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How to Write a Book Summary

September 01, 2015 - Posted to Assignment Topics How to Write a Book Summary

How to Write a Book Summary

A book summary is not a book review, so do not confuse the two. The book summary is much more like the type of book report you did in middle school and perhaps in high school, but it is a bit more sophisticated in tone, language, and style, and is often assigned for non-fiction books. If you have not yet written one of these for a college class, then these steps will help you understand how to write a book summary and to get it right.

Steps to Produce a Book Summary

  1. Read the Book: This is an obvious, especially if the book is non-fiction. Many students rely on Cliff’s Notes for summaries of fictional works, but these will be far too detailed for your report. You will be writing an essay, not a treatise.
  2. Take Notes: Especially for non-fiction, this is essential. The best way to do this is to read a chapter and then write a short summary or outline the main points before you go on to the next chapter. Focus on the general, not too many specific details – remember this is an essay.
  3. Go through your notes and pick out 3-4 points the author is making – the big ideas. If it is a fiction work, you want to divide the plot into 3-4 large chunks.
  4. Outline Your Body Paragraphs: These are the 3-4 points or large plot chunks that you developed in #3. Write a topic sentence and then list the supporting detail for that sentence.
  5. Write Your Body Paragraphs: Again, there should be only 3-4 paragraphs. Part of learning how to write a summary of a book is learning to consolidate.
  6. Write Your Introduction: Obviously, you will provide the title and author of the book. You will also develop a thesis statement that provides an even shorter summary of what you have written. Here are two examples – one for fiction and one for non-fiction:
  1. Fiction: Charles Dickens, in his novel Tale of Two Cities, writes a tale of love, redemption, and suspense against the backdrop of the horrors of the French Revolution.
  2. Non-Fiction: In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, author Steven Covey describes the learned behaviors practiced by people who meet with success in their personal and professional lives.
  1. Write Your Conclusion: You have the opportunity to make a personal comment about the book in your conclusion, should you wish to do so. What made the book enjoyable or not to you? Do you agree with the points made by the author?

Don’t Forget the Editing and Revising

Your book summary is just like any other piece of writing you produce for submission and a grade. Your first writing is only your rough draft. It must be reviewed and edited for structure, grammar and sentence structure, and mechanics. Do you have good transitions from one paragraph to the next? Have you altered the length of your sentences? Have you eliminated any fragments or run-ons? If you are not highly skilled in essay writing, you should have found someone who is to edit and revise yours – a friend, relative, or a professional writing service. Never turn in anything with poor writing – it will kill your grade.

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