How to Analyze a Book

Learning to analyze a book can come in handy for high school or college classes, though it's also a fun and challenging hobby. While there are several specialized terms that will certainly be valuable, there is also a technique behind reading a book with the intent to analyze that is part of the task.

Read slowly and closely. Analyzing a book demands an astute attention to detail in order to recognize the structure, plot devices, themes and sub-themes at work. If you have time, read the novel twice. Keep a dictionary on hand to look up any words you don't understand.

Underline or highlight passages that strike you as meaningful or important. This way, when you finish reading, you don't need to search through the book to find them again.

Note the literary devices and recurring themes at work in the book. Write notes in the margins when you recognize these elements.

Choose a topic to address. Books are full of interesting themes and characters to analyze, and it's impossible to address them all at one time. Pick one that you find interesting or central to the novel as a whole-a main character, recurring theme or integral literary device such as allegory, metaphor or satire.

Develop a thesis or argument and gather evidence to support your claim. For example, if you believe the book suggests capitalism is bad for society, find specific passages, conversations or quotes that support this idea.

Construct your analysis by putting together the information and evidence you gathered into a cohesive idea or use them to develop a paper if you are a student.

  • There are not right or wrong "answers" in literary analysis, only ideas supported by facts from the work. Almost all books have dozens of themes and elements in play that are open to interpretation and each reader will often have a different view of their meaning.
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