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| The Art of Living for Students of Life

Book Summaries

Sloww is your go-to book summary website for the highest quality and most detailed free book summaries anywhere in the world.

This page is a comprehensive list of 100+ nonfiction book summaries. You may also enjoy my book recommendations and full reading list (Google Sheet). Enjoy!

“I love your work on Sloww. The book summaries are God-sent, and I appreciate how you express complex concepts with such clarity. Big Thank You.” — Sarah G, Sloww reader

Page Contents:

· Lifelong Learning Book Summaries (Sloww Stage Support) · Intentional Living Book Summaries (Sloww Stage 1) · Life Purpose Book Summaries (Sloww Stage 2) · Mental Mastery Book Summaries (Sloww Stage 3) · Spiritual Seeing Book Summaries (Sloww Stage 4)

Sloww Book Summaries

Sloww Book Summaries: High Quality, Detailed, Nonfiction (& Free!)

About the book summaries.

What makes Sloww summaries the most useful book summaries in the world?

Author Quotes:  I always use the author’s original words— not filtered by my mind. Watch out for book “summaries” that are only or mostly in the reader’s words—you’re essentially playing the “telephone game” with these (you’re reading the reader’s mind, not the author’s words).

Key Themes:  I group similar quotes into key themes, so you get the gist of the main themes from a book  and  see direct examples of original author quotes that support the themes. Key themes can then be synthesized across books to make you more of a interdisciplinary generalist.

Visual Formatting:  I do a lot of extra work to provide intuitive visual organization. This is rarely seen in other book summaries online that are often long pages of unformatted text or bullet points. I use highlighting, bolding, visuals, and infographics to bring my book summaries to life.

Appropriate Length: There are far too many short summaries out there that only give you bits and pieces of a book. My summaries are “as long as they need to be” depending on the quality of the book. I offer both free summaries and 🔒Premium summaries (further distilled and more actionable). Here are some examples of how much fluff I cut out of a book to produce my summaries (free summaries cut ~90% out of a full book on average; 🔒Premium summaries then cut the free summaries in half):

Sloww Book Summary Comparison

📚 Lifelong Learning & Deeper Development Book Summaries

Pair with: Sloww Stage Support: How do I learn for life?

Lifelong learning book summaries:

  • ⭐ How to Read a Book  by Mortimer Adler |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It  
  • ⭐ Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning by Jack Mezirow | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 How to Take Smart Notes  by Sönke Ahrens | Book Summary 1 , 2  | 🔒  How to Apply It  
  • 👍 Make It Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 Learning in Adulthood  by Sharan Merriam & Lisa Baumgartner |  Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning  by Patricia Cranton |  Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 First Person Action Research by Judi Marshall | Book Summary | 🔒 Premium Synthesis
  • 👍 The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin | Book Summary
  • 👍 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies  by Allen Repko, Rick Szostak, & Michelle Phillips Buchberger |  Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory  by Allen Repko and Rick Szostak | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • A Synthesizing Mind  by Howard Gardner |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • Teaching Complex Ideas by Arnold Wentzel | Book Summary
  • Range  by David Epstein |  Book Summary  
  • Ultralearning by Scott Young | Book Summary
  • Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte | Book Summary
  • The 7 Transdisciplinary Cognitive Skills for Creative Education  by Danah Henriksen |  Book Summary

Deeper development book summaries:

  • ⭐ Ego Development Theory by Susanne Cook-Greuter | Paper Summary 1 , 2 | 🔒 How to Apply It
  • 👍 The Farther Reaches of Human Nature  by Abraham Maslow | Book Summary  1 ,  2 ,  3 ,  4  | 🔒 How to Apply It  1 ,  2
  • 👍 SQ21 (Spiritual Intelligence)  by Cindy Wigglesworth |  Book Summary
  • A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber | Book Summary
  • A Theory of Everything  by Ken Wilber |  Book Summary
  • The Integral Vision by Ken Wilber |  Book Summary
  • Transcend  by Scott Barry Kaufman | Book Summary  1 , 2

🌎 Intentional Living Book Summaries

Pair with: Sloww Stage 1: How do I design a lighter lifestyle?

Slow living book summaries:

  • 👍 In Praise of Slowness  by Carl Honore |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down  by Haemin Sunim |  Book Summary
  • Slow  by Brooke McAlary |  Book Summary
  • Chasing Slow  by Erin Loechner |  Book Summary
  • Present Over Perfect  by Shauna Niequist |  Book Summary
  • The Slow Fix  by Carl Honoré |  Book Summary
  • In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell | Essay Summary
  • Conspicuous Consumption of Time by Bellezza, Paharia, & Keinan | Research Summary

Simple living book summaries:

  • 👍 Voluntary Simplicity  by Duane Elgin |  Book Summary
  • 👍 The Quest of the Simple Life  by William J. Dawson | Book Summary 1 , 2
  • 👍 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo |  Book Summary
  • The Value of Voluntary Simplicity by Richard Gregg | Essay Summary
  • Voluntary Simplicity: Listening to the Quiet Revolution by Katie Barton | Thesis Summary
  • Goodbye, Things  by Fumio Sasaki |  Book Summary
  • Simplify  by Joshua Becker |  Book Summary
  • The Blue Zones Cookbook by Dan Buettner | Book Summary

Lifestyle design book summaries:

  • ⭐ Early Retirement Extreme  by Jacob Lund Fisker |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 The Psychology of Money  by Morgan Housel |  Book Summary
  • 👍 Atomic Habits  by James Clear |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How To Apply It  
  • 👍 Essentialism  by Greg McKeown |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How To Apply It  
  • 👍 The Pathless Path by Paul Millerd |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 The Almanack of Naval Ravikant  by Eric Jorgenson |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman | Book Summary
  • Die With Zero  by Bill Perkins | Book Summary
  • When  by Daniel Pink |  Book Summary  
  • Areté by Brian Johnson | Book Summary | 🔒 Premium Synthesis
  • Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren by John Maynard Keynes | Essay Summary

🧭 Life Purpose Book Summaries

Pair with: Sloww Stage 2: How do I find deeper purpose?

Meaning book summaries:

  • ⭐ Man’s Search for Meaning  by Viktor Frankl | Book Summary  1 ,  2  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 Yes to Life  by Viktor Frankl |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • The Last Lecture  by Randy Pausch |  Book Summary  

Purpose book summaries:

  • 👍 A New Earth  by Eckhart Tolle | Book Summary  1 ,  2 ,  3  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 Let Your Life Speak  by Parker Palmer |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho | Book Summary 1 , 2
  • The Purpose Driven Life  by Rick Warren |  Book Summary
  • Find Your Why  by Simon Sinek |  Book Summary
  • Ikigai  by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles |  Book Summary | My Ikigai 2.0 eBook
  • Awakening Your Ikigai  by Ken Mogi |  Book Summary | My Ikigai 2.0 eBook
  • The Path Made Clear  by Oprah |  Book Summary
  • The Crossroads of Should and Must  by Elle Luna |  Book Summary
  • The Wisdom of the Enneagram  by Riso & Hudson | Book Summary 1 , 2

🧠 Mental Mastery Book Summaries

Pair with: Sloww Stage 3: How do I master the mind?

