How to Write a Good Book Summary?

Do you know how to write a book summary? Are you interested in writing summaries of what you read for future reference?

You can absorb more information from a book if you write a summary. Furthermore, you can use it to recall the main points of the book whenever you need them.

Take note of important ideas, plot twists, and main characters while reading the book carefully. After drafting your awesome summary, you can proofread it.

We wrote a book summary for Rich Dad Poor Dad last year.

Since then, we have written many book summaries to help our readers to save time and learn fast.

In this article, we’ll explain the steps to writing a book summary.

What Is a Book Summary?

A book summary sometimes referred to as a synopsis, is the “cliff notes” version of the book.  It summarizes a larger text in a concise and understandable manner. It contains a short summary of the main ideas, plot, and key characters of the book. 

A book summary does not include external commentary. Make sure that the summary you’re writing is indeed a book summary before proceeding.

If done well, it will allow someone who has not read the book it is describing to feel as if they have.

How To Write A Book Summary?

Taking Notes

1. Analyze the text as you read it

While you are writing your summary, you will find it easier to find important passages if you annotate as you read. Anything confusing, important, surprising, or interesting should be circled, highlighted, or noted. You can also mark repetitions and inconsistencies between passages.

If you own the book, you may highlight and write in it. If you don’t own the book, use sticky notes to mark passages.

While reading, take notes. Write down your thoughts in a notebook as you read. This will allow you to remember what you read. If you do not go back and check on details later, you will have less work to do.

2. Take notes on several different types of paper

The first can be for general impressions and quick thoughts, the second for lists of characters and events, and the third for a summary of the book’s major ideas and themes.

You can also take notes if you don’t recognize the words. Look them up in a dictionary as you go.

3. Keep track of the main characters

Note the main characters’ names and a brief description of their personalities or major characteristics. Write a few words about each character’s goals and desires. Consider the ways in which the main themes of the book are illustrated by the characters.

If the chronology in the book is unclear or complicated, you can also make a timeline. If the story jumps between multiple plotlines, keep multiple timelines.

4. Divide the book into sections

You can keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed if you divide the book into three sections. Each section will have a beginning, middle, and end. Arrange your notes accordingly.

In the beginning, we will introduce the main characters and set the scene.

A major “problem” of the book will be explored in the middle, whether it’s a fight between good and evil or a murder mystery.

The book’s major problem will be resolved at the end.

5. Each section should have a main point

Each section should have a specific purpose and theme. Think about what is most important to the author. Think also about how each section relates to the next.

6. Decide on the book’s main idea

As you read, consider what lesson the book is trying to teach. Pay attention to recurring themes. The characters might always talk about it, or it might be one of their fatal flaws that causes problems after problems.

In this case, the author may want to illustrate that pride causes people to make bad decisions. Throughout the story, the main character keeps getting into situations that are above their heads because they are arrogant and prideful.

If you’re reading a nonfiction book, you might be learning about society or history. There are many examples given in the book that proves fast food is unhealthy, so maybe the author wants to show readers that.

Drafting and Editing

The more time you can spend editing and rewriting, the better your book summary will be. 

1. Make sure your summary is the right length

When you write a summary for a school assignment, you probably have a limit on how much or how little you can write. Be as concise as possible. A summary that is too short or too long could make it seem as if you did not read the book. Write between 190 and 200 words if your word limit is 200.

You should keep your summary short, even if it’s for your own use. It makes for an easy and quick reference tool to have a summary under 500 words.

2. Put the summary in chronological order.

In a summary, the events should be presented in the order in which they occurred. Be careful not to jump from section to section. Keep the story’s integrity by starting at the beginning and ending at the end.

3. Describe the main characters and plot points of the story

Briefly describe what happens in the book after introducing the title and author. It shouldn’t take too long. This is your introduction.

You could say something like: “J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone tells the story of a young, orphaned boy who discovers he’s a wizard. He learns that there is a whole Wizarding World full of good bad witches and wizards during his first year as a student at Hogwarts.”

