Have you ever had to do a book talk? If you haven’t before, you probably will soon. But don’t panic. You can totally do this, and I’ll help you. First, here is a handout on How to Rock a Book Talk that I made. It summarizes the basics for you, and at the end of the post, you can download a template that will help you get started with writing!
First of all, what is a book talk?
It sounds a lot scarier than it really is!
Basically, it is an enthusiastic presentation of a book for an audience. A book talk is a performance, designed to entice people to read a chosen book. It is like a movie trailer, in that it never contains spoilers, and always leaves the audience interested and hoping for more. Book talks share some of the same qualities as a book report: they include the same information, but this is just in presentation format. It’s like a spoken book report. If you want, here are some examples to check out.
What kind of books should I use?
The best books to talk about are 1. ones you liked and 2. ones you’ve finished reading.
This isn’t because we’re trying to trick you into reading more books to punish you for not liking one of them, it’s only that it is much easier to do a book talk on a book that you thought was great! If you liked it, it won’t be as difficult to think of positive things to say about it. Book talks aren’t a place for criticizing books-the whole point of them is to make people want to read the book you’re talking about, so it’s important to like your book!
It’s also helpful if you avoid book-talking books from a series, unless it is a story that can stand alone.
Ugh…how do I start?
Oftentimes, getting started is the most difficult part of projects like this. I know the blank-screen feeling, too! When I’m stuck on what to say, sometimes I’ll get things started by telling my sister about the book I just read, or a friend of mine. Try it! You might be surprised at how much it helps. Or, you can download my worksheet at the end of this post, and it will give you some good places to start!
So, let’s talk structure.
Your book talk should have three main sections: the Book, the Hook, and the Quick Look. You can call them whatever you’d like, but the mnemonic helps, I promise.
First, the Book. You want to introduce your book, with the title, the author, and the genre. This is a good time to tell people if your book has won any awards, or any other special things about it. You should bring a copy with you so that your audience can see the cover, too.
Now, the Hook. This is the part of the presentation that gets and holds your audience’s attention. This is the cliffhanger! The Hook is the passage you will read aloud, and you’ll want to choose it carefully. Hooks are like the passages I chose for the first part of every post. The main thing about a Hook is that it needs to be exciting! A passage describing the central conflict in the plot, perhaps, or a moment of intense action. I also like to use the opening paragraphs of books-that is often a good place to find a Hook.
And, speaking of finding Hooks, here’s some advice: the tricky part about Hooks is finding them after you’ve already finished the book. It can be difficult to go back through the entire book, hunting for a specific passage that you know that you’ve read. I’ve done that and it takes forever. If you can remember when you’re reading, it helps if you keep track of likely passages—just mark them in some way and then you’ll be able to find them after you’ve finished!
Finally, you need your Quick Look. Since book talks are generally very short, this section is just an overview of the important literary elements and some reasons why you thought it was a worthwhile read. I like to summarize the plot (not the ending!), talk about the characters, setting, and the main conflict in the story. Then, I talk about what makes the book special!This your time to champion your book! Was the narrator hilariously sarcastic? Did you like the creative setting? Did the characters feel real to you? Tell us!
Before your presentation, practice! Time yourself, film yourself, practice in front of a mirror, get comfortable reading your Hook and talking to your audience. The more you rehearse, the more comfortable you’ll be when it comes time to present! You can try using notecards, or writing a script for yourself (I do this sometimes!) if you’re worried about forgetting what to say.
You Can Do This
I’ve designed a Book Talk Builder worksheet for you-just click on the link and you can download it! It’s a basic framework for your book talk, and filling it out will make it easier to talk about your book. Keep in mind-your listeners only know what you tell them. They haven’t read the book yet, and it is your job to make them want to! With a good passage to read, and your opinions on why it is special, plus some creativity and practice, your talk will be ready to go. So, take some deep breaths, speak clearly, and tell everyone how cool your book is!