analysis of the author’s motifs and background never hurts. Although, the hardest part is, perhaps, finding the new idea to address in your book report. A good recommendation is to try to see the forest for the trees. Meaning, don’t look too closely at the storyline or characters. Instead, take a step back and seize the bigger picture. Test an empathic approach for feeling yourself in the author’s shoes and attempt to understand them fully. You can advocate or judge the book itself but give credit to the creative thought and honest effort of the writer to make a really meaningful work of the literary art.

When writing a book report, provide your own perspective and understanding. Meanwhile, stay away from confrontational or dismissive language. Use evidence and moderate emotion, neutral tone. don’t just get away with an evaluation of how good/bad, relevant/irrelevant is it. Instead, explain specialties, analyze where they come from and what’s their mission.

Get inspired by a literary critique of any kind - not necessarily the one, which describes the book you are writing a report about. Memorize meaningful sentences that can shortly deliver the point of the whole book. Illustrate your assumptions with quotes from the book but don’t slip into the temptation of quoting large passages.

While being unfamiliar with book reporting, you might precipitately denote that the main theme is on the surface (for example - a political regime). Yet we suggest you dig deeper and analyze underlying factors like psychological, moral, emotional, perceptional, and so on. Most often, human soul matters or social tendencies become the main focus of the writer. Such people are generally socially active, and they write books in an attempt to let you know how to improve something in your life and lives of others as well. Trace what aspects are placed and arranged in a certain manner to persuade you. What is the subject of persuasion and why? Try to find the core of the story, which makes it equally valuable for people of older and new generations.

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