How to Outline a Book: A Guide in Very Few Words

This essay was written by Brandon Monk.

Outline every book you read. Your outline need not be written with a first reading. Outline in the detail called for by your desired understanding. To outline, identify the book’s component parts. Ask the following questions:

  • What is the book’s first part? Second? Third?
  • Are those parts divided into sub-parts?
  • Are those sub-parts further subdivided?

Continue this process until you feel you have identified the book’s major parts.

With a word processor, easily number your outline using the ordered list command in the toolbar.

A. Subsidiary idea or supporting idea to I
B. Subsidiary idea or supporting idea to I
1. Subsidiary idea to B
2. Subsidiary idea to B
a) Subsidiary idea to 2
b) Subsidiary idea to 2

A. Subsidiary or supporting idea to II
B. Subsidiary idea to II
C. Subsidiary idea to II


In subsequent readings add detail. The best outlines evolve with each reading.

For additional reading about how to apply your outline see these posts about writing book reviews: Writing Book Reviews—Well ; Writing Book Reviews – An Application. Those posts may offer an application, or end goal, to keep in mind as you prepare your outline. Let your personal need be your guide.

Photo: Some rights reserved by mathplourde

1 comment

Comments are closed.