Friday, July 22, 2011

Focus Friday: Writing Book Reports

Above: The books I checked out just this week!
Browsing through library checkout slips, it surprised me when I realized that I've checked out more than 100 books already this year.  The majority have been picture books, but some have been chapter books, YA or adult novels, and a few titles were research/reference books.

Even more surprising - I read most of them.  But, if you would ask me to ramble off titles, authors, and the basic premise of each one from memory–I probably couldn't do it.  That's opportunity lost, in my opinion.

I'm disappointed in myself, and I'm sure my seventh grade teacher would be disappointed, too.

I didn't write book reports.  I'm disappointed in myself, and I'm sure my seventh grade teacher would be disappointed, too.

Today, I thought to myself, wouldn't it be nice if I had made even a small book report on each title?  Then I could look up the title when I think,"Oh, that phrase reminds me of that book I read...or what was that nifty device that author used?  Which publishing house released a title on pangolins already?"  Etc. Etc.

Yes.  A million times yes.  It would be very nice.

Now, before I commit myself to a goal of writing hundreds of book reports, reality is already settling in.  I've come to the conclusion that there are twelve pieces of information most relevant to keeping track of what I've read:

One-Sentence Description
Approx. Word Count
Opening Line
Point of View
Author/Illustrator (Y/N)
Did I like it
Most Interesting Aspect / Notes

Sounds like a spreadsheet to me.  Easier than a fleshed-out book report, but enough to refer back to when I've got a manuscript of my own to compare against if I'm considering a similar publishing house, genre, or subject.

What do you think?  Do you keep track of all the books you've read?  How do you organize your thoughts, notes, and studies of other stories?


Claudine Gueh said...

I have been keeping a list of books read (and those I remember having read when I was a kid) since two years ago. And now I'm on Goodreads, so this will help keep track.

I can't write a short report on each book cos it'll feel like schoolwork! But if a book stands out and I love it so much, I will write about the story and its characters in my freewriting book. (Maybe this is my way of an informal report?)

And I somehow could remember the impact of each book even if I've read it some time ago.

Interesting post this is, Miranda!

Taurean Watkins said...

Hi Miranda,

I think your approach to keeping track of what you've read is a great idea, if only so it gives you a bullet point way of keeping what you've read straight.

I like using Shelfari for the purpose of knowing what books I've bought, read, and want to read soon, and get recommendations on what I may read next.

Plus, I'm a sucker for being to display your book library on that virtual shelf, I don't have one in real life, and this is the next best thing for me until I can buy one.

Anyway, like Claudine I too wasn't keen on book reports when I was in school, as I didn't become a lover of books, especially fiction, until I was in high school, but by then the main focus was prepping for college and putting creativity in the proverbial toy box of childish nonsense to forget about, and if you had next to no idea what you wanted for a career, regardless of if it's attainable or not, that's NOT a fun or encouraging time.

Not being a Type-A Academic or someone with scholarly ambitions to begin with made this pressure worse, and I'm still kind of picking up the pieces from that nightmare.

I'd probably like it better now since these reports aren't being graded and I don't have to meet a set deadline for them.

I'll try that soon and see how it goes.

Thanks for sharing this idea with us.

Take Care,


Unknown said...

I used to keep a spreadsheet, but it got too big to really do me any good. It's a good idea, but I'm afraid I'll have to keep looking them up every time anyway - after a point I just won't bother with the spreadsheet.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I love the spreadsheet idea, Miranda. Sadly, I don't keep track of the books I read, though I often wish I had.
Organization is not my strong suit, but even I could handle a simple spreadsheet like this.

Miranda Paul said...

@Claudine - Yeah, I don't plan to write a report on each book, but a spreadsheet I can handle. For me, writing in one of my many freewriting books doesn't really help, because they're not searchable :) But whatever works, you've got the idea right - "remember the impact of each book!"

@Taurean - glad to see you stopped by! I have never heard of Shelfari, so I will have to check out. I chuckled a bit when you mentioned buying a bookshelf, because that's exactly what I did on Saturday - it was $15 at a local thrift store. And it's HUGE! I was so happy, because I really didn't have the money to buy a new one.

@Ellen - I never thought about the spreadsheet getting too big...I suppose it will, but I work on a Mac so it will be searchable. And maybe I'll delete titles after awhile. Something to think about, thanks.

@inluvwithwords - yes, a spreadsheet does sound easy, doesn't it?

Katrina said...

I never did think about doing that. If I LOVE a book, I usually remember the title, the author, the MC's name, and all that good stuff. It becomes one of my "memories." However, I think I might have to try this suggestion. It really does sound wonderful.

Kelly Hashway said...

Like, Claudine, I use Goodreads to keep track of what I've read. But I have to admit that I don't usually write reviews. I'll give it a Star review (3-5) depending on how much I enjoyed the book, but that's it. I love that you keep notes on the books. It's a great idea.

Allyn Stotz said...

Wow, I've never even thought about doing that but it's a marvelous idea! I think I'm going to have to start my own spreadsheet because living off my memory is really pitiful for me. I can never remember authors or even what the book was about unless I just absolutely loved it. Same with movies and songs. I may need to start keeping spreadsheets for all of those. But hmmmm, would I remember I even started those spreadsheets? Now that's a real challenge.

Anyway, thanks for the idea!

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