How to Summarize a Book

Whether it’s for school, business, or just a literature project, summarising a book is a critical skill. Many people struggle to find effective ways to summarise that aren’t boring and lifeless.

Here we are telling you the 18 tips on how to write effective book summaries. 

Tips on How to Summarize a Book


1. Start with an interesting lead sentence:

By beginning a summary with an interesting statement, your readers will be drawn into the cause of writing. Even if you’re summarising something they’ve read, they’ll be more likely to read it if there’s a hook. 

2. Include key details:

In many cases, readers aren’t just looking for a regurgitated version of the content in your book summary; they’re also looking for key details that you may have missed. Make sure you include these details and analyze them too! 

3. Rely on your reader’s imaginations:

If you’re summarising a dense, complex book, don’t expect your reader to understand all of the details. Don’t be afraid to include some of the “gist” of the text (i.e. key points) and rely on your readers’ imaginations to fill in the rest. 

4. Know when to use an overview:

If you’re looking for a quick, concise summary without going into too much detail, an overview is a great way to summarise the book’s main ideas and messages. 

5. Have a plan:

Before starting to write, find out what kinds of things your readers will want to know about your summary. This will help you write it without getting stuck. 

6. Write from an objective point of view:

The viewpoint that you take in writing a summary can help you tailor it more to your audience and their needs. If you’re summarising for school, for instance, it’s important that the content is relevant to the subject matter of the class, etc. 

7. Avoid negative statements:

When writing summaries for literature projects, avoid negative statements like “the book is boring. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of the book and its key themes. 

8. Show your enthusiasm:

If you enjoy the book that you are summarising, don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm. The more personal your summary is, the more your reader will want to read it! 

9. Write with a clear and powerful voice:

If you’re summarising a book for school or some other setting where there are rigid rules about writing summaries, make sure to stick to them! However, if you’re writing an evaluation of a novel for fun, make sure to use language that sounds informal and conversational so it’s more engaging. 

10. Use a format or template:

If you’re not a great writer and don’t have the time to write a complete summary yourself, find a format or template that works for you. Then, use it when you need to because it will make writing your summary easier. 

11. Use active voice:

Active voice conveys the idea of action and movement, which is a great way to help your reader understand what the book is about. Active-voice sentences are also easier to read, so don’t be afraid to use them! 

12. End with some of the best parts:

After you finish summarising a book, make sure that you include some of the most exciting or interesting parts of it at the end. If you’re summarising for school or some other setting that expects you to include these kinds of details, make sure to include them

13. Include a conclusion:

If you want to end your summary on a positive note, include some kind of conclusion near the end. This helps you capture your reader’s attention quickly before moving on to the next more interesting point.

14. Remember to cite sources:

If you’re summarising a book for school or something else that expects you to provide references, be sure to cite all of your sources, even if they don’t make it into the final draft. 

15. Write in the past tense:

When writing a summary, it’s essential to stick with the past tense. This helps your reader understand what happened in the book instead of what might happen if the book were actual. 

16. Write in simple language:

If you’re summarising a dense or complex book, make your language as straightforward and easy-to-understand as possible. This will help your reader get the most important points of your summary quickly and efficiently. 

17. Add images:

Many tools available today can help you find great images that illustrate different kinds of books. If you find a relevant image, don’t be afraid to add it to your summary! 

18. Add quotes:

Quotes are a great way to provide your analysis of the material you’re summarising. If you’ve identified any essential quotes, include them in your summary. 


The points can be used as a ‘baseline’ for summarising books. For example, in the case of a novel, use them as a guideline to avoid clichés and boring summaries.


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