Hello! We're Ben and Justin, the co-founders of LitCharts and the original editors of SparkNotes. We know LitCharts are the best literature guides ever created, and we think you'll agree. Here's why...
CliffsNotes and every other literature guide series that followed (including SparkNotes) all use long paragraphs of summary followed by long paragraphs of analysis. LitCharts break that mold in several ways:
LitCharts present a bulleted-list-style summary of every single plot point in the book side-by-side with analysis and color-coded themes for each point.
Summary, analysis, and themes all side-by-side
Every LitChart includes a color-coded Themes Key, which assigns a specific color to each theme. Readers can then trace the prevalence of themes as they develop throughout the book.
Each theme's color appears in the side-by-side summary and analysis.
Close reading has become a crucial skill for English and ELA students in classrooms across the U.S., both in states adopting and not adopting the Common Core. While the analysis in other literature guides is often disconnected from the summary and underlying text, our side-by-side summary and analysis are always examples of close reading. As a result, LitCharts help students understand the text at the closest level, and serve as a model that teaches how to read closely.
Because our analysis is more tightly integrated with our summary, we don’t have to spend as much time providing context and can instead explain more in less space.
We've applied the same innovative approach that we use in our summary, analysis, and themes to other aspects of our guides. A few examples:
Sortable quotes: All of the quotes we include in our Quotes section can be sorted by location, character, and theme. Want to see quotes spoken by Gertrude in Act 1 of Hamlet about the "Religion, Honor, and Revenge" theme? How about quotes that mention Huck Finn in Chapter 6 of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? Only LitCharts can show you quotes like those.
Sortable quotes in Hamlet
Data visualizations: We just created Chart Boards, which use the embedded plot and themes "data" in every book to create a visual overview of the entire book on one page. Nobody else does anything like this. Read more about Chart Boards on our blog.
Chart board showing themes of Romeo and Juliet
We both graduated magna cum laude with highest honors in English Literature from Harvard. Our friends who started SparkNotes in 1999 hired us soon after to run the SparkNotes editorial team, which we did for five years. During that time, we hired and trained over 200 Harvard students and graduates to write SparkNotes, and produced hundreds of books that now have over 20 million copies in print. Put short, we're passionate about literature and learning, and we know how to help people understand books better than anyone else on the planet. Read more about our story here.
We're much more selective about the writers with work with on LitCharts than we were at SparkNotes (and we were pretty picky back then too). In fact, we're fanatical about finding and hiring only the best prize-winning students and graduates from the top universities in the United States. The careers our writers build during and after their time with us prove just how good they are. Our writers have written for The New Yorker, Esquire, N+1, and The Harvard Business Review, and have had fiction published in Granta and have had their poems raved about as proof of the vitality of modern poetry. We also wrote the first dozen or so LitCharts ourselves.
The "charts" in our name originated from our PDFs, which present the same content you'll find on our website and mobile app, but in a beautifully designed chart-based format that's easy to print and share. Teachers love to use our charts as teaching aids in the classroom, and students love using them for quick-reference review for tests and quizzes. Here's a sample PDF that you can download instantly.
The first page of the PDF version of the LitChart on Frankenstein
The LitCharts mobile app contains every word of content from our website but optimized for reading and reviewing on the iPhone. Our competitors' apps have not been updated in years and are not free.
The LitCharts iPhone App
Our competitors focus solely on appealing to high-school readers, so they spend a lot of time creating articles about kissing, adding snarky humor to their guides, and obsessing over Taylor Swift. We want everyone to use and enjoy LitCharts, so we cover books beyond just high-school classics, like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and we devote all of our energy and resources to making sure LitCharts continue to be the best literature guides on earth.
We hope you'll agree! If you have any questions or suggestions for us, we'd love to hear from you,
Ben and Justin