How should I write a book report on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley?

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, and most important, you should read the book. This will give you personal insight into the themes and characters that you can't get from any other source. If you find the material difficult, you can supplement your reading with the study guides available right here on eNotes; relevant pages are linked below and there is a lot of information available.

Secondly, book report format is usually very simple: all you have to do is summarize the key points and then write what you yourself think about the material. Perhaps something in the book is significant to you, or affects your worldview. In any case, this depends on the assignment, and you can go deeply into detail (characters, themes, plot, philosophy) or skim the surface in order to leave more room for your personal thoughts. Most middle-school book reports follow this format, so you shouldn't have too much trouble using the book, the study guides here, and your own thoughts to write a good report.

You shouldn't have to include too many quotations, if any, in your report. In general you should paraphrase and write new material, in your own personal voice, to summarize and discuss the book. By examining the themes behind the book, you can offer better personal opinions; for example, say you took the following quote from the book to discuss:

...I believe it's a crime for anyone who is being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself.
(Haley & Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

This gives insight into the main character (real-life figure Malcolm X) and his views on morality and ethics. Here, he expresses the opinion that a person being "brutalized" (harmed, bullied) should defend himself, because otherwise he is helping to perpetuate the brutality. This view could be compared to the state of children in school who are being bullied, but are encouraged to do nothing in their own defense. A great pro/con argument could be written on both sides of the issue.

Overall, book reports are not meant to be college-level essays. They are meant to allow the student to familiarize with a book by summing it up for the teacher, and adding personal thoughts on the material. Try to have fun with the assignment, and use the free resources available here and elsewhere to support and inform your work.

Good luck!

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The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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