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Free Book Summary

Looking for a free book summary? Read on for where to find it.

Free book summaries can be found through the American Library Association Web site. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Free book summaries can be found through the American Library Association Web site.

Finding a free book summary on the Internet is easy: a simple search on Google.com can find several Web sites. Choosing the right one for the task, however, takes a little more time. Most book summary sites, especially the free ones, have an ulterior motive; whether it's collecting statistical data through cookies, blasting users with advertisements or hoping for a future book purchase, a free book summary is never really just a free book summary. But free book summary sites can save consumers, researchers and students a lot of time and money while providing useful information.

Book Summary and Criticism

The Internet Public Library provides links to book and author criticisms on the Web. The information is broken down into subjects and introduced next to the link. Focusing more on the academic side of book summaries, the list is a useful tool for book enthusiasts and college level researchers.

Choice Reviews is offered by the American Library Association and has online book reviews and literary criticism in a searchable database; consumers can narrow searches by author, title and ISBN number.

Consumer Focused Summaries

The New York Times Best Seller List provides a weekly list of the top selling books in the country. To the right of the list there are summaries and reviews of the books providing educated synopses for consumers. The New York Times online also has the Sunday Book Review with hyperlinks for the books that provide detailed summaries. All books in the Sunday review have brief summaries under the titles.

Although based on consumer sales in the Washington area, the Washington Post's Best Seller List also provides weekly listings as well as in-depth reviews, synopses and critics' choices. The Washington Post also provides author interviews in which specific books are discussed in more detail.

The National Academies Press provides easily digestible and brief summaries of non-fiction consumer-focused books. Sponsored by the Congress, the site offers summaries, online chapters as well as online books. Consumers can narrow searches to different areas of the non fiction world including medicine, humanities, history, science, education and nutrition. Each book listing has a brief two- or three-line summary on the information page under the title description. By selecting the "read more" button at the end of this brief paragraph, users will find a full summary of the book. Purchase is the end goal of the site, but outside advertising is nonexistent.

Summary Sites by Subject

HealthBookSummaries.com requires users to register, but is free and offers summaries of the latest consumer-focused (non medical professional) health books. For every book, the subscriber can read the summary or purchase the book or both. Although a commercial site, it can save consumers time and money by ensuring they purchase the right book. The site is also a good way for students and researchers to choose health-related research topics.

A number of sites offer business book summaries but the majority are only free for a short period of time and require the purchase of a subscription. SqueezedBooks.com is an open access business book summary site providing an assorted length of summaries on the latest and most popular business books. The quality of the summary is variable depending on the author. The number of books is limited but commentary and reviews are provided and the site is a good place to start further research or review books before purchase.

Claremont McKenna College provides a short list of environment and environmental science related books with attached summaries included author, number of pages, print dates and basic concepts, and is a resource for green researchers with an academic leaning.

Book Summary Search Engines for Students

FreeBookNotes.com is a clearinghouse for book summary information on the Internet. The site provides alphabetical listings of all the books that have study notes and summaries attached to them. Some of the books also have study guides. Most of the 2,500 note and summary links in the site's system are literature-related, making the site excellent for high school and college students. The site offers both classic and modern literature, including poetry, prose and plays. Utilizing the site is a matter of selecting the first letter of the book title, scanning the available list for the book in question, selecting the title and reviewing the notes. The downside to the site is the advertising space, as selecting a title does mean closing advertising windows to initiate the information screen. The summaries are printable, however, and come in RTF and PDF versions for download.

BookRags.com is an established education research site. The site has both a free and premium (pay) service. A simple search of a book title will show the free summaries and notes as well as the summaries and study guides available for purchase. Advertising is a factor on this site, but as it is embedded rather than pop-up it does little to slow searches. The site offers a basic search box with narrowing options that include literature guides, teacher guides, essays, criticism, biographical information, encyclopedic entries and the latest news on the inputted title.

Commercial Note Sites for Students

SparkNotes.com is a student-friendly Web site and the online version of the original book note series. The site is very comprehensive, offering free study guides that include online chapter summary, character descriptions, context descriptions and study questions. They provide online versions of Shakespeare in the original text as well as a modern speech version, increasing comprehension. Students can search by subject, title and author. The site offers college students subject summaries and informational charts. Information can be reviewed online and/or purchased in print.

CliffNotes.com is another student-focused book summary site providing the online version of the Cliff notes print publications. The site offers summaries in mathematics, science, foreign languages and literature. All summaries are either of a particular book or concept. Literature summaries include essays, novels, plays and poetry. The notes provide detailed analysis of the text including chapter summaries, character biographies, setting details, commentary and information on the author. The site does contain advertising, but it is to the side of the text and does not interfere with legibility or speed.

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