Helpful Tutorial: How to Write an Essay on a Book

The sorts of assignments that fall into the category of essays on books are as varied as the books themselves. However, whether you are writing a report, an analysis, or comparison there are some principles to keep in mind.

Selecting Your Topic

 As backward as this might sound, the more specific your topic the more you will have to write about. This idea has been proven time and again and is true because it is easy to use a handful of general statements to cover the entire subject when it is broad. Also, it is much easier to come up with ideas and things to explore when you select a very pointed subject. For example, say you are assigned to write an essay on Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. You may be tempted to write about the whole book it will not generate much more than, “this is by Charles Dickens” or “this is set during the French Revolution,” which would not be much of an essay. Instead try to work with a particular character, theme, or scene. Look how much imagery and meaning is in the scene with the fountain-side carriage accident. Here are some questions that may help you come up with a specific topic:

  • Is there a particular scene that grabbed your attention? Why?
  • Is there a section of the book that you had questions about? Try and answer those questions and it will turn into a great essay topic.
  • Is there a character that you find intriguing? What do they add to the book as a whole?

No Summary

 Whatever you do, avoid giving a plot summary at all costs. There may be cases where you need to bring your audience up to speed but otherwise summary is empty filler, and instructors know it. Instead focus on only the parts of the book that are relative to your topic and only give the facts that your audience absolutely needs to know in order to understand your essay. You may be able to eke out some length by retelling the book, but that wasted space will only work against you in the end.

 Don’t Be Afraid of Change

  It may easily turn out that the paper you end up with is not the one you had set out to write. That’s fine. If you have filled pages with a line of thought and it went somewhere you weren’t expecting, don’t be afraid to run with it. Just go back and change the beginning so that your essay forms a cohesive whole.



Structured Content and Logic Presentation

Each of essay sections should be well defined and written clearly. This means you should know what details to include while minimizing the amount needed. You may need to rewrite each section more than once before settling on your final copy. You should also remember to proofread, edit, and revise as these elements help make your structure more solid. Think about your details in how you want readers to view it from your perspective.

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