Brain & biology book summaries:

  • ⭐ The Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist | Book Summary
  • ⭐ Livewired by David Eagleman | Book Summary
  • 👍 Determined by Robert Sapolsky | Book Summary | 🔒 Premium Synthesis
  • 👍 Conscious by Annaka Harris | Book Summary
  • 👍 Whole Brain Living  by Jill Bolte Taylor |  Book Summary

Mind & psychology book summaries:

  • ⭐ The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Michael Nylan Version) | Book Summary
  • ⭐ Thinking in Systems  by Donella Meadows |  Book Summary  | 🔒 Premium Summary
  • ⭐ Creating Freedom by Raoul Martinez |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 Free Will  by Sam Harris |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 The Lessons of History  by Will & Ariel Durant | Book Summary  1 ,  2  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey |  Book Summary  | 🔒  Premium Summary
  • 👍 Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Peter Kaufman & Charlie Munger | Book Summary
  • 👍 Super Thinking  by Gabriel Weinberg & Lauren McCann |  Book Summary  | 🔒  Premium Summary
  • 👍 The Great Mental Models Volume 1  by Farnam Street |  Book Summary  
  • 👍 The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe by Steven Novella | Book Summary | 🔒 Premium Summary
  • 👍 The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul | Book Summary
  • Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger  by Peter Bevelin |  Book Summary
  • The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli | Book Summary | 🔒 Premium Summary
  • Clear Thinking by Shane Parrish | Book Summary
  • Sum by David Eagleman | Book Summary
  • The Grand Redesign by Sam McRoberts | Book Summary
  • Lying by Sam Harris | Book Summary
  • Metathinking  by Nick Shannon & Bruno Frischherz |  Book Summary

Philosophy book summaries:

  • 👍 A Calendar of Wisdom  by Leo Tolstoy |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 This is Water  by David Foster Wallace |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 How to Live  by Derek Sivers |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 On The Shortness Of Life  by Seneca |  Book Summary
  • 👍 As a Man Thinketh  by James Allen |  Book Summary
  • The Four Agreements  by Don Miguel Ruiz |  Book Summary | 🔒 How to Apply it
  • Excellent Advice for Living by Kevin Kelly | Book Summary
  • The Egg by Andy Weir | Book Summary
  • Meditations  by Marcus Aurelius | Book Summary  1 ,  2
  • Enchiridion  by Epictetus |  Book Summary
  • Stillness is the Key  by Ryan Holiday |  Book Summary
  • The Existentialist’s Survival Guide  by Gordon Marino |  Book Summary

☯️ Spiritual Seeing Book Summaries

Pair with: Sloww Stage 4: How do I see beyond mind?

Spirituality book summaries:

  • ⭐ Thought as a System by David Bohm | Book Summary
  • ⭐ Awareness  by Anthony De Mello |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • ⭐ Being Aware of Being Aware by Rupert Spira |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • ⭐ Be As You Are by Ramana Maharshi | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • ⭐ On Having No Head by Douglas Harding | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • ⭐ Tao Te Ching  by Lao Tzu (Stephen Mitchell Version) |  Book Summary
  • 👍 Waking U p by Sam Harris | Book Summary
  • 👍 Siddhartha  by Hermann Hesse |  Book Summary
  • 👍 The Untethered Soul  by Michael Singer |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • 👍 Be Here Now by Ram Dass | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • 👍 The Power of Now  by Eckhart Tolle | Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply It
  • 👍 The Way to Love  by Anthony de Mello |  Book Summary
  • 👍 Spiritual Enlightenment  by Jed McKenna |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • 👍 Being Myself by Rupert Spira |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • 👍 Who Am I?  by Sri Ramana Maharshi |  Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • 👍 Know Yourself by Ibn Arabi & Balyani | Book Summary
  • 👍 The Science of the 1st Person by Douglas Harding | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • 👍 Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki | Book Summary | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • No Self, No Problem by Chris Niebauer | Book Summary | 🔒 How to Apply it
  • The Heart of Prayer by Rupert Spira |  Book Summary  | 🔒  How to Apply it
  • Who Am I? by Swami Sarvapriyananda | Book Summary

You May Also Enjoy:

  • Book Recommendations
  • Full Reading List (Google Sheet)

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Tyler DeVries

Book Summaries

This page lists all my book summaries. For many of them, I’ve published my personal notes along with a three-sentence summary and five key takeaways.

There are currently 75+ nonfiction books on topics like business management, leadership, self-improvement, personal finance, and more. If a particular book sounds interesting to you, click on the full book summary and you can browse all of my notes on it.

New Book Summaries

Radical Book Summary

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream

The Case for Christ

The Case for Christ

Managing The Professional Service Firm

Managing The Professional Service Firm

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Book Summaries Organized by Category

You can browse my book summaries by category below. Click on a link to jump to that particular section.

Business Management and Strategy

Negotiating, leadership and self improvement, math and science, productivity, health and fitness, behavioral psychology, career strategies, personal finance, sales and marketing.

  • B iography and History

High Output Management by Andrew Grove book summary

High Output Management By Andrew S. Grove Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Andrew Grove teaches us through his experience as CEO of Intel how to manage and lead an organization. This book is a guide for how to measure productivity, conduct meetings, make decisions, plan ahead, organize resources, motivate performance, coach improvement, promote success, train potential, and retain high output individuals. It’s a handbook for business owners, entrepreneurs, and managers of all kinds, filled with practical advice for creating and managing highly productive teams.

Read my full summary here 👉

The Effective Manager by Mark Horstman book summary

The Effective Manager By Mark Horstman Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: An effective manager is someone who produces results while retaining and developing a high performing team. They do this by building relationships with their people, communicating clearly about performance, asking for more, and pushing work down. In this book, Mark Horstman provides practical advice and step-by-step examples for anyone who wants to learn the behaviors of an effective manager.

Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing book summary

Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing: No-Nonsense Rules From the Ultimate Contrarian and Small Business Guru By George Cloutier Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Author George Cloutier shares 15 practical, unapologetic, and sometimes unorthodox rules for how to manage a successful small-medium size business. Rules such as, “love your business more than your family,” “delegate, don’t abdicate,” and “give up golf, retreats, off-sites, and trade shows” make up short, easy-to-read chapters that are equal parts entertaining and smart. You may not agree with all of Cloutier’s maxims, but his ideas are worth reading if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or struggling business owner who wants to grow a successful company.

Book Summary of The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement By Eliyahu M. Goldratt Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: The Goal is a business novel that preaches a simple but insightful truth: productivity is the act of bringing a company closer towards its goal. If the company’s goal is to make money, then we should focus on increasing throughput, decreasing inventory, and decreasing operational expenses. By teaching us how to search for process bottlenecks and apply the Theory of Constraints, Eli Goldratt helps us achieve a fundamental understanding of how we should design productive systems.

A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter book summary

A Sense of Urgency By John P. Kotter Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: John Kotter believes that effective change within any organization begins with a true sense of urgency. Leaders in today’s rapidly evolving economy need to be equipped with the strategies and tools to combat complacency and mediocrity. This book teaches us how to cultivate a culture that is poised to adapt and react quickly to changes in the market.

Silows, Politics, and Turf Wars by Patrick Lencioni book summary

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues into Competitors By Patrick Lencioni Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Silos, politics and turf wars are combatted by unifying your organization around a common sense of purpose. Develop a time-bound thematic goal, and then support the goal with shared, qualitative objectives. In this entertaining fable, Lencioni gives us a useful framework for driving company alignment.

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni book summary

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business By Patrick Lencioni Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: In his signature business fable style, Lencioni challenges why we hate going to meetings. This book gives us a framework for thinking about how to make meetings entertaining, meaningful, and effective. Packed with practical advice and examples, Death by Meeting will help you improve your meeting structure, participation, and results.

The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton M Christensen book summary

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail By Clayton M. Christensen Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: The Innovator’s Dilemma tries to answer why successful companies often falter when confronted with disruptive changes in technology or market structure. Best business practices – like benchmarking the competition, investing in new technologies, and listening to the customer – can become stumbling blocks. Christensen’s book provides a strategic framework for any company that desires to avoid becoming obsolete in today’s innovative and fast-paced economy. 

Whale Hunting by Tom Searcy and Barbara Weaver Smith book summary

Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company By Tom Searcy and Barbara Weaver Smith Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Whale Hunting will teach you the strategy and tactics needed to find, target, and land whale-sized customers for your business. It’s a how-to sales guide filled with examples and resources for growing your business faster and smarter. Short on theory and long on practical details, this book outlines a 9-step sales process that has the potential to help carry your company to the next level.

