Can You Guess These Book Titles From A Single Sentence Summary?


By: Isadora Teich

6 Min Quiz

Image: Martin Dimitrov/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

There's a term from screenwriting called a "logline." It refers to a script or movie summed up in just one sentence. The term comes from broadcasters' logs, back in the days before DVDs or streaming services, when television stations were the only ones to broadcast movies once they'd left the theater. 

TV logs were very concise (think of the one-line descriptions on a TV grid), so no matter how complex the film, its description had to fit in one line. Screenwriters adopted the practice of summing up their scripts and became adept at boiling their plots down. 

But books are different, right? Surely you can't sum up "Anna Karenina" or "The Hobbit" in one sentence? We're challenging that book-snob assumption with a 35-question quiz that condenses some classic novels (and also some popular potboilers) down to just one sentence.

We're willing to bet they DO condense just fine. But how confident are you that your literary chops are up to the test? Do you know which book we're referring to when we say, "A boy wizard attends a magical school while the world is under threat from a powerful wizard"? Okay, that one was pretty easy. What about "A man makes a long journey home, facing monsters and more, after fighting in a war"? 

We're willing to bet that whether you ace this quiz, or just muddle through, you'll end up with a few more books on your to-read list!

An old sea captain obsessively seeks vengeance on a white whale.

Captain Ahab seeks to hunt down Moby Dick, a great white whale, and kill him. He obsessively hunts the whale after it took his leg.


A poor family of sharecroppers is forced to leave their home during the Great Depression.

In this novel the Joads, a family of struggling farmers trapped in the Dust Bowl, head out to California after being forced from their Oklahoma home in search of better opportunities. Due to drought, changes in the farming industry and other misfortunes, their situation in Oklahoma is hopeless.


A spider tries to save the life of a pig she's friends with.

In this children's novel, a spider named Charlotte and a pig named Wilbur become friends. When Charlotte becomes afraid that the farmer will slaughter Wilbur, she tries to change his mind by writing messages complimenting the pig in her web.


A lawyer tries to defend a black man falsely accused of rape by a white woman in small-town Alabama during the Great Depression.

This award-winning novel focuses on 6-year-old Scout. Her father, Atticus Finch, tries to defend an innocent black man accused of rape in court. The jury convicts him despite his obvious innocence.


A man and woman kill their way to royal titles, go insane and lose everything.

In this famous Shakespearian tragedy Macbeth and his wife kill the King of Scotland and take over the country. As they become increasingly unstable, bloodthirsty and paranoid, they lose all they have gained.


A short creature with hairy feet is roped into an adventure by a mischievous wizard.

In this fantasy novel, a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is dragged on an adventure with a number of dwarves and the wise wizard Gandalf. The group goes on a quest to take treasure from a greedy dragon.


A great white shark terrorizes a resort town.

This book chronicles the attacks of a great white shark on small resort town. It follows the four men trying to kill the shark.


A strange murder in The Louvre museum in Paris gets two academics caught up in a deadly religious mystery.

In this best-selling mystery novel, symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu become embroiled in religious intrigue. They follow ancient clues, trying to find answers that could rock the very foundations of Christianity.


A humble civil servant resists the terrifying totalitarian society he lives in but is ultimately crushed by it.

In this classic work of dystopian fiction, a meek civil servant named Winston Smith ends up rebelling against the crushing dystopian future he lives in with a secret diary and a love affair. Rebellion is eventually tortured out of him.


This epic novel explores the events leading up to Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia.

This novel by Leo Tolstoy explores the events that led up to Napoleon's ultimately unsuccessful invasion of Russia. The events are explored through the eyes of five families of Russian aristocrats.


A boy wizard attends a magical school while the world is under threat from an evil wizard.

This eight-book series by J.K. Rowling follows the adventures of Harry Potter. He handles growing up, going to an enchanted school and fighting The Dark Lord Voldemort over the course of the books.


Two teenagers with cancer meet in a support group and fall in love.

This young adult fiction novel explores the relationship of two teenagers battling cancer, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. The two meet in a cancer patient support group and fall in love, only for Augustus to later pass away.


A ravenous caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly.

In this best-selling children's picture book, a hungry caterpillar eats a variety of foods. It then pupates and transforms into a butterfly.


Set during the French Revolution, this story follows the adventures of an Englishman with a heroic secret identity.

This novel is about Sir Percy Blakeney, a seemingly shallow Englishman who lives a secret double life as the heroic Scarlet Pimpernel. He manages to keep his alter ego a secret from even his wife for years.


A man gets rich illegally in order to win the affections of an old love during the Jazz Age.

Told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, this novel explores the life of Jay Gatsby and the wealthy people who surround him. Gatsby made a fortune bootlegging in order to win the affections of the already married and shallow Daisy Buchanon, who rejected him for being poor as a young man. He is not successful.


A man suddenly turns into a giant helpless insect.

In Franz Kafka's famous novella, a traveling salesman named Gregor Samsa turns into a giant insect without explanation. He struggles to deal with his new condition and becomes a burden on his family.


A rowdy kid gets sent to bed without supper, only for his room to transform into a jungle full of wild creatures.

