We’re all guilty of not reading the assigned book in our high school English class or our literature classes in university. Whether it’s because we have no time, hate the sound of the book, or would rather spend the time doing something more fun, we’ve all done it. And then had to stutter and stumble our way through questions about the book we don’t the answer to.
There’s a way to not read the book but still know just enough about it to convince everyone that you actually have read it.
Here’s the cheat’s guide to not reading the assigned book.
1. Read the chapter summary notes on the internet
This is the one that’s going to help you the most. There are quite a few different websites (Shmoop, SparkNotes, and CliffNotes) that have chapter summaries of common books studied in schools and universities. They have a brief plot overview, and they also have very detailed chapter overviews. These overviews are great to skim through when you have a spare moment here or there. It’s much faster and more to the point than reading the book.
2. Get important quotes off of the internet
The websites with chapter summaries will also have key quotes from the book. Why flick through the book to find quotes when the most important ones are online? They’ll most likely have the chapter number or page number so you can reference it in your essay. They’ll even provide a summary of the quote so you can get a better understanding of what it’s about.
3. Research the themes on the internet
Every essay topic is about a theme in the book. Even if it doesn’t mention a theme, read between the lines – there is a theme! Find a website and read up on all of the themes in the book. You can adapt practically any theme to any essay question. And while you’re at it, find a few important quotes that fit that theme.
4. Remember a key detail
Once you have a general overview, you need to remember one key detail about the book in order to really convince people you’ve read the book. You can insert these details into class conversations. It’s best to speak first in class and be the person who starts the discussion with a general overview, throw in your key detail, then sit back and let the people who have actually read it go into more detail. People will be impressed and will think you’ve analysed all of the other details in the book, instead of just the one. You can find key details online when reading through the summaries, themes, etc.
5. Watch the movie/s
Most books you’ll study will have a movie adaptation or several adaptations. You may not have time for the book, but you’ll have time for the movie adaptation. It’s great to watch one night and you can multi-task. Be careful and find an adaptation that sticks as close to the book’s story as possible and doesn’t take a completely different turn. The movie is a great way to pick up the basic storyline and a sense of the characters. If you have the time and patience, maybe watch all of the movie adaptations.
6. Ask for someone else’s opinion
When people ask you what you thought of the book, you’re going to need an opinion on it. So, find someone who has read the book and ask them what they thought of it. You can also ask them anything you’re confused about or for a key detail. Read some reviews on Goodreads to get an idea of the general opinions of the book.
7. Fake it till you make it
And lastly, remember the saying ‘fake it till you make it’. Act confident, and act like you know what you’re talking about. And maybe people will buy it, and maybe it’ll buy you a few more marks.
Which of these tips will you be using next time when you’re assigned a book to read? What are your tips for not reading the assigned book?
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Julie is currently studying s Bachelor of Arts (Professional and Creative Writing) at Deakin University in Australia. She's a hardcover book and journal collector, she owns way too many planners, and she keeps telling herself that one day she will go to Paris.