What I Didn't Learn in Business School by Jay Barney and Trish Gorman Clifford book summary

What I Didn’t Learn in Business School: How Strategy Works in the Real World By Jay Barney and Trish Gorman Clifford Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: All of the theories, frameworks, and tactics you learn in business school have their limitations. This is a book about how strategic decisions are made in the real world. Written as a business novel, you follow protagonist Justin Campbell as he matures in his career, learns from his mistakes, and becomes better at managing the messy human dynamics that come into play during strategic decision-making.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne book summary

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant By W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: The only way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition. This book challenges the conventional strategy that views beating the competition as the only way to gain market share. Instead, Blue Ocean Strategy outlines six principles that will help any business pivot towards uncontested domains where the competition is irrelevant and pent-up demand remains untapped.

Financial Intelligence by Karen Berman and Joe Knight book summary

Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean By Karen Berman and Joe Knight Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Whether you’re responsible for meeting a budget, or funding a new project, having a basic financial understanding is critical to making smart business decisions. This book breaks down what’s in the financial statements, where assumptions and estimates come into play, differentiating cash from profit, and teaches the fundamentals of financial calculations. Financial Intelligence is a great resource for helping you “talk numbers,” and manage your business (or department) with more confidence.

The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton, PhD book summary

The No Asshole Rule: Building A Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t By Robert I. Sutton, PhD Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: The No Asshole Rule is a book that we all can relate to at one point or another in our career – working with a mean-spirited employee or a boss that just doesn’t get it. Dr. Sutton helps us define who in our organization is a true “asshole” and then gives us recommendations for enforcing rules against demeaning and counter-productive behavior. In the end, this book also asks us to evaluate our own “asshole” tendencies and gives us a roadmap for building a culture of respect in our organizations.

Whiplash by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe book summary

Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future By Joi Ito and Jeff Howe Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This book is a guide to business strategy and management for the future. Authors Joi Ito and Jeff Howe break down nine principles that they believe will be key to thriving in more complex and volatile markets. Whiplash challenges you to think differently about how you will leverage new technology and adapt your philosophy to take advantage of an environment where everything is faster, cheaper, and more accessible.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu book summary

The Art of War By Sun Tzu Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Few books written over 2,000 years ago still contain valuable lessons for today – this is one of them. The Art of War is a treatise on ancient Chinese military strategy, but its tactics translate well to the world of politics, economics, and business psychology. Mandatory reading in business schools and executive offices, Sun Tzu’s classic on resolving and avoiding conflict is full of timeless lessons that are easily applied on and off of the battlefield.

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker book summary

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done By Peter Drucker Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Considered one of the most influential management thinkers ever, Peter Drucker’s classic book on how to get the right things done is just as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1967. Managing your time, setting priorities, and effective decision making are just a handful of practical topics that Drucker covers with a fresh perspective. This book is an essential reference guide for anyone who aspires to become a more effective leader.

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson book summary

Rework By Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: This book is a field manual for better, faster, and more productive ways to work and succeed in business. Rework flies in the face of conventional corporate strategy and suggests ideas like it’s better to ignore the competition, work regular hours, and that you need less (not more) to get ahead. Simple to read, inspiring, and practical, Rework is for entrepreneurs, small business owners, or anyone who is looking for a straightforward approach to getting results.

The E-Myth Revisited book summary

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It By Michael Gerber Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Too much time spent working in the business and not enough time spent working on the business is a big reason why 50% of new ventures fail within the first 5 years. In this book, Michael Gerber teaches us how to think about growing a business as if we were planning to franchise it. His Business Development Process is a framework for developing turn-key systems throughout an organization to produce predictable results and grow in a sustainable way.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries book summary

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses By Eric Ries Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: American entrepreneur, blogger, and author, Eric Ries, has combined the lessons learned from leading startups with the principles from lean manufacturing to create an approach for building new companies that is capital efficient and leverages human creativity more effectively. This book teaches entrepreneurs how to navigate extreme uncertainties by testing scientific hypotheses with a minimal viable product (MVP). Instead of creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers a framework for startups to test, learn, and adjust their strategy through a cycle of continuous improvement.

The Great CEO Within by Matt Mochary book summary

The Great CEO Within: The Tactical Guide To Company Building By Matt Mochary Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This book has distilled the best advice from business management classics like High Output Management , Getting Things Done , The One Minute Manager, and others and combined them into a down and dirty playbook for tech startup entrepreneurs. Matt Mochary has written a bare-bones, no-frills, pragmatic instruction manual on how to manage your email, make rapid decisions, get alignment, document processes, measure KPIs, solicit investors, build an effective team, and everything in between. You don’t have to be an aspiring Silicon Valley founder to appreciate much of the valuable management and leadership advice.

The Pursuit of Wow! by Tom Peters book summary

The Pursuit of WOW! Every Person’s Guide to Topsy-Turvy Times By Tom Peters Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: What are the things that make your business exceptional, unique, and sought-after? Tom Peters’ unconventional advice for beating the competition rings perhaps even truer today than it did twenty years ago. In 210 short, blog-style chapters, this book will challenge you to say no to commodities and yes to free spirits, show you why breaking the mold is less risky than following the crowd, and teach you the winning strategy of WOW!

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building A Business When There Are No Easy Answers By Ben Horowitz Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Ben Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most respected entrepreneurs, shares many invaluable and humbling lessons he learned during his time as the CEO of Opsware. Each chapter is filled with practical business wisdom that might help you avoid costly leadership mistakes. However, rather than being a playbook for how to do things right, this book is more likely to be a source of inspiration when you inevitably get it wrong and need to find the courage to persevere.

non fiction stories summary

Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential By Greg Crabtree Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Author Greg Crabtree is a CPA who specializes in helping entrepreneurs take ownership of their financial data. This book teaches the fundamentals of owner compensation, profit targets, labor productivity, cash flow, and data reporting. Clear explanations and helpful illustrations throughout make it a must-read guide for small business owners looking to achieve higher profits.

non fiction stories summary

Managing The Professional Service Firm By David Maister Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This book is required reading for anyone entering a career at a professional service firm. David Maister masterfully teaches the fundamentals of a firm’s unique business model, describing how it differs from other business enterprises, and shares best practices for overcoming many of the common problems these organizations face. Exploring issues ranging from marketing to business development, human resource policies to profit improvement strategies, senior leaders, as well as new associates, will find practical insights they can apply to the future success of their firm and professional careers.

Getting Past No by William Ury book summary

Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations By William Ury Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Successful negotiating is all about being tough on the problem, but soft on the people. Each chapter in this sequel to Getting To Yes describes an insightful strategy for turning adversaries into negotiating partners. Learn the tricks for controlling your emotions and the tactics of gentle persuasion to turn confrontation into cooperation and get what you want.

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury book summary

Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In By Roger Fisher and William Ury Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Getting To Yes is the seminal book on negotiating strategy and tactics. Each chapter offers concise, step-by-step instructions for reaching an agreement that satisfies both parties. Applicable whether you’re an elder statesman working to pass a bill, or an employee seeking a raise, this is a must read on the art of win-win negotiations.

Dealmaking by Guhan Subramanian book summary

Dealmaking: The New Strategy of Negotiauctions By Guhan Subramanian Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Dealmaking dives into the theory of both negotiations and auction sales, and then presents a third hybrid theory that is a combination of the two (hence the subtitle). Subramanian writes from an academic’s perspective, but he doesn’t fail to provide plenty of helpful examples and case studies along the way. Recommended as a how-to guide for anyone involved in the sale of high-value assets, This book is a fun read for those who have a deeper appreciation for deal-making strategy than most.

Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright book summary

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build A Thriving Organization By Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This is a book is about improving team performance and individual job satisfaction by first identifying, and then upgrading, the culture of the tribe. There are five stages of tribal leadership and each can be identified by the words people use to communicate. This book teaches us to focus on language and behavior to transform disjointed, selfish individuals into a cohesive, selfless team.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey book summary

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change By Stephen R. Covey Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: “Leadership is communicating others’ worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” Stephen Covey’s timeless book on how to live a life rooted in principles will challenge you to think and act in service of others. More than just a guide on how to be effective, this book will become an instant companion for personal reflection in any stage of life.

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin book summary

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win By Jocko Willink and Leif Babin Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Two former Navy SEALs teamed up to bring us the most badass book on leadership ever written. In Extreme Ownership , Jocko Willink and Leif Babin take turns describing their experience fighting in the Battle of Ramadi, Iraq, and then conclude each chapter with a leadership principle and business application. Equal parts war memoir and leadership manual, these guys will get you to stop making excuses, take ownership of your life, and put you on the path to experience freedom through discipline.

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell book summary

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of A Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow By John C. Maxwell Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Your character is the difference between knowing how leadership works and becoming a successful leader in the real world. This book is concise and distilled with one lesson on leadership per chapter. John helps you navigate topics like commitment, discernment, initiative, relationships, and servanthood with practical advice for applying these core principles in your everyday life.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg book summary

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Best known for her role as COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg writes to encourage more women to become leaders in the workforce. With self-deprecating humor and plenty of personal anecdotes, she makes the case that it’s beneficial for society to have more women in positions of power. In her own style, Sandberg will undoubtedly cause you to contemplate how you navigate your own career with a new perspective.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz PhD book summary

The Magic of Thinking Big By David Schwartz, PhD Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Believe in yourself, never underestimate your own intelligence, think positively, and plan for success. The Magic of Thinking Big may come across as one of those cheesy self-help books, but if read with an open mind, you’ll find plenty of practical wisdom in Dr. Schwartz’s words. This book serves as a good reminder that confidence isn’t something that we’re born with, but rather a trait that is developed with intentional habits.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie book summary

How to Win Friends and Influence People By Dale Carnegie Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Dale Carnegie’s seminal book on relationship management may be over 80 years old, but the principles it teaches remain just as true today as they did back in 1937. A leader in the self-help genre, this classic will help you master the social cues and techniques that help you relate better with people, handle complaints, avoid arguments, make you a better speaker, and lead with charisma. If you can excuse some of the outdated language and social themes, I’m sure that you too will appreciate this celebrated book jammed pack with timeless wisdom.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday book summary

The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph By Ryan Holiday Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Nobody has perhaps had a greater influence on popularizing the teachings of Marcus Aurelius and stoic philosophy than Ryan Holiday. This book quickly became a cult classic as inspiration to perform our best by using obstacles as opportunities to get better, stronger, and tougher. To let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can is the driving message behind this a book that will motivate you to accept challenges head-on as the best path to success.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill book summary

Think and Grow Rich By Napoleon Hill Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: After an interview with America’s steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Napoleon Hill was inspired to investigate the psychology of success. 20 years later, the result of that quest was this literary classic that kickstarted a boom in the genre of self-help. If you can look past some of the anachronistic language and examples, this book is still a sure source of inspiration that deserves to be revisited time and again.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown book summary

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less By Greg McKeown Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Know your priority and focus all your energy on achieving that goal. This book gives you permission to say no, even to good opportunities, if they do not align with what’s most important. Greg McKeown’s practical and motivating guide will help you do fewer things better and find the clarity to declutter a life full of trivial distractions.


Steer: Eight Practices to Drive Leadership By Joel Wayne Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Pastor Joel Wayne’s leadership manual is a short read that highlights eight essential practices for managing people and organizations with greater influence. He teaches how to communicate your purpose, build a winning culture, motivate your team, and hold people accountable for reaching their goals. It’s a practical workbook with application questions at the end of each chapter designed to encourage self-reflection and action.

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb book summary

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets By Nassim Nicholas Taleb Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: This book will alter your worldview and change the way you think about perceived luck. Taleb writes incredibly smart, yet refreshingly informal, in his personal treatise on the role of randomness in life and business. Eye-opening, independent-minded and insightful – if Fooled by Randomness does its job, then you’ll walk away convinced that you know even less about how the world works than before.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD book summary

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams By Matthew Walker, PhD Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: In case you didn’t know why sleep was important, this book makes the data clear – sleep is vital to our health and has the ability to make us smarter, more attractive, slimmer, and happier. Matthew Walker is on a mission to change our attitude about sleep with a book that aims to demystify what sleep is, warn us of the consequences of sleep deprivation, explain the fantastical world of dreams, and give us reliable and practical advice for helping society get more zzz’s. Learning why we sleep is a powerful wake-up call to those of us who have foolishly made forfeiting sleep routine.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert book summary

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History By Elizabeth Kolbert Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: There have been five great extinctions in the earth’s history, and now we are witnessing a sixth. The rate of biodiversity is shrinking today on an unprecedented scale due to human activity. This award-winning book is a straightforward, entertaining, and sobering account of what may very well be mankind’s lasting legacy.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari book summary

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind By Yuval Noah Harari Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited the earth. This is a scientific exploration of what traits led to the dominance of Homo sapiens and how we have evolved to evade the laws of natural selection and now design the world around us. Sapiens is a book that explores what it means to be “human,” by investigating the past, observing the present, and looking to the future.

Getting Things Done by David Allen book summary

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity By David Allen Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Getting Things Done is the only guide to personal productivity that you’ll ever need. David Allen will teach you how to keep track of your commitments, plan long-term projects, clear your inbox, and organize your life. I swear by this book as a foundational tool for anyone seeking to upgrade their creative potential and learn how top performers get consistent results.

digital minimalism

Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life In A Noisy World By Cal Newport Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Over the last two decades, social media companies have made trillions profiting off our time and attention. Most of us enjoy the benefits of these free internet innovations without giving serious consideration to mitigating the risks they pose to our social and mental wellbeing. In  Digital Minimalism , Cal Newport outlines his prescription for a healthier and more productive relationship with technology where greater focus is placed on defining  how  we use these digital products and services to intentionally enhance the things in life that we value most.

Food Rules by Michael Pollan book summary

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual By Michael Pollan Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: In this lighthearted and quick read, Michael Pollan reminds us that eating well doesn’t need to be complicated. Adages like “avoid foods with ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce,” “eat mostly plants, especially leaves,” “stop eating before you’re full,” and 80 others fill these colorful pages. This book is a fun reminder that a healthy relationship with food boils down to making simple choices.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink book summary

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us By Daniel H. Pink Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Drive is about understanding human psychology and the forces of motivation in the 21st-century economy. Daniel Pink argues that most businesses have failed to upgrade their ineffective “carrot-and-stick” motivators. Instead, the work poised to take off in tomorrow’s economy – characterized by non-routine and creative activities – can only flourish when people are given autonomy to pursue mastery with a clear purpose of contributing to something larger than ourselves.

Sway by Ori and Rom Brafman book summary

Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior By Ori and Rom Brafman Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Humans have consistently proven themselves to be incredibly irrational beings. Sway introduces us to some of the external forces that mold and shape our behavior. Loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the “chameleon effect” (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us) are just a few examples that you’ll encounter in this compelling read.

The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey book summary

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance By W. Timothy Gallwey Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Author Tim Gallwey first wrote The Inner Game of Tennis before sports and performance psychology was mainstream. Now his wisdom is cited by elite athletes like quarterback Tom Brady and NBA coach Steve Kerr. This book will teach you to quiet the mind, experience “relaxed concentration,” and practice more intelligently on your way to consistent peak performance.

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman book summary

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ By Daniel Goleman Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This wide-ranging book reminds us that we feel first, and think second. Learning to recognize and regulate our feelings (i.e. emotional intelligence) has a profound influence on our ability to make wise decisions, motivate ourselves, and lead others. Goleman presents convincing research that challenges the pedestal upon which we place IQ and makes a strong case that we should instead focus on elevating our EQ if we want to live a more successful and fulfilling life.

Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi book summary

Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Professor Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow” to explain a theory on how we can achieve a mental state of peak performance and happiness. Now he uses that same theory and applies it to help us understand the creative process. Drawing on nearly one hundred interviews with creative people in every field, this book explores the traits of creative people and helps us identify ways to encourage our own originality.

Originals by Adam Grant book summary

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World By Adam Grant Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Becoming an original contributor isn’t some impossibly high standard that can only be attained by famous artists, musicians, and inventors. Rather, originality is a skill that we must all learn and embrace if we desire to create a better world. Adam Grant once again delivers a compelling argument that weaves together storytelling with research to teach us how to recognize novel ideas, go against the grain, garner support, combat group-think, manage anxiety, and much more.

Mistakes were made but not by me

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me ): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts By Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Have you ever wondered why most celebrities, athletes, and public politicians never fully own up and take ownership when they screw up? Or why it’s so easy for us to see the faults and inconsistencies in others, yet remain obstinate to our own hypocrisies? This book is a must-read lesson on the pervasive power of self-justification – how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.

Man's Search for Meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning By Viktor E. Frankl Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: In this autobiographical bestseller, Viktor Frankl recounts his experiences surviving the Holocaust and describes how it shaped his understanding whereby man finds meaning for his life. According to Frankl, man can find meaning in his work, in his love for another, and in the courage required to endure suffering. Viktor Frankl passed through the darkest depths of human’s capacity for evil, and yet he didn’t emerge angry, resentful, or nihilistic, but rather encouraged, optimistic, and hopeful by what he described as man’s ultimate freedom and responsibility in life—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos By Jordan B. Peterson Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: In 12 Rules For Life , Jordan Peterson weaves together personal anecdotes, intellectual history, and religious imagery into a truly unique book that explores how to live a life full of meaning and purpose. This book broadly discusses individual responsibility, discipline, freedom and adventure in ways that range from the humorous and surprising, to the deeply philosophical and serious. Dr. Peterson’s unconventional style is full of encouragement and optimism that serves his message well; that a better world is possible if we aim to swallow our pride, take responsibility for our individual faults, listen to each other, and act with compassion and humility.

Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones By James Clear Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Atomic Habits  gives you a step-by-step system for improvement, whether your goals center on health, money, productivity, relationships, or all of the above. Learn how to start new habits, break old ones, and maintain consistency long enough to see the results. James Clear’s book is a valuable resource, full of useful examples and templates, that make the science of human behavior change interesting and immediately applicable to your life.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time By Keith Ferrazzi Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: My biggest takeaway from this book was admitting that building intentional relationships requires effort. Many would agree that you can accomplish more by leveraging the help of others, but few are willing to put in the work of fostering those networks before they’re needed. Ferrazzi does an excellent job dispelling the slimy connotations associated with “career networking” and instead provides practical advice that teaches authentic generosity as a means to harness the power of relationships.

They Don't Teach Corporate in College by Alexandra Levit

They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World By Alexandra Levit Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: “The corporate world is not a natural fit for graduates who leave school expecting results from a logical combination of education and effort.” In this book, Alexandra Levit encompasses the main theme of my blog. She writes to help young professionals learn how to transition successfully into the workforce with practical advice for building relationships and getting results.

So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love By Cal Newport Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Unafraid of controversy, Cal Newport argues that the long held belief of “follow your passion” is simply terrible career advice. Passion for a job is much more likely to follow after years of mastering valuable skills. If you are unsure about what to do with your life or frustrated in your current job situation, this book will give you an evidence-based roadmap for building the career capital you need to find your ideal vocation.

Range by David Epstein

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World By David Epstein Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Harkened by the popularity of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule, famous chess prodigies, and sports superstars, advice to rack up hours of focused, deliberate practice and specialize early has almost been accepted as basic truth – until now. In this persuasive counter-point, David Epstein argues that early specialization is the exception, not the rule. In a wicked world, where we are constantly facing rapidly changing demands, we desperately need people who aren’t afraid to quit and try something new, who think broadly and rely on a breadth of diverse experience to find creative solutions.

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence By Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This book isn’t just a guide on spending less, saving more, and investing wisely. Your Money or Your Life will help you cultivate a healthy relationship with your money and teach you how to make deliberate and meaningful financial decisions. Whether you are trying to get out of debt, own fewer possessions, or just don’t know where to start, this book will take you through nine steps that will leave you with the clarity you need to begin down the path of accomplishing your financial goals.

Get A Financial Life by Beth Kobliner

Get A Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties By Beth Kobliner Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Do you feel completely lost when you hear people talk about money market instruments, capital gain, Roth IRA, or adjustable-rate mortgages? This book is the perfect financial handbook for young adults who need to get a quick education on managing debt, banking, investing, saving for retirement, buying a home, filing your taxes, and much more. Beth Kobliner’s wisdom will help you make sense of the financial system and put you in the driver seat of making smarter decisions regarding your money.

The Little Book That Still Beats the Market by Joel Greenblatt

The Little Book That Still Beats the Market By Joel Greenblatt Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: As someone who is not particularly interested in buying and selling individual stocks, this short book was still an insightful read to get a fundamental understanding of how to spot a good deal in the market. Written in plain language and interspersed with humor, this is an accessible read for those who want to learn the principles of value investing. I recommend this book as basic investing knowledge regardless of your skill or interest.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon By George Clason Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Pound for pound, this book is a juggernaut of personal financial wisdom. Each chapter is a parable on how to acquire money, keep money, and make your money earn more money. Simple, practical, and timeless – George Clason’s classic is mandatory education on the road to accumulating personal wealth.

This is Marketing by Seth Godin

This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See By Seth Godin Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Marketing genius and prolific writer Seth Godin passionately urges us to shift our perspective on what makes for effective marketing. This book teaches us how to connect with our audience, be authentic, vulnerable, and sincere about understanding the needs of the people we seek to influence. It reads like a collection of blog posts, which makes it fun and easy to read, but left me wanting for more concrete examples and practical application.

Launch by Jeff Walker book summary

Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your Dreams By Jeff Walker Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Jeff Walker is well known for being a pioneer of digital marketing and creating high converting email campaigns. Despite the clickbait title, this book is actually packed with sound strategic advice and step-by-step instructions. Walker will erase any doubt that his advice can live up to the promise by starting each chapter with a success story that is guaranteed to get you fired up about building your business online – fast.

Draft No. 4 by John McPhee

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process By John McPhee Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: John McPhee is a giant in the literary world, known for his tight prose and concern for structure. This book is as close as a layman writers (like myself) will ever get to learning the craft of nonfiction writing from a master. Readers of this collection of essays will walk away with a taste of the true effort and dedication to the craft required to make sound decisions regarding arrangement, diction, and tone that shape nonfiction pieces.

Hey Whipple Squeeze This

Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads By Luke Sullivan and Edward Boches Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This guide is chock-full of examples and how-to advice for anyone venturing into the world of advertising. You may not be going to work for Ogilvy & Mather, but everybody is involved with marketing in some capacity. Whether you’re selling a product, an idea, or yourself, knowing how to communicate persuasively using text, images, video and digital media is what this book is all about.

The Boron Letters

The Boron Letters By Gary C. Halbert Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: While serving prison time for tax fraud, Gary Halbert wrote a series of letters to his son Bond meant to impart hard-earned life lessons and career advice. Those letters were later published into what is now considered the definitive book on how to write persuasive copy. The letters begin with some advice on health and relationships, but the bulk of it focuses on teaching practical direct marketing and copywriting techniques.

On Writing Well

On Writing Well By William Zinsser Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Learn how to employ good English to the task of persuasive nonfiction writing. Like a carpenter who first learns to saw wood neatly before he bevels the edges, writing is a craft based on certain principles that build upon one another.  On Writing Well  is a master class on how to become a better writer, clearer thinker, and stronger communicator.

