Top 10 tips to help you understand a novel

As a college student I have been asked more than once to read books in the context of my English classes. Telling you that all of them were a breeze to read would be a lie. In fact, often times, I had to read the same lines over and over again to make sure I understood them correctly. That being said, I have come up with tips on my own on how to understand better those assigned novels, and I thought I would share them with you today. Here is a list of 10 tips, but don’t just follow these ones, get creative find what works best for you, and please share them with us so we can all help one another.

Tip 10. Read the description

This tip may sound weird, but trust me by reading the description at the back of the novel it is already easier to grasp to content of what you are about to read.

Tip 9. Come into the game with the right mind-set

If you persuade yourself that you won’t understand the topic or the book as a whole before reading the first line,chances are that you won’t understand it. You have to believe in yourself and in your capacities. As Theodore Roosevelt once said,”believe you can, and you’re halfway there”.

Tip 8. Find a calm environment

Don’t plan to read your book during a family gathering, on the subway or riding the bus, chances are you will get interrupted and your understanding will be fragmented. Find a nice, clean and peaceful place to read. For instance, the library, your room, or if the weather is on your side take your book to the park; the fresh air will help you to focus. However, I would recommend not to read on your bed as it affects your sleeping schedule.

Tip 7. Make summaries

This might be the last thing on your mind while reading a book as you probably don’t want to add to your workload. However, making chapter summaries is very useful in understanding a novel, plus you get a great tool to help you study before a test because you will  have already written down the most important elements. I suggest to read a couple of chapter in advance ( for me it is usually 3) and then come back to the first one and summarize it; that way you are more sure of what is important as you know a little more about what is happening next. If you want to know which information is important you can check out our section named summary!

Tip 6. Write down the words you have not seen before

This tip is more about a personal preference, when I read a book in which there are words I don’t necessary understand I won’t stop to look for them in a dictionary right away. Instead, I underline them and as I finish reading the chapter I’ll come back to all the difficult words and make a list with all of them and their definitions.

Tip 5. Make a list with all the characters

Sometimes we get assigned with a novel with what seems to be a hundred and ten characters and making a list with a brief description of who they are and their relationship is what I find to be the most helpful. For Frankenstein, there is a little less characters, but some of them are really important. Look at our section on characters, I am sure this will help you out!

Tip 4. Ask questions

This tip for some people might be a given, but I will insist on it. Ask questions, don’t be afraid, chances are you are not the only one with those interrogations and you will probably help many others.

Tip 3.Make visual supports

I suggest to make drawings or even maps to help understand the material at stake. You can create some sort of conceptual map in order to link all the characters and find how they all are related to one another for instance.

Tip 2. Find yourself a reading buddy

Find someone who you get along with and that has to read the same book you do. You can get together and help each other with your understanding of the novel. You can quiz one another, or simply talk about the sequence of events.

Tip 1. Don’t plan to read the book in one sitting the day before it is due

I know it is really easy to procrastinate and to push everything to later, but assigned novels for your English class are not something to take lightly. You should allow yourself time to read the book and to reflect on what you have read, this way it is easier to understand. While you are reading, I strongly recommend to have highlighters next to you to highlight important passages. If you only borrowed your book, sticky notes will be your best friend!



19 thoughts on “Top 10 tips to help you understand a novel

  1. Elisabeth Lacombe says:

    Good Morning Amélie,
    I am glad of the originality of your blog post. In fact, it provides wonderful tips for students that do not have a natural interest in reading. I myself never thought of reading the description of a book before starting to read it, and this simple but smart advise catched my attention for the rest of your blog post. To be honest, it sometimes take me the whole first chapter of a book to really get into the story. However, reading the description, write summaries of the chapters and make a list of characters will surely enhance my understanding. I will surely had your tips to my tool box for my future readings. Thank you for sharing these advise with us, it will help many students out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Frederic Levesque says:

    This is pretty great in all honesty! I love the idea of the post as a whole, since it really calls upon the modern trend of “Tips and Tricks” lists which we we’ve all seen through the internet. This certainly allows you to capture the attention of blog readers more easily!

    Furthermore, I do think it is worth mentioning that I picked up a few good tricks from this, as I will sometimes have trouble trying to understand a novel. I must totally agree with you on tip 8, that in order to read a book, understand, and be concentrated, you must be in a calm environment. Anyway, obviously not every single tip will be useful for every single reader but since the list is thorough and varied, you’re assured to help out every reader! Thanks for the share, and keep up the posts!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. rouky32 says:

    I like the number 8 because it is really accurate with the Mary Shelley’s novel. The creature reads alone, in a kind of hole, so it help us to understand the atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. daphnedesnoyers says:

    I like your post. It is simple and accurate. The 10 tips mentioned in your post can be used for any novel! Maybe some people have more difficulty to read Shelley’s Frankenstein due to the fact that it is not a recent novel? Who knows? Maybe It could help someone to understand their reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TGIFrankenstein says:

      Thank you for your kind words! I agree with you, the period in which a novel has been written or even the period it speaks of can greatly influence the reader’s comprehension of the novel.



  5. Niedersam says:

    This is great! I love the idea of helping out students with their reading. I use tip 7 a lot by underlining and writing quick summaries on the first pages of my book. This really helps me get to important parts of the book quickly and efficiently. It is especially useful when writing an essay and trying to find important quotes to represent your subject.

    Tip 5 is also something I do that really helps me when it comes to writing essays or blog posts. By writing down every character and a quick description I can understand the book more easily.

    It is important to take reading seriously and to take your time to enjoy what you are reading. Taking notes is as important as reading the actualy book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TGIFrankenstein says:

      I am glad that you have already taken on some great reading tips on your own! Also, I agree with you that in order to completely understand and appreciate a novel or any work of literature it is important to set aside some down time. Thank you for your kind words!



  6. camille gaudreau says:

    This post is so different from what we have seen so far ! I will try to use your tips to see how it affects my understanding although it requires quite a lot of time and I am not sure I will be that consistent! It still is great to have to advices because I feel like I can apply it to many other school subjects ! thank you very much !

    Liked by 1 person

    • TGIFrankenstein says:

      I am happy to read that you appreciate my post and that you feel the tips could help you in other subjects. I, myself, have yet to apply these tips to other subjects, but as you have stated they are not only specific to novels! Thank you for your kind words!


  7. razorsedgeslc says:


    I did not read this book so this is a blog post I find very useful in order to be well prepared to read it. I am very impressed by the quality of this post. It will help me when I will get into the reading of Frankenstein. I agree with point 6 where we should write down the words we never heard before. Indeed, all of your tips are really good in order to help the reader. Thank you!

    Alexane Drolet

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Myriam Dubé says:

    Hi Amélie!

    Thank you for these great tips! In fact, we sometimes do not have time to read, but I believe we should make reading a daily activity. Based on tip 2, I am convinced that having a reading buddy is helpful in order to make reading a habit because it motivates you in staying up to date with your reading. It is also great to have someone to discuss the book with because you sometimes gain a new perspective on things you did not see at first.

    Keep up with the good work!


    Liked by 1 person

  9. tarabmonaghan says:

    Hey! I really enjoyed reading your reading tips and I believe that these tips could highly help me understand more when reading. I really like the fact that you mention to find a reading buddy. I really think this could encourage and challenge me while reading a book. Moreover, if I would have a reading buddy we could get together to discuss our interpretation of the novel and this could lead to interesting conversations and new discoveries. Thanks for the reading tips!!

    Liked by 1 person

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