Who makes the best book notes?
November 25, 2007 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Who makes the best book notes (Cliff Notes? Spark Notes? someone else?)

My high schooler was assigned to read "Mrs. Dalloway" on her own while the rest of the class read a different book. The teacher had said that she would help her with it but so far hasn't had time. My daughter finished the book but without any teacher comments or class discussion she is having a hard time making sense of it. So, this seems like a good time to get the Cliff Notes or something equivalent but I have no idea which brand would be the best.
posted by metahawk to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, Cliff Notes tended to be better than Spark Notes. However, Spark Notes has a character analysis for free online, so maybe check that out first. Wikipedia also has a brief analysis.
posted by entropic at 7:08 PM on November 25, 2007

When I was in high school, I always preferred ClassicNotes; they seemed a lot more insightful.

posted by samthemander at 9:20 PM on November 25, 2007

Monarch Notes are by far the best I have ever come across. Maybe a talk with the teacher is in order though, because that book must have been too steep for her. To me reading the cliff notes is cheating, even though your daughter is doing it correctly and not just reading the notes and actually finished the book.
posted by koolkat at 3:10 AM on November 26, 2007

FWIW, My straight-A-since-first-grade high school junior seems to rely largely on Spark Notes online offerings.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 AM on November 26, 2007

I've found Sparknotes to be fairly good for plot summaries, character lists, and the like. The "analysis" sections of most all of these things that tend to be the weakest feature, but they can still give you some ideas, so long as you take them with a dose of skepticism.

Combine the plot summary with a trip to Wikipedia to learn a bit about the author. Then spend some time searching the online reference databases available through your local library or university library (e.g. JSTOR, ProQuest, EBSCOhost) for some critical articles and the library itself (or NetLibrary, if you have that) for books.

Your library might also have a copy of Masterplots, a multi-volume reference work that contains the same sort of thing you'd find in Sparknotes, though generally in a shorter format.
posted by wheat at 6:10 AM on November 26, 2007

Not sure of your access to a good public library, but there is a series of excellent books published by Gale called Novels for Students. They cover Mrs. Dalloway in volume 12 p148-167. I often recommend this series to high school students.

Gale publishes other books on literature as well and Mrs Dalloway is also covered extensively in Vol 20 p390-432 of "Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism" though this may be a bit advanced for your daughter.

Good luck
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 8:45 AM on November 26, 2007

When I was in high school I needed Cliff's Notes for Hamlet, and they worked just fine for me.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:24 AM on November 26, 2007

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