Not A Fan

Not A Fan: Becoming A Completely Committed Follower of Jesus By Kyle Idleman Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Are you a true follower of Jesus, or just an enthusiastic admirer? Jesus called his disciples to leave their jobs, abandon their families, forfeit their wealth, deny themselves, and take up their cross to follow him. Pastor Kyle Idleman challenges Christians to stop cheering for Jesus and get in the game—to pursue an intimate, fully-committed relationship with Jesus with everything we have.

Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity By C.S. Lewis Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: In  Mere Christianity , C.S. Lewis aims to prove to the sensible skeptic that God does exist and that He sent His son Jesus Christ to redeem the world. The book begins with a logical proof for the Christian God and then transitions into a discussion of the common ground upon which all of those of the Christian faith stand together. Readers at all stages of belief will find that  Mere Christianity  provides an approachable path to discover a powerful, rational case for the Christian faith.

non fiction stories summary

The Case For Christ By Lee Strobel Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: With the rigor of a seasoned investigative journalist, Lee Strobel’s  New York Times  bestselling apologetic builds a progressive argument for the reliability and trustworthiness of the New Testament gospels. Through a dozen interviews with world-renowned experts, Strobel tests the accuracy of the gospel narrative and addresses popular critics that challenge the claim that Jesus was the son of God. Regardless of where you are on your faith journey, Christians and nonbelievers alike will enjoy this entertaining quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure.

Radical by David Platt

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream By David Platt Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Christians don’t have time to settle for the watered-down version of Jesus that makes them comfortable. The real Jesus of the Bible taught a radical message of self-sacrifice, love for one’s enemies, and unconditional dependence on God. With billions of people who don’t yet know Jesus as their savior, David Platt reminds Christians of their urgent mission to spread the gospel to all nations and invites them to live with eternal purpose and meaning.

Biography and History

The Rickover Effect by Theodore Rockwell

The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference By Theodore Rockwell Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was enigmatic, flawed, and master of getting things done. More than anyone else, he was responsible for developing practical applications for nuclear power after World War II. Bitterly opposed by his political rivals, yet deeply respected by all who served under him, this rare portrait gives you a glimpse into the mind of a leadership genius.

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard Feynman

“Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character By Richard Feynman Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman, the winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, was one of America’s greatest minds and original personalities. His recollection of past days trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein, cracking safes that held nuclear secrets, and accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums are just a handful among a lifetime spent feeding an insatiable mind one crazy adventure after another.

Napoleon by Andrew Roberts

Napoleon: A Life By Andrew Roberts Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: This is the definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman that was Napoleon Bonaparte. You don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate the stories and lessons imparted by one of the past’s most astute leaders of men. This poetic account is an endlessly interesting and entertaining masterpiece on the life of a deeply flawed, yet surprisingly likable, political genius.

Elon Musk - Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future By Ashlee Vance Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: A behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of today’s most enigmatic, unapologetic, and visionary business leaders. I read this book before Elon smoked marijuana with Joe Rogan, called a British cave diver a ‘Pedo’ on twitter , or ran into trouble with the SEC. In my opinion, each turn of events only adds to this man’s growing legacy as an imperfect human with superhuman ambition to radically innovate in pursuit of a better tomorrow.

Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA By Tim Weiner Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: An unapologetic exposé on the repeated missteps and failures of the CIA over the past 60 years. This endlessly fascinating account will thoroughly shatter any image you may have held of a highly effective government intelligence agency. Detailed accounts void of anonymous quotes, Tim Weiner delivered a scathing review of how the CIA has profoundly jeopardized our national security.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo book summary

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity By Katherine Boo Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Had I not been given the opportunity to visit India for myself in early 2019, I’m not sure that I could have comprehended the dismal squalor and wretched living conditions described in this nonfiction narrative. Based on years of real reporting, this book recalls the heartbreaking stories of three families living in the slums of Mumbai and their fight for a better future. It’s a revealing portrait of the gross inequalities that exist in a rapidly changing world economy.

The Innovators - How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson book summary

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution By Walter Isaacson Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: The Innovators is a saga about the generations of people who contributed to and ushered in the age of computers and the digital revolution. Isaacson masterfully weaves together the lives of great leaders and thinkers such as Ada Lovelace , Vannevar Bush , Alan Turing , John von Neumann , J.C.R. Licklider , Doug Engelbart , Robert Noyce , Bill Gates , Steve Wozniak , Steve Jobs , Tim Berners-Lee , and Larry Page . This book is not only a history of the semiconductor and birth of the Internet but also an attempt to uncover the seeds that cultivate breakthrough innovations.

The Wizard of Menlo Park - How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World by Randall Stross

The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edision Invented the Modern World By Randall Stross Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: I was fascinated to learn that Thomas Edison was perhaps the biggest global celebrity of his generation. Edison had few successes, but many failures; few moments of independent genius, but often relied heavily on the sweat and determination of his rivals and assistants. Randall Stross attempts to separate man from legend and offers an understanding of how Edison managed his work and his fame.

Walt Disney - The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination By Neal Gabler Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Neal Gabler gives us an epic account of the man, myth, and creative legend that is Walt Disney. It’s a spellbound narrative of Disney’s climb out of childhood deprivation to become the very symbol of American entertainment. This book doesn’t shy away from Walt Disney’s struggles – his financial woes, nervous breakdowns, and anti-Semite accusations – but is an overwhelming testament to one man’s power of wish fulfillment and iron determination.

Titan - The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. By Ron Chernow Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was the world’s first billionaire and perhaps America’s most misunderstood and controversial businessman. The man behind the Standard Oil monopoly was accused ferociously of collusion, predatory pricing, corporate espionage, and political bribery until Teddy Roosevelt and the trustbusters finally broke up the oil-producing behemoth. Despite all that, Chernow sheds light on Rockefeller’s quirky personality, unprecedented philanthropy, and family struggles that reclaim the complex human nature of a 19th-century iconic mogul.

The Power Broker - Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York By Robert A. Caro Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Robert Moses was the most powerful man in the 20th century that you have probably never heard of. For 44 years, Moses held a tight grip on New York politics as he tirelessly built parks and parkways, playlands and beaches, and relocated thousands of poor tenants to pave highways and bridges. This is a classic true tale of how one man’s immense accumulation of power shaped America’s largest city.

Born Standing Up - A Comic's Life by Steve Martin

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life By Steve Martin Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: I loved reading this story of a wild and crazy (successful) guy . His “overnight success” took 10 years, as a young Steve Martin worked at the Disney magic shop and Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm performing his (often ridiculous) acts tirelessly night after night to perfect his craft. One of the most iconic and original comedy acts of our time, Steve’s personal memoir is emotional, inspirational and massively entertaining.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog By Phil Knight Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: As inspiring as they come, this personal memoir by the founder of Nike takes us through the tumultuous early days and timid first steps of a shoe company that would grow up to become one of the world’s most iconic and influential brands. Shoe Dog is a story about risk, perseverance, relationships, failure, and fame. One of the rawest and entertaining memoirs I’ve ever read, Phil Knight is the definition of “Just Do It.”

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt By Edmund Morris Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Theodore Roosevelt quickly became my favorite past President after reading the first of a three-part chronological series. Described by the author as a “man of many selves,” Roosevelt was a naturalist, a writer, a lover, a hunter, a ranchman, a soldier, and a politician – who merged at age forty-two to become the youngest President in our history. There is much to admire and learn from a man whose boundless energy was matched only by his curiosity for life and love for serving his country.

Open by Andre Agassi

Open: An Autobiography By Andre Agassi Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: Andre Agassi’s personal memoir is wildly vulnerable, honest, and engrossing. Raised from birth to become a tennis prodigy, Agassi’s story about his relationship with the game, fame, and former wife Brooke Shields is inundated with soaring highs and tragic lows. Called one of the best sports autobiographies of all time by Time Magazine, Open is a tell-all account of a remarkable life.

