Book summaries are ultimately good and not only in case you’re a student who hasn’t done the homework. And let’s be fair – a very few of us have really read all great pieces of writing from Ulysses to The Song of Ice and Fire, so there’s another way – read the short summary of the book first and save your time.
Sparknotes is the most popular option in case you decided to go that way, but not the only one. And here’s 5 alternatives you can use as well.
WikiSummaries is a wiki, so anyone can edit content and add new books. All book summaries are free-to-read and there are literally thousands of summaries available.
I like this way, as almost all book summaries aren’t really in-depth, a lot of them are a one-paragraph-length, sometimes even only a few sentences. Of course, if you need deeper analysis, that’s bad news, but if you just want to understand whether the book is worth reading, WikiSummaries would be a perfect way to understand the plotline and make a decision about further reading.
JSTOR is a perfect website for those, who need to get an in-depth analysis of the book. It’s a research database that contains not only book summaries, but also book reviews and analyses written by professional literary critics.
It’s aimed at people that are studying in universities, so analysis is really deep and it can benefit a lot to your understanding. However, JSTOR is paid and the subscription starts a t$20/month. For that price, you can download up to 10 PDFs a month. To get unlimited access – you may subscribe annually for $200 and get unlimited access.
Also, there are other options available: you can get free access to free JSTOR content (content from journals, ebooks, research reports, images, media, and special collections) or get free access to up to 100 PDFs a month (during a pandemic) in case you have an institutional affiliation.
BookRags is focused on students and offers not only book summaries and reviews, but also biographies of around 2,000 authors and lesson plans for teachers.
Also, there’s a Homework Help section that allows you to ask specific questions about the books and get answers from other community members.
The bad news is that almost all needed book summaries require a subscription that costs $20/month or $100/year (for Study Pack) or $25/month or $200/year (for Total Pack, which features lesson plans, questions, and essay topics).
The book’s library isn’t so wide as in JSTOR or BookRags, but you will find almost all the books you may read in your school or university.
The strong advantage is that book summaries on Grade Saver are free to read. Moreover, there are free quizzes and theme guides to help you prepare for your exam or test.
In case you need full guides, including more information and analysis – you will need to subscribe. The subscription costs $20/month or $100/year.
LitCharts is made by the same team that was behind Sparknotes. The website offers around 1,200 book summaries and analysis articles. Moreover, there are poetry analyses and reviews, as well as literary terms glossary.
Even more, for old English literature, there’s a way to read poetry or texts paired with modern English translation to enrich your understanding.
You can read some of the content for free, but in order to get more in-depth content, you will need to subscribe. The subscription costs $10 a month or $60 a year. Members can download book summaries in PDF format and access quote explanations, and use the advanced search.