Those mandatory high school reads, how many of them did you actually read? Be honest, probably not all of them, huh? Thought so.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid reader, devouring books one after another. Nevertheless, these high school reads aren’t always too practical. Sometimes they’re incredibly boring, and other times you just do not have any time – because you totally forgot the book review was due tomorrow.
So we scour the internet, looking for good literature review examples and other book reports. Not printing them of course (that’d be stupid), but trying to wrap our head around the ideas in the book, so we can at least act as if we flipped a few pages.
Sparknotes are a very popular source of information. It’s a site with a massive archive of literary study guides and review examples. But it isn’t optimal.
LitCharts is – and I’ll tell you why in a second – the place you should go for your next book review. It’s all that information, condensed in a ten-paged (read: somewhere between 10 and 20) guide, and available to read online or download. Don’t be fooled, they’ll be filling your head with an incredible amount of information, considering those ‘ten pages’.
What makes LitCharts really amazing, however, is not the page count. LitCharts puts conventional study guide techniques six feet below the ground, and uses a series of innovating approaches. Read on for what you may expect from your average LitChart.
Do note that even though we’ll be using George Orwell’s Animal Farm as an example – you should try reading the book yourself. It’s incredible.
Here you get a bit of – surprise – background info, that your English teacher required. Stuff like the author bio, key facts about genre, setting and climax and historical and literary context can all be found here. However, instead of browsing Google and Wikipedia for the next hour, you can find it all here.
Still pretty straight-forward. A simple one-page plot summary. You’ll notice that the names are in a bold typeface and the themes are highlighted in red – we’ll come back on those shortly.
A simple character study of the most important actors in the novel. You’ll read about their role in the story, as well as some background information about what they represent.
Aha. This is where it gets interesting.
Most ‘important’ stories – especially the ones you’re required to read in high school – revolve around one, or multiple ‘themes’. A lot of these stories are even created just to make some of those themes digestible for a normal audience.
In the Theme section of your average LitChart, you’ll find a list of these themes, as well as a detailed description of what they mean, the author’s view and how it is incorporated in the story. Each theme gets assigned its own color – which we’ll see returning in other, later parts of the guide.
Summary & Analysis
Did you really think you could understand a story by reading a plot summary? Think again. Back in those high school reads-writing-days, every chapter had meaning, every sentence a purpose. If you want to show to your teacher that you even remotely grasp the idea behind the book, you’ll need to go into a little more detail. That’s where the Summary & Analysis pages come in, about a page per chapter.
As you can see in the above screenshot, the page is divided into several columns. The summary is self-explanatory, but next to it we see a simple, yet detailed analysis of the scene. You can read what happened, next to what it meant. This will prove immensely useful, and if you’re a woman, you’ve just found a very good use for your multitasking wizardry (strangely, even though technically more correct, witchcraft sounds like an insult).
At the far right, we see a Themes column. Remember those theme color codes we talked about before? This is where they come in. If a color is highlighted in the bar, it means the theme is present in the far left scene. You might want to print out the Themes page for reference.
This is what happens when we isolate and expand the themes column from Summary & Analysis. You’ll see a theme apparition timeline on the left, with the corresponding scenes from the story on the right. Again, a colored bar will mean that the relevant theme is active.
As the LitChart mentions, the ThemeTracker could almost be considered a mini-version of the entire LitChart. You’ll learn a lot about the themes and how they’re integrated in the book, as well as – again – a rundown of the story developments in a – once more – condensed summary.
I hope you’ll find this site, and our review of it, helpful for future book reports and personal reference. If you’ve got any other hot literary study sources, I’d be more than glad to hear about them in the comments. But above all, please do read, plenty.