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life By Walter Isaacson Read on Amazon ⭐️ My Favorites

3 Sentence Summary: He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, hand paddles (for swimming), and made a myriad of other improvements and contributions to science – but the most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself. This definitive account of Benjamin Franklin chronicles a life that was full of imagination, perseverance, and self-reflection. You can’t help but be captivated and inspired by the man who fully embodied the American spirit and whose wisdom and ideals molded the formation of our nation.

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt By Michael Lewis Read on Amazon

3 Sentence Summary: Flash Boys is a story about what can happen when greed takes advantage of technology under the cloak of complexity. Fiber optic cables have ushered in an era of high-speed trading that opened the door for black-hat traders to effectively charge a tax for trading. The details are a bit complex, but Michael Lewis does a phenomenal job at explaining the story of how Brad Katsuyama and his motley crew eventually uncovered the scheme and advocated for reform on Wall Street.

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Books Concepts

Summaries of the best nonfiction books curated by Radzion

Can’t Hurt Me

David Goggins

14 minutes read

The Psychology of Money

Morgan Housel

10 minutes read

$100M Offers

Alex Hormozi

12 minutes read

Atomic Habits

James Clear

Building a StoryBrand

Donald Miller

15 minutes read

Cal Newport

5 minutes read

Man’s Search for Meaning

Viktor E. Frankl

Psycho Cybernetics

Maxwell Maltz

11 minutes read

The Millionaire Fastlane

23 minutes read

The Mom Test

Rob Fitzpatrick

43 minutes read

Digital Minimalism

Cal Newport

16 minutes read

The Embedded Entrepreneur

20 minutes read


Greg McKeown

13 minutes read

Austin Kleon

4 minutes read

The 5 Love Languages

Gary Chapman

7 minutes read

The Compound Effect

Darren Hardy

The Obstacle Is the Way

Ryan Holiday

The Passion Paradox

Steve Magness

9 minutes read

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

John Gottman

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Mark Manson

The Third Door

Alex Banayan

A Guide To The Good Life

William B. Irvine

As a Man Thinketh

James Allen

3 minutes read

James Nestor


19 minutes read

Robin Baker

25 minutes read

The 1-Page Marketing Plan

30 minutes read

The 10X Rule

Grant Cardone

The 50th Law

50 Cent and Robert Greene

21 minutes read

The Alter Ego Effect

Todd Herman

The Rational Male

Rollo Tomassi

The War of Art

Steven Pressfield

Black Box Thinking

Matthew Syed

Obviously Awesome

April Dunford

David Epstein

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni

The Design of Everyday Things

18 minutes read

Think Like a Monk

12 Rules for Life

Jordan B. Peterson

Crushing It!

Gary Vaynerchuk

This Is Marketing

Sam Thomas Davies

137+ Free Book Summaries: Master the Best of What I’ve Read

Book Summaries

Welcome to the best free nonfiction book summaries resource online.

This page is a distillation of everything I’ve learned from the best non-fiction books of all time.

From business to leadership, self-help to psychology, you’ll find more than 137 good book summaries organized by category.

If you’re looking for the best book summaries online, click “Book Summaries by Title” to browse all my entries to date.

Get New Book Summaries In Your Inbox

Book summaries (a complete guide), 1. book summaries by title, 2. book summaries by category, 3. top book recommendations by year.

  • 4. My Annual Reading Lists

5. How to Remember What You Read

6. how to read more books, 7. how to get free book summaries.

Since 2015, I’ve written summaries for more than 137 of the best nonfiction books of all time. 

Browse all my entries below, or use Control+F (or Command+F on a Mac) if you have a particular title in mind.

  • The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary D. Chapman
  • The 7-Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch by Dan Norris
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries and Laura Ries
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
  • 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman
  • 100 Great Copywriting Ideas by Andy Maslen
  • 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost
  • The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters by Joseph Sugarman
  • The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
  • A Manual for Living by Epictetus
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield
  • Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers
  • The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins
  • Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear
  • Awaken The Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny! by Anthony Robbins
  • Become an Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher
  • Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
  • Beyond Basketball: Coach K’s Keywords for Success by Mike Krzyzewski, Jamie K. Spatola
  • Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body (Third Edition) by Michael Matthews
  • Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed
  • The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design by Marty Neumeier
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
  • Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed
  • Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow
  • Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential  by Tiago Forte
  • Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
  • Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting: Five Strategies That End the Daily Battles and Get Kids to Listen the First Time by Noël Janis-Norton
  • The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
  • Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live The Dream! by James Altucher
  • The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher
  • Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly
  • Create or Hate: Successful People Make Things by Dan Norris
  • The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday
  • Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  • Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
  • The Dip: The Extraordinary Benefits of Knowing When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin
  • Do The Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield
  • Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Life Lessons from an Extraordinary Man by Louis Zamperini
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
  • The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
  • Eat That Frog! Get More of the Important Things Done – Today! by Brian Tracy
  • Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown
  • Ego Is the Enemy: The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent by Ryan Holiday
  • Essential Zen Habits: Mastering The Art of Change, Briefly by Leo Babauta
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  • Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
  • Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns
  • Feeling Great: The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety by David D. Burns
  • The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success by Benjamin Hardy
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
  • The Good Life Handbook by Epictetus
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • Hack the Entrepreneur: How to Stop Procrastinating, Build a Business, and Do Work That Matters by Jon Nastor
  • Hell Yeah or No: What’s Worth Doing by Derek Sivers
  • The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor
  • How to Own The World: A Plain English Guide to Thinking Globally Investing Wisely by Andrew Craig
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • How to Write Copy That Sells: The Step-By-Step System for More Sales, to More Customers, More Often by Ray Edwards
  • Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal
  • I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt, No Excuses – Just a 6-Week Programme That Works by Ramit Sethi
  • The Little Book of Yes: How to Win Friends, Boost Your Confidence and Persuade Others by Noah Goldstein
  • Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
  • Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant
  • Magnetic Marketing: How To Attract A Flood Of New Customers That Pay, Stay, and Refer by Dan Kennedy
  • Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven
  • Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
  • Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life by David Allen
  • Mastermind Dinners: Build Lifelong Relationships by Connecting Experts, Influencers, and Linchpins by Jayson Gaignard
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  • Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise
  • The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod
  • Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography by Bear Grylls
  • My Philosophy for Successful Living by Jim Rohn
  • My Unfinished Business by Dan Kennedy
  • Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depends On It by Chris Voss
  • No B.S. Time Management: The Ultimate No-Holds-Barred Kick-Butt Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Time Productivity and Sanity for Entrepreneurs by Dan Kennedy
  • Notes From a Friend by Anthony Robbins
  • The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
  • Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
  • One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer
  • The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
  • On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft by Stephen King
  • Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson
  • Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday
  • Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
  • The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip & Dan Heath
  • The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner
  • The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel
  • Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
  • Reinvent Yourself by James Altucher
  • Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jiang
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki
  • The Rich Employee by James Altucher
  • Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction by Chris Sims
  • Secrets of The Millionaire Mind: Mastering The Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker
  • Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
  • Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow
  • Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  • Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change by Timothy A. Pychyl
  • Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation for Anything by Dr. Jeremy Dean
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
  • Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
  • Stop Asking Questions: How to Lead High-Impact Interviews and Learn Anything from Anyone by Andrew Warner
  • The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
  • The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield
  • Superhuman Social Skills: A Guide to Being Likeable, Winning Friends, and Building Your Social Circle by Tynan
  • Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath
  • Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey by A.J. Jacobs
  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  • This Is Where to Start: Find Superstar Mentors, Master All They Know, and Get Ahead in Your Career by Edward Druce
  • Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg
  • Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum
  • To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others by Daniel H Pink
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
  • Triggers: Sparking Positive Change and Making It Last by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
  • Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control the Mind of Your Prospect to Motivate, Influence and Persuade by Joe Sugarman
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  • Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work by Steven Pressfield
  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
  • Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins
  • When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
  • Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson
  • Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork by Benjamin Hardy
  • Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden
  • Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less by Sam Carpenter
  • You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins
  • The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost Your Sales. by Dan Kennedy
  • Yes! 60 Secrets from The Science of Persuasion by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, and Robert B. Cialdini
  • You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

These are my book summaries, listed by category.

