Are you writing the book report, or the book?

What are book reports like?  They are written documents that prove you read the book. That’s it. Perhaps you give a little analysis and offer a small new idea at the end, but the goal is to summarize what you read.

And if you are a student, the papers you write are essentially book reports. You write these papers to demonstrate that you know the material, the data, the semester’s readings, the relevant theories, and the trend of criticism that matters to your field. These papers tell your reader (who is your professor), “I know what I’m talking about. I have a small idea about it. I understand the field.”

You are writing book reports.

Grad students write book reports. Undergraduate students write book reports. Most people who are new to their job or industry write book reports. The goal of book reports is to show that you know what you’re talking about. It’s establishing credibility so that you can later go on to say more interesting, new things in your writing.

Book reports lack confidence, an empowered voice, and a new idea.

In contrast, books say something. They are clear and emphatic in their arguments for what they say. They are structured around a central idea, the smaller thoughts that make it up, and the implications of their idea for the field. They add something new to the conversation.

Books are the conversation.

Let someone else write the book report on your book. You have a book to write.