In this classic children's book, a rowdy little boy named Max gets sent to bed without supper for raising hell in his home. His room turns into a jungle full of wild things, and he becomes their king, only to become lonely and choose to come home. He finds supper waiting for him.


Young people compete in a twisted and deadly competition for the entertainment of the rich elites.

This series of books follows the trials and tribulations of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. In the first book of the series, the pair fight to survive a yearly televised deathmatch their country's poor are forced to participate in for the entertainment of the wealthy, who live in the Capitol.


A mad scientist creates an intelligent but hideous creature and regrets it.

In Mary Shelley's classic tale of horror, which she wrote as a teenager, scientist Victor Frankenstein creates a living creature out of corpses. Horrified by it, he rejects it. After his rejection, the creature becomes both intelligent and murderous.


A middle-aged man becomes dangerously obsessed with a young girl.

This controversial book by Vladimir Nabokov is told from the point of view of narrator Humbert Humbert. He is a middle-aged man whose attraction to a young girl derails both of their lives.


A young prince goes crazy while trying to avenge his father's murder.

In this Shakespearian tragedy, Prince Hamlet of Denmark grows increasingly erratic after his uncle killed his father to take the crown. He forsakes his title, his romantic interest and everything else pursuing a very strange revenge.


A woman deals with the intricacies of high society during the British Regency era.

"Pride and Prejudice" explores the lives of the Bennet family, a husband, wife and five daughters living in Hartfordshire, England. In this humorous novel of manners, the second-oldest daughter, Elizabeth Bennet, has to come to terms with the moral and social issues of the day.


A wrongfully imprisoned man escapes prison and uses hidden treasure to fund an epic revenge quest.

In this novel by Alexandre Dumas, wrongfully imprisoned Edmond Dantes is betrayed by those around him and locked away for treason without trial on his wedding day. In prison, he is educated by and told of the location of treasure by a fellow inmate. After his escape, he uses the treasure and numerous aliases to plot a complex revenge on those who betrayed him.


An insane perfume maker with an extraordinary sense of smell kills teen girls to try and preserve their scents.

In this novel, an orphan with an incredible sense of smell -- and who has no natural scent himself -- stalks 18th century France killing young girls to try and preserve their scents as perfume. He uses the power of scent to manipulate the masses and ultimately destroys himself.


A man makes a long journey home, facing monsters and more, after fighting in a war

In this ancient Greek story, Odysseus makes the dangerous 10-year journey home following the fall of Troy. He faces down monsters, a sorceress and more as his clever wife, still waiting for him at home, fends off suitors who believe he's dead.


In this fantasy series, ruthless nobles of several houses fight for power.

In this fantasy series the noble houses of Westeros, the Wall and the Targaryens clash internally and with each other for power. This series has inspired games as well as a successful HBO show.


A teen girl who was raped and murdered watches her family come to terms with her death from heaven.

In this novel, 14-year-old Susie Salmon meets a tragic death in a Pennsylvania cornfield. She watches her family and friends come to terms with her death, while still involving herself in earthly events from heaven.


A troubled teen talks about how he played hooky in New York City for two days before being expelled from school.

In this novel, Holden Caulfield is a troubled and mentally ill teen who leaves prep school for two days to wander New York City alone. He is struggling to cope with the death of someone close to him and the pressures of growing up.


In this science fiction novel, the nobility of a feudal future society battle each other for control of a planet containing "spice."

This is possibly the best-selling science fiction novel of all time. It follows the story of young noble Paul Atreides, whose family accepts stewardship of the planet Arrakis. Arrakis is the only source of the most valuable substance in the universe: "spice."


An escaped convict becomes an upstanding and wealthy citizen and father, while being tailed by a ruthless police inspector.

In this 1862 novel written by Victor Hugo, escaped convict Jean Valjean redeems himself, all while being trailed by the ruthless police inspector Javert. The novel follows a large portion of his life through massive political upheaval in France.


A teen girl falls in love with a moody vampire.

A series of novels, the "Twilight" series follows the adventures of Bella Swan. She is a high school girl caught in a love triangle between a werewolf and a vampire.


A rich man hires a goth-punk hacker and hardened journalist to solve his niece's long ago disappearance.

In this book, a wealthy Swedish recluse hires an unlikely pair to unearth his family's secrets and solve the 40-year-old disappearance of his niece. They dig deep into the family's secrets to try and discover the killer.


A poet travels through hell, purgatory and heaven.

This poem by Dante Alighieri is considered to be one of the most important works of world literature. In it, Dante travels through hell, purgatory and heaven to become one with God.


A king who is the victim of a terrible prophecy learns disturbing truths about his family.

King Oedipus discovers that he is the cause of the plague tormenting his city. By unknowingly killing the previous king, who is his father, and marrying his wife, who is his mother, and becoming king himself, Oedipus disgraced his family and set spiritual pollution on his city.


An academic is brought into a world of scientific and religious intrigue and must find a can of stolen antimatter that will explode in 24 hours.

In this best-selling mystery novel, academic Robert Langdon ends up tangled in a world of scientific and religious intrigue after a physicist is found dead. Vatican City is in terrible danger as he uncovers decades worth of religious intrigue that pits science and religion against each other.


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