4. Describe the main points of the book’s sections

Summarize the book’s plot using your notes. Describe what happens in each section, how they build on each other, and why the section is relevant to the book’s overall message.

As we have written a book summary for Harry Potter, we will use the story as an example to illustrate our method. 

The summary might look something like this: “The first part of the book introduces the reader to what it’s like to be a wizard. The reader experiences how amazing this is with Harry himself, who’s new to this world as well.

As the story goes on, it’s clear that something dark is happening at Hogwarts, and Harry needs his new friends, Ron and Hermione, to figure out what it is. The end of the book focuses on a series of tests and trials that Harry could not make it through without relying on friendship and his mother’s love.”

5. Summarize the book’s main idea

You should conclude your summary by stating what you believe is the lesson of the book. Remember what theme arose repeatedly in your notes. The conclusion should include this statement.

For example: “Rowling used her story to show that even talented people need friendship and love to overcome evil.”

6. Your opinion should not be included in the summary

It should be a neutral summary of the book. It should be factual. You should not write about how you feel about the book or whether you agree or disagree with the author.

For instance, you could say, “Both Professor Quirrell and Lord Voldemort disappear after failing to obtain the Sorcerer’s Stone,” instead of, “It really sucks that Voldemort escapes because he is the worst and the author should have made sure he was captured.”

7. Check for errors in proofreading

According to The Elements Of Style, grammar and punctuation are essential to writing in an appealing manner.

Therefore, don’t forget to spell everything correctly. Find any grammatical errors or misplaced commas by reading the summary aloud. Count the words twice.

Spell check cannot take context into account and will not catch grammatical errors like misuse of “there,” “their,” and “they’re.”

If you are writing a summary for yourself, you might be doing it for a book club. In these cases, editing won’t be as important, but a coherent summary is still important. Read over it a few times to ensure it’s clear.

8. Share your work with a friend

I recommend having a friend or family member read your work, especially if this is for school. They will be able to catch any errors you might have missed. You can exchange summaries with other students to help each other out!

When writing a summary for Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, I found that talking about your work with the right people is actually important for writers.

Carefully reading

1. Read in a quiet place without distractions.

A place away from the TV is best. Turn your phone to silent and place it aside so it won’t tempt you. Focus just on the book, and enjoy your reading time.

It’s also a good idea to read near a lamp or a window to avoid straining your eyes.

2. Read the book in small chunks

You should read in 20-minute sessions to avoid getting overwhelmed. Depending on how much you enjoy the book, you may be able to read for an hour or two at a time. By doing this, you can take your time reading it.

3. If you have a deadline, allow yourself enough time

You don’t want to stay up all night reading the book and writing the summary at the same time. It is recommended that you read shorter books within two weeks and longer books within a month. Read every day if you can.

Start reading the book as soon as it is assigned for an assignment or book club. There is probably an exact number of weeks you’ll need to finish the book and write the summary without stressing out over it.

4. Read important passages again

Passages that are important should be easy to spot. Re-read those paragraphs in the book if you observe the main character having a major realization or a plot twist.

The description is usually not the focus of these passages. Rather, they’ll describe a turning point, a tragic event, or a resolution to a conflict.

5. Focus on the main characters

The key points of the book will be told by the actions, mistakes, and feelings of the main characters. Keep an eye out for them.

6. Don’t let small details distract you

There’s no need to include minor plot points or details about secondary characters in a summary. Even though you should read these parts of the book and pay attention to them, they are usually not central to a summary.

Why Write a Book Summary?

To help us better understand what a book summary is, let’s look at why doing so is so important and how it can help you. 

Here are a few reasons why writing a book summary is important and beneficial.

Improve your memory of what you read

The role that a book summary plays in helping you memorize what you read is one of the most important reasons why you should write one. 

To begin with, writing down the main points from a book or certain essential details greatly enhances your chances of remembering them later. In part, this is because writing activates parts of the brain that reading does not. 

When you write down something, your brain goes through a more complex process, which increases the chances of it being stored in your long-term memory. 

In addition, knowing you will need to write a book summary will motivate you to read the book more actively. 

