Analysing a book is too often confused with writing a book review. It is a very common misconception and one that needs to be busted especially if you are planning to become a writer or are one already.
A book review is an informal way of sharing one’s thoughts about any book of the reader’s choice and can, quite literally, be done in any way. There are no rules, no particular way or structure that needs to be followed, it should just be informative that’s all. Whereas a book analysis follows a structure and has to contain certain bits of information in it. It is a formal approach to studying a book and is often given as practice exercises by professors, teachers or lecturers (like myself) of creative writing to their students for some particular book or story, fiction or non-fiction. As I primarily teach fiction, the scope of this post will be limited to fiction Book Analysis.
So let’s see how it is done because a lot of writers, especially in our country where creative writing is not taught in schools or colleges, don’t know the right format for it.
HOW TO WRITE A BOOK ANALYSIS
Before we begin with how to write a Book Analysis, let’s first have a look at the structure of the book analysis so that you’ll know what notes to take while reading the book or text.
Book Analysis is made up of three parts:
It should contain the name of the book, the author, the time period in which the book was written, genre, the time and settings of the book, a brief outline of the plot (preferably in 1-2 sentences) and any other relevant information related to either the book or the author.
Look at this as the opening of your Analysis, therefore try and give information regarding the book you’re going to analyse, who it is written by and what exactly is it about as if the reader of your essay has no idea about the book you’re analysing.
2. Main Body:
The main body of the analysis consist of more than one paragraph (2-3 are ideal.) This is where you will have to summarise the book and give brief descriptions of the main events.
This is followed by your analysis of the work – what you think of it and how you interpreted the book you read. Write about the story, main themes and ideas, characters and their development, writing style employed by the author, symbolisms used, the overall structure of the story or any obvious pattern or style used to write it. Also, write about the literary devices used in the book and make a note of any positive or negative traits about the plot of characters you notice.
The conclusion is where you make your main point about the book – do you agree about the book or not and why? You need to present your argument in a respectable and friendly way not showing any kind of bias. using quotes from the book is a great way to support your argument. Though make it a point that if you do not agree with the author, there are instances when it happens, to try and add a line or two showing why do you think the author thinks a certain way – remember to be respectful.
For example, if the author is being misogynistic then try to understand why he is being that way, maybe it is because of the time period in which the book was written and the general mentality of the masses.
So this is the structure of a Book Analysis, Fiction Book Analysis to be specific, though however, for most of the non-fiction stories, especially biographies, autobiographies and memoir you can follow the same structure. Though, if you are writing a critical analysis on a factual book or a research paper then you’ll have to follow a different format which is similar to this one but focuses on the facts and the author’s previous works and thesis heavily.
Here’s a handy graphic depicting how a book analysis is written:
Now le’s have a look at the steps in which you can examine a book critically and prepare your argument:
- Reading the book and identifying the main theme, narrative style and literary devices used. Also, keep a keen eye out for the language and the settings used by the author.
- Make use of online dictionaries, encyclopedias or articles to understand the ideas that may be foreign to you or to understand the overall mentality or thought-process of the people of certain parts of the world or time period.
- Take notes of paragraphs or sentences/lines that particularly resonate with you or stand out.
- Write a summary of the story (in about 300-500 words) for your own reference.
- Make a special note of how the book made you feel emotionally because it is important as it will form the basis of your argument.
- Take note of any illustrations or maps added in the book
- Note down your thoughts as you read the book as they will help you in writing the analysis.
- Re-read the book or the story again. You’ll have a better understanding of the story and a lot more clarity upon reading the book or the story a second time. You will also come across a lot of things you might have missed in the first reading. I strongly recommend a second reading.
Book analysis can, and if I am being honest then should be, practised as a necessary exercise by creative writers because it is a great way of learning the intricacies of creative writing that can only be learned through reading. Analysing a book helps creative writers to critically study a work of writing that has already been published and therefore, helps them to learn from it and absorb details that cannot be all taught by someone else and can only be picked up through reading.
What do you think about writing a book analysis as a creative writing practice? Do you do it or, like most fiction writers, you dread having to write it? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it so feel free to share your experiences and related resources int he comments below. All comments are welcome 🙂
Thank you for reading.