Book Report: Definition, Guidelines, and Advice

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

book report
"To a considerable degree," says Roger L. Dominowski, "book reports are extended summaries . . .. What else will be in a book report depends on instructors' choices" ( Teaching Undergraduates, 2002). (Topic Images Inc./Getty Images)

A book report is a written composition or oral presentation that describes, summarizes, and (often, but not always) evaluates a work of fiction or nonfiction.

As Sharon Kingen points out below, a book report is primarily a school exercise, "a means of determining whether or not a student has read a book" (Teaching Language Arts in Middle Schools, 2000).

Characteristics of a Book Report

Book reports generally follow a basic format that includes the following information:

  • the title of the book and its year of publication
  • the name of the author
  • the genre (type or category) of the book (for example, biography, autobiography, or fiction)
  • the main subject, plot, or theme of the book
  • a brief summary of the key points or ideas treated in the book
  • the reader's response to the book, identifying its apparent strengths and weaknesses
  • brief quotations from the book to support general observations

Examples and Observations

  • "A book report is a way for you to let others know about a book you have read. A good book report will help others decide whether they want to read the book or not."
    (Ann McCallum, William Strong, and Tina Thoburn, Language Arts Today. McGraw-Hill, 1998)
  • Contrasting Views on Book Reports
    - "Keep in mind always that a book report is a hybrid, part fact and part fancy. It gives hard information about the book, yet it is your own creation, giving your opinion and judgment of it."
    (Elvin Ables, Basic Knowledge and Modern Technology. Varsity, 1987)
    - "Your instructor may occasionally assign a book report. A book report is to be sharply distinguished from a research paper, for it deals with one book in its entirety—not with certain aspects of several books and documents . . .. The book report is also to be clearly distinguished from a book review or a critical essay, for it merely reports on a book without undertaking to compare it with other books or to pass judgment on its value."
    (Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Modern Rhetoric. Harcourt, 1972)
    - "A book report is a summary of the contents, plot, or thesis of a particular book, . . . preceded by a full bibliographical citation. The writer of a book report is not required to evaluate the author, although he oftentimes does so."
    (Donald V. Gawronski, History: Meaning and Method. Sernoll, 1967)
  • Quick Tips
    "I'll give you some tips on how to write a good book report right now.
    "Tell the name of the book. Tell the name of the author. The Wizard of Oz was written by L. Frank Baum.
    "Tell if you think he's a good writer. Tell the names of all the characters in the book. Tell what they did. Tell where they went. Tell who they were looking for. Tell what they finally found. Tell how they treated each other. Tell about their feelings.
    "Tell that you read some to your sister. Tell that she liked it.
    "Read some to a friend. Then you can even tell that your friend liked it."
    (Mindy Warshaw Skolsky, Love From Your Friend, Hannah. HarperCollins, 1999)
  • Problems Associated With Book Reports
    "Typically a book report is a means of determining whether or not a student has read a book. Some teachers also consider these reports as a major part of their composition program. However, there are several problems associated with book reports. First, students can generally find out enough about a book to write a report without actually reading it. Second, book reports tend to be boring to write and boring to read. The writing is usually uninspired because students have no ownership of the task and no commitment to it. Furthermore, book reports are not real-world writing tasks. Only students write book reports."
    (Sharon Kingen, Teaching Language Arts in Middle Schools: Connecting and Communicating. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000)
  • The Lighter Side of Book Reports
    "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia."
    (Woody Allen)
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Book Report: Definition, Guidelines, and Advice." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Book Report: Definition, Guidelines, and Advice. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Book Report: Definition, Guidelines, and Advice." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).