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A Guide to Writing a Paper About a Book


When writing a paper about a book there are different levels of content needed depending on your grade. For example, middle school students writing a book report mostly just need to write a summary of what they read however in higher grades you will be judged on your understanding of themes and shades of meaning. What things represent or really mean will be a part of it. You will start working on a higher level. This is bigger than a simple book report. So how do you navigate what to do? Here are some tips on writing a paper about a book.

What to do

  • Summarize what you read
  • Explain any themes present in the book
  • Explain any imagery or subtext

Summarize What You Read

Part of the paper will naturally be on what the book was about. You will state clearly and in your own words, what the book contained. Was it a novel? Who were the characters? What was the plot? Things like this should be present in your paper as it is about the book, but your personal summary of it and take on it not just a book report.

Explain the Themes

In higher grades you are expected to look deeper than a simple summary even though that is a part of it. What was the theme of the book? Was there a moral to the story? Was it a metaphor for something else? Moby Dick is an excellent example. The theme is obsession and the decent into madness due to a search for something. A search for what is open to interpretation but the theme is the quest for something, the voyage itself and what obsession gets you. It is a warning. A book can be about more than one thing and they often are in great literature. Find the themes and explain them.

Imagery and Subtext

In books often times a simple thing can represent a complex emotion or idea. For example, the whale in Moby Dick, what does it represent to the author or to you? Was the author showing that people will pursue evil until it overwhelms them, or was he showing that man will search for meaning until the quest itself consumes them? Tell the reader what you think the point was. Explain the complex subtexts that sometimes exist in books that seem to be simple stories of a simple event.

All of this should help you to write about books at a higher level and teach you what to look for. When reading, you may even want to take notes on what you believe to be significant and why. Then later when writing your paper you will remember what you thought that whale meant and what the moral of the story turned out to be.

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