Book Reports - Book Review - Criticism

After reading a book or short story, you, the reader, must know the plot, theme (significance), characterization, point of view, setting, style, ending and tone of the work.

If you organize this information on note cards it will make writing the report easier. Even better, put paper slips or note cards between those pages that you want to quote passages from, or dialogue that illustrates those points that you want to make.

Plot - what is the story; a summary of the action.

Theme - the subject or central idea of the work.

Style / Structure - how the author uses words. For example Anne Rice, Stephen King, R.L. Stine, and Dean Koontz are horror writers but their styles are very different.

Setting - time and place, how does it contribute, does it shape or reveal character, does it have a symbolic value.

Point of View - first person, third person; again what does it reveal about the characters, how do the characters see events, how does it affect plot.

Characterization - what motivates them, how does setting effect them, what purpose do the minor characters serve, how are they described, is the main character active or passive.


  1. Impression - did you like it
  2. Analysis - did the author accomplish what he or she set out to do
  3. What does it mean
  4. Orientation - how does this work fit in with other works by the same author, other
  5. writers of the same genre, others of their time period
  6. Value - does it have any appeal, who is the audience for this
  7. Generalization - what broad statement can be made about this work


Read a brief biography of your writer to get a sense of who they are and what they have written. The index to CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS should be your first stop; it covers much more than just contemporary authors.


Read what other critics/reviewers have written.


Remember the librarians can help you! There are many sources for reviews and criticism, both printed and electronic. Just ask for help; that's one of the reasons we are here. All titles listed below are located in the Literature and Fiction Department.

How to Write Book Reports by Harry Teitelbaum (029.61 T265)

Modern English Handbook (808 G673)
A general English handbook but Chapter 18 (p. 353-366) is a concise guide to writing the book report. It also includes samples of criticism for poems and plays.

Writing Essays About Literature by Kelly Griffith (808 G853)
In addition to the basic points of writing essays this has many samples of criticism, including criticism of plays and poetry.

Literary Terms by Karl Beckson (803 B397 1987)
Arranged dictionary style but like the following book, it is a good source for definitions such as: theme, motif, dramatic monologue, etc.

A Handbook to Literature (803 H747)
Arranged dictionary style this book has clear definitions for such terms as: style, theme, mood, gothic novel, point of view, romanticism, etc.

The Holt Guide to English (808 I69)
Another standard textbook. Chapter 12 "writing on Literary Topics" (p. 300-411) covers the same points as the others but this has suggestions for your approach to writing and samples that include poetry, plays and a popular song lyric.

Holt Handbook (808 K615)
Brief and to the point; see chapter 41 "Writing About Literature," (p.700-712.)

How to Write Themes and Essays (808 M122)
Has 36 samples with constructive comments about them. What is unique about this book is that on page 129 there is a typical grade sheet; in other words what constitutes an "A", a "B", a "C" etc. followed by good information on how to begin and end your report / critique.


Contemporary Authors (809 C761 - Room Reference - Section #4) Biographies of approximately 100,000 writers, living and deceased.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Twentieth Century Literary Criticism, Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, Classical And Medieval Criticism excerpts from thousand of critical reviews. (These series of books are all located in Room Reference Section #1.)