This will cause you to pay more attention to the storyline and remember details and characters, which in turn will help you to better understand and remember what you read.

You will practice summarizing and learn how to extract the essential information from a large text

It is not something we are born with the ability to be able to identify and extract the most important information from large texts. There are several benefits to summarizing, especially for young, developing minds. It is a complex process that requires practice.

Summary in itself can help students develop their ability to discern the main points of a book, identify the main ideas, and focus on the important aspects.

Regardless of the reader’s age or educational level, writing a short summary of a book has a similar effect on all readers. As we try to summarize a book in our minds, the complex process keeps our brain active, engaged, and agile.

Learn how to become a better writer

You can greatly improve the quality of your writing and your speed by developing your ability to extract important ideas, by increasing your ability to memorize information, and by forcing you to write about your own opinion and perspective.

You will be given certain instructions or requirements for writing the mandatory book summaries, which will help you develop some discipline. Furthermore, the better you want to be at something, the more practice you need.

Although popular belief suggests otherwise, writing is a skill that is developed over the course of a person’s lifetime and has a lot less to do with talent than people think. More than anything else, it has to do with the level of perseverance, discipline, and dedication a person has.

When writing a book summary for On Writing by Stephen King, I noticed the author wrote about the importance of reading a lot of books, a key idea also covered in 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost. 

Because when you write book summaries regularly, you learn more about the books you read, you memorize information faster and easier, and you practice writing. You can even steal some ideas from a lot of great writers.

As you gain general knowledge, you will be better able to structure your own thoughts and put them in a logical and easily understandable order.

Completing an assignment for school or a book club 

The majority of the time, book summaries are required assignments. The best way for teachers or book club organizers to ensure you have read the recommended books is to assign them as part of your school program or as a task from your membership in a book club.

Book summaries are more than just proof that you’ve read a book when it comes to school assignments. 

Students gain important skills through them such as being able to analyze literature more deeply and digest it in a more complex way than simply going through it and following the storyline.

What Is The Difference Between A Book Summary And A Book Review?

Here’s a brief explanation of what a book summary is, as opposed to a book review. 

In a book summary, the main ideas of the book should be summarized, along with a brief description of the characters as well as a brief overview of the action.

On the other hand, a book review is a subjective description of a book, filled with more technical information about the writing style, the author and theme, as well as the reviewer’s own opinion on the book. In the original book, the action wasn’t presented in the same order. 

What Is The Ideal Length Of A Book Summary?

Generally speaking, when writing a book summary, you should write about a third of the original text you are writing about. However, the length of your summary depends on a variety of factors as well.

A factor to consider is the actual length of the text you’re summarizing. If the novel you need to summarize is 600 pages, you won’t be able to summarize it in 200 pages. 

If this rule can’t be applied, the ideal book summary length becomes a fine balance between including all the important information and getting into too much detail.

Thanks to the clear instructions that come with most mandatory book summaries, the ideal length is always included as well. 

In the absence of a mandatory book summary, it means you can make your own rules and write as much or as little as you feel necessary.

Tips for Writing a Good Summary

An effective one-paragraph summary is an essential skill for every writer, whether you’re summarizing an event, novel, play, or newspaper article. Here are some tips on how to do it:

Identify the main idea

The purpose of a summary is to distil the source material down to its most important points for the reader to understand. Use your limited sentences carefully to convey the major point you want the reader to know. Organize your thoughts by writing down a few notes.

Keep it short

It’s not a rewrite-it’s a short overview of the original work. There are usually between five and eight sentences in a summary paragraph. Be concise and to the point. The redundant or repetitive text should be removed to make your paragraph concise and clear.

Don’t judge what you write

In summarizing a piece of media or text, you gather and condense its most relevant information, not write a review. Avoid adding your own opinion to the summary.

Ensure that it flows

Writing transitions is incredibly helpful in building momentum. Make sure your sentences flow together by using transition words.


It takes time, energy, and effort to write a book summary. We all know that. Nevertheless, it’s one of the best investments you can make for yourself when you do it consistently over time.

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