How to Write a Summary of a Book: Steps, Examples, FAQs

How to Write a Summary of a Book with an Example
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A book summary is a concise overview of a book's key points. It typically highlights the main characters, the central plot, and the major themes explored by the author. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of how to summarise a book:

  • Who, What, Why? Summarize the main character, key events, and central message.
  • Short & Sweet: Aim for a fraction of the book's length.
  • Your Words, Not Theirs: Rephrase the story without copying the author.
  • Plot Pointers, Not Spoilers: Briefly list major plot points without revealing the ending.
  • Theme Team: Identify a core theme explored in the book.

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What Is a Book Summary

A book summary provides a brief version of a book, emphasizing its main points and core ideas. It offers readers an insight into the book without delving into all the details. Similar to a snapshot or a concise overview, it encapsulates the book's essence. Rather than exploring every minor detail, a summary zeroes in on the broader themes and messages.

It's a method to grasp the essence of a book without needing to read it in its entirety. Summaries serve numerous purposes; they can assist you in determining whether a book is worth your time, refresh your memory on books you've previously read, or offer a handy reference for crucial details. A book summary is a condensed version presenting the key points in a brief format.

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Why Write a Book Summary in the First Place

Ever finished a book and struggled to recall the key details later? Or maybe you're curious about a book without committing to the full read. This is where the power of the book summary comes in!

📚Benefit 📝Description
🧠Memory Booster Summarizing a book helps solidify the main plot points, characters, and themes in your mind, making it easier to recall the story later.
🤔Decision Maker Unsure if a book is worth your time? A well-written summary can give you a quick overview of the content to help you decide.
💬Spark Discussions Book summaries can be conversation starters, prompting discussions and analysis of the story's deeper themes.
🔍Sharpen Analysis Skills Distilling a book's essence requires identifying the central ideas and separating them from minor details. This strengthens your analytical thinking.
🗣️Improve Communication Summarizing effectively requires clear and concise communication, a valuable skill that translates to all areas of life.

How Long Should a Book Summary Be

The ideal length of a book summary depends on the context. For a personal refresh, a few sentences capturing the main character, key events, and central message might suffice. However, a summary for a school assignment or online review might be longer, aiming for a concise overview that's still a fraction of the book's length.

  • Quick Refresh: 3-5 sentences (think of an elevator pitch for the book.)
  • School Assignment/Review: 100-300 words (captures the core plot, characters, and themes.)

Book Summary Vs. Book Review

Now, let our book review writing service experts clear up the difference between a book summary and a book review. While they may seem similar, they serve different purposes. A book summary gives you the gist of what a book is about, focusing on the main points and key ideas.

Book Summary Vs. Book Review

For example, if you were summarizing 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you'd focus on the key themes like the American Dream, love, and wealth, giving a brief overview of the plot without going into too much detail about each event.

Imagine you're writing a review of the same book; instead of just outlining the plot, you'd share your thoughts on the characters, the writing style, and how the story affected you. For instance, you might discuss how Fitzgerald's elegant prose transported you to the glamorous world of the 1920s or how the tragic love story left you pondering the emptiness of materialism.

So, while a summary gives you the gist of the book's content, a review dives deeper into your personal impressions and reflections on the book. Both are useful in their own way, helping readers decide which books to pick up and offering insights into what makes a book memorable. 

Learn more: How to write a book review.

How to Write a Summary of a Book in 6 Steps

Writing a book summary might not seem as tough now that you have all the info we've shared. But with these 6 easy steps, we'll make it even simpler for you to get to the heart of any book. Whether it's an exciting story or an enlightening non-fiction piece, experts of our custom essay writing service will walk you through crafting a summary that's clear, concise, and spotlights the key ideas.

How to Write a Summary of a Book

Start with an Introduction (Title, Author, and Context)

The first step in writing a book summary is to introduce the book by providing its title, author, and a bit of context to set the scene.

For example, let's consider summarizing the book 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger. We would start by introducing the book like this:

'Introducing 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger, a classic novel that takes readers on a journey through the mind of its protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Set in post-World War II America, the story follows Holden's adventures in New York City as he grapples with the complexities of adolescence and the loss of innocence.'

In this introduction, we provide the title of the book ('The Catcher in the Rye'), the author's name (J.D. Salinger), and a brief overview of the context in which the story takes place (post-World War II America). This sets the stage for our summary and gives readers a sense of what the book is about before diving into the details.

