Reading a novel
If your students have chosen each their own novel to read they will have to make a book presentation. This is good practice for oral English presentations. A book presentation should be something more than a simple retelling of the story, and your students should be encouraged to treat the situation like a sales pitch, where their job is to present the book in such a light that others will be encouraged to read it. Of course, in this situation the opposite is true, perhaps a student can do just as good and "important" a job by informing his or her co-students why they don't want to read a particular book!
We assume here that the books your students read will come under the category of what W.H. Auden referred to as parable art, that is a story with something to tell us about life and humanity. The opposite to this is entertainment art, which of course has its time and place. When looking at parable art we often refer to the What, Why and How of a book. The what is the content, what the story is about and will be a part of what makes the book parable art. The why is the authorial intention, or themes, the reason why the author chose to write the book. This is also what makes it parable art. How refers to the aesthetic form of the book, e.g. narrative technique, use of literary devices, style of language, setting, characterization etc. The "Hows" of a book are often what make a novel survive the test of time.
A book presentation and written analysis could contain:
- A short biographical sketch of the author and the time the book was written in, if this is important for understanding the book. Some students misjudge this and give too much information about the author (especially ias they find this easily on the Internet), much of which is often irrelevant to the task at hand – and that is not selling the book.
- A brief plot summary (the What)
- A look at the main characters and what makes them interesting (a How)
- Other interesting aesthetic aspects in the book (Hows)
- An analysis of the themes of the book (the Why)
- A personal evlauation of the book: what are its strengths/weaknesses, can you recommend it to others? (This includes What, Why and How. We often like to refer to this as a personal response.)