Writing an Essay Without Reading the Book

If you’ve had a book to read that you really didn’t want to read, something long and boring that you had absolutely no interest in save the fact that the subsequent report or essay due on Chapter 32 of that book is due in a week and your grade depends on it, there is a way to get around it. And it’s not cheating (at least not technically).

Many of us find that there are more than a couple of undesirable assignments in our academic lifetimes. Whether in High School or a college English course, the one thing to remember is that you almost never have to read something that you don’t want to. Let’s not overlook the fact that you’re skipping an assignment that was designed to grow your intellect and that if you’re in college you’re paying good money for that growth. But, hey if you’re intent on ignoring all of that and are really busy all week and just don’t have the time to read the book, then let’s move and look at your options.

1. Sparknotes – It’s the Cliffnotes of the future. Why is it different? It’s more or less free. If you’re reading anything remotely considered a classic, this is the place to go. Chapter summaries and analyses, character summaries, questions for consideration, and forum posts all make this an ideal place to find out exactly what you’re supposed to be reading. It won’t get a paper written, unless you’re extremely good, but it will give you a basis for just about everything else, and discussion points in class

2. The Movie – there’s always a movie. The movie is the best place to go in some cases for a few very simple reasons. Instead of 10 hours, you spend 2 and there are pretty pictures. But, and this is very important, always check the movie’s reputation first. Go to IMDB and search for it and do a quick rundown to find out just how loyal to the source it is. If it’s an adaptation where the writer of the novel doesn’t even receive screenwriting credit, you’re probably going to fail. If there is no good adaptation, move on. Don’t try and make one seem better than it is. Just move on.

3. Amazon, search in book – I found this in my Junior year of College and it’s amazing. Amazon has made it so you can search within almost any of their books for specific lines and passages. This is the way to find a quote quickly and a page number without issue. Most classes you’re in will be using the newer copies of any book and thus Amazon will have you covered. If you find a good quote on Sparknotes that you want to find in your book, do a quick search and voila, there it is.

4. Google Scholar search – Google has a fairly decent service up in beta (as most of their work is) that allows you to search millions of scholarly articles and abstracts. This is not for cheating. Never ever take something that doesn’t belong to you and use it as your own. If you do, it’s your own stupidity that got you kicked out of school. If it’s that easy to find something to steal for your paper, do you honestly think it’s that hard for your teacher or professor to do the same. But, for research’s sake this is a gold mine. Type almost anything and you’ll find an article. And it’s free, unlike Lexus or any of the other scholarly search services (which if your college gives you access to, you should use as well).

5. Misdirection – Make your report or essay about something else. Choose a topic from another course in which you actually paid attention. Now, relate it back to your chosen book (the one you didn’t read) and start using the above sources to compare the two. Say you’re in an art history class, in which you’re studying surrealism in the 1940s and that you the book you’re reading is by a Beat poet, Kerouac or Ginsberg. Now, take that surrealist abstract you wrote up and some of those basic summaries and ideas you snagged from sparknotes and start tying them all together, with a few good quotes from Amazon.

You may have noticed that this seems like way more work than just reading the book and writing an essay. But, once you’ve done this a few times, more than two or three, you’ll be a whiz, and the whole thing will come down to about 5 hours on the Sunday before it’s due. Then again, if you’re not a slave to stress like myself, you could probably just read the book.

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