Identify the Main Characters and Setting

Once you've introduced the book, the next step is to identify the main characters and setting. This helps readers understand who and where the story revolves around.

For instance, if we continue with our example of summarizing 'The Catcher in the Rye,' we would identify the main character and setting like this:

'Our main character is Holden Caulfield, a rebellious teenager who narrates the story in first-person. He's a complex character, struggling with feelings of alienation and disillusionment. As for the setting, much of the story takes place in New York City during the 1950s, where Holden wanders the streets and encounters various people and situations.'

In this step of your book summary, we focus on introducing the protagonist (Holden Caulfield) and briefly describing his character traits. We also mention the setting (New York City during the 1950s) to provide context for the events that unfold in the story. This helps readers understand the backdrop against which the events of the book take place, setting the stage for the summary to come. And, if you're looking for another example to learn from, you can also take a peek at Pride and Prejudice summary.

Learn more: Pride and Prejudice summary.

Outline the Central Plot or Main Idea

After introducing the characters and setting, it's time to outline the book's central plot or main idea. This step helps readers understand the overall storyline and the key events that drive the narrative forward.

Continuing with our example, we would outline the central plot like this:

'The central plot of 'The Catcher in the Rye' revolves around Holden Caulfield's journey of self-discovery and rebellion. After getting expelled from his prep school,Holden decides to leave early and spends a few days wandering around New York City. Throughout his escapades, Holden grapples with themes of identity, alienation, and the loss of innocence. Along the way, he encounters various characters and experiences that shape his perspective on life.'

In this step of summarizing a book, we provide a brief overview of the main storyline, highlighting the protagonist's journey and the themes explored in the book. This gives readers a sense of the overarching plot.

Learn more: Divine Comedy summary.

Summarize Key Events or Themes

Here, highlight the most significant events or recurring themes in the book. Events could include major plot twists, character developments, or key moments of conflict. Themes, on the other hand, are recurring ideas or messages that the author explores throughout the narrative. This step of how to write a summary of a book helps readers understand the most significant moments and ideas that drive the story forward or convey its message.

Using our example, we would summarize key events or themes like this:

'Throughout 'The Catcher in the Rye,' Holden Caulfield encounters a series of memorable events and grapples with various themes. From his interactions with his family and peers to his encounters with strangers in New York City, each experience contributes to his ongoing search for authenticity and connection. Themes of innocence, alienation, and the loss of childhood innocence permeate the narrative as Holden navigates the complexities of adolescence and the adult world.'

Condense Supporting Details

After summarizing the key events or themes, the next step is to condense supporting details. This involves focusing on the most essential aspects of the story while omitting minor details or subplots that are not crucial to understanding the main narrative.

Continuing with our example, let's include subplots, character relationships, or descriptive elements that enrich the reading experience.

‘Throughout his journey in New York City, Holden Caulfield encounters a variety of characters, including his sister Phoebe, his former teacher Mr. Antolini, and a young prostitute named Sunny. These interactions provide insight into Holden's character and his struggles with loneliness, disillusionment, and the desire for authenticity. Despite his rebellious nature, Holden ultimately longs for connection and understanding in a world he perceives as phony.'

Learn more: Othello summary.

Conclude with a Recap

In the final step, briefly recap the main points you've covered in your summary. Then, offer your own reflections or insights about the book. Did you enjoy it? What aspects did you find most compelling? This section allows you to share your personal reaction to the book and provide a conclusion. Let’s review the final variant of our summary of a book example:

'In conclusion, 'The Catcher in the Rye' is a timeless coming-of-age novel that explores themes of identity, alienation, and the search for authenticity. Through the journey of its protagonist, Holden Caulfield, readers are invited to reflect on the complexities of adolescence and the challenges of navigating the adult world. While Holden's rebellious nature may initially alienate some readers, his underlying desire for connection and understanding resonates deeply with audiences of all ages. Overall, 'The Catcher in the Rye' remains a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of the human condition.'

Learn more: Hobbes Leviathan summary.

Book Summary Example

Bringing everything together, we've created a polished book summary example for you to help you structure your own work when you're feeling uncertain.

Book Summary
Book Summary

Closing Remarks

In wrapping up, tackling how to write a book summary isn't a walk in the park—it demands your time, energy, and hard work. Yet, if you stick with it and keep at it regularly, you're setting yourself up for success. So, keep pushing through and watch as your skills and knowledge grow. Trust us; the payoff down the road will be well worth the effort you put in!


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Adam Jason

Adam Jason

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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