1.  Business Book Summaries . These books offer compelling stories, intriguing insights, and fascinating takeaways from some of the biggest and brightest minds in business and beyond.

2.  Biography and Memoir Book Summaries . Some of the best books available are biographies and memoirs of great people. By reading these books, you, too, can learn how to become great.

3. Health and Fitness Book Summaries . It’s easy to worry about health and fitness, isn’t it? These books suggest ideas for getting in shape and eating healthily—in a kind, effective way.

4.  Leadership Book Summaries . What makes a great leader? These books—from Coach K to John Wooden—will inspire and empower you to strengthen and motivate your team.

5.  Philosophy Book Summaries . It’s easy to regard philosophy as esoteric and academic. These books cut through the haze of misunderstanding and make you aware of what you value and why.

6.  Psychology Book Summaries . Why do we do what we do? These thought-provoking books offer a hands-on approach to exploring the human mind and mastering the art of change.

7. My Favorite Books . In writing more than 137 book summaries, I’ve read a lot of books that left a lasting impression. These are the ten books that I return to again and again.

8.  Self-Help Book Summaries . It’s easy to get caught up in the daily dramas of life. These timeless classics will help you improve your life, from boosting your confidence to realizing your ambitions.

9.  Writing Book Summaries . Put your desk in the corner. The adverb is not your friend. These authors have published bestsellers and, in these books, share what they’ve learned about the craft.

Every December, I share my ten favorite books from the past year. Below are the best books I’ve read since 2015, organized in reverse chronological order.

  • 2022 Best Books
  • 2021 Best Books
  • 2020 Best Books
  • 2019 Best Books
  • 2018 Best Books
  • 2017 Best Books
  • 2016 Best Books
  • 2015 Best Books

4. My Annual Reading Lists

I keep a public reading list to ensure I achieve my annual reading goals. Below are my annual reading lists, organized in reverse chronological order.

  • 2022 Reading List
  • 2021 Reading List
  • 2020 Reading List
  • 2019 Reading List
  • 2018 Reading List
  • 2017 Reading List
  • 2016 Reading List
  • 2015 Reading List

I believe that if you want to get ahead in life and work, you need to read great books. But I also believe that it’s just as important to remember and recall what we read. 

In my experience, the most effective way to do that is to keep a digital “commonplace book.” Here are a few popular articles that will help you do that: 

  • A Peek Inside My Evernote Commonplace Book
  • How to Build a Notion Commonplace Book (Step-by-Step)
  • How to Build a Resonance Calendar in Notion (Incl. 3 Use Cases)
  • How to Save Twitter Threads to Notion
  • How to Write a Book Summary (Step-by-Step)
  • My Notion Note-Taking System (Or How I Read Online)
I’ve written more than 130 book summaries 📚 That’s given me a lot of time to learn how to summarize books—the right way. Here’s how I remember what I read 👇 — Sam Thomas Davies (@SamThomasDavies) November 29, 2021

There’s much advice online on how to read more. But most articles ignore busy professionals trying to balance life and work.

Fortunately, there’s a way to read more, better books (even if you’re strapped for time like most people).

To learn how to read more, read my article, “How to Read More: A Busy Person’s Guide.”

Or, if you prefer to learn on the go, read my Audible review: “I Tried Audible for 30-Days. Here’s What Happened.”

Every Monday, at 8:15 Pacific Time, I publish a free email newsletter called “Words Into Works.”

Inside that email,  I share one big practical idea from one of the best nonfiction books of all time.

To receive Words Into Works in your inbox, enter your email address below and click “Get Updates.”

My Best Email Address Is…

Wall of love.

I love hearing from readers who enjoy my book summaries. I don’t ask for testimonials, but here’s what subscribers are saying about my summaries:

☕️Coffee break? Spend it browsing @SamThomasDavies summaries of the 100 all-time best business books. You’ll love it, promise. https://t.co/Qsjt3JcjWf — Keith Monaghan (@keithmonaghan) September 10, 2021
@SamThomasDavies is awesome look what I received in his newsletter. I have been looking for a list of good books, this will be a great leısure activity. Check it out- https://t.co/Dml6eADhjK — Saleh B. (@Saleh_marketing) May 13, 2021
Shout out to @SamThomasDavies for his excellent summary of @JamesClear ‘s Atomic Habits. Such a great quick-reference resource…I used it as my “Cliff’s Notes” for a training I led yesterday. https://t.co/yJPkfqwZbO — Adrian Chenault (@amchenault) January 12, 2021
@SamThomasDavies I just want to say, your book summaries have been so helpful. When I can’t remember key points from books I read a while ago, I always find them in your summaries – thank you! 🙏 — Tricia Maitland (@TriciaMaitland) January 4, 2021
@SamThomasDavies ‘ blog https://t.co/pL3df9J2Po is what brought out that avid reader in me, transitioning me from fiction to brilliant books on business, and I’ve never looked forward for anyone’s newsletter as much as his! https://t.co/kxkMIi7mj0 — Fatema Rangwalla (@FatemaRangwalla) May 1, 2019
@SamThomasDavies Thank you for such clear and concise book summaries. I am absolutely in love with the quality of the work. — Ishan Chhabra (@ishan_chhabra) April 24, 2019
Thank you for the awesome book summaries, @SamThomasDavies . They are super helpful. I was trying to remember a key point from The Power of Moments, and your summary helped me remember it. Thanks! — Joshua Baron (@baronjosh) December 5, 2018
This guy is a legend. I’ve been reading his work for the last 2 days @SamThomasDavies https://t.co/9CiBX22FKC — Tyler Adkison (@tyblockterra) July 10, 2018
Holy shit this is amazing! This is one hell of a book list with complete with summaries by @SamThomasDavies https://t.co/EKyMGFF4yi — Mike Piccolo (@mfpiccolo) October 4, 2016
came across this awesome book summary website. https://t.co/dspKWa5tqJ thanks @SamThomasDavies — Praveen Baskar (@praveen2004er) June 3, 2017
You are my new all-time favorite person! I get to have the knowledge of all these great books and You read them! Thanks a Billion!! 🙂 @SamThomasDavies — tablemediagroup (@tablemedia) February 8, 2018
Hey @SamThomasDavies – thank you for your book summaries. They are brilliant and perfect for the train. https://t.co/Jhef0bOGUt — Amanda Graham (@AGComedy) February 15, 2018

Like what they’re saying?  Get free book summaries delivered straight to your inbox by entering your email above.

Book Summaries: Browse Over 1,200 Titles on One Page

Book Summaries - 450 Free Book Summaries

Use Our Free Book Summaries to Learn 3 Ideas From 1,200+ Books in 4 Minutes or Less

If you’re looking for free book summaries, this is the single-best page on the internet.

Hi! I’m Nik . In 2016, I wrote over 365 book summaries. That’s more than one per day! I spent thousands of hours writing these.

Since then, we’ve grown our catalog to over 1,200 book summaries, and they’re all free of charge. Right now, I personally publish one new book summary every Wednesday at 2 PM CET .

We also post a new, animated book summary every Friday at 2 PM CET on our Youtube channel . For a playlist with our most popular videos, see below.

If you join our free newsletter , you’ll get all new summaries delivered right to your inbox every Saturday, including some of the best titles from our archives, freebies, and a lot more. You can even customize your learning journey. Just sign up below:

Our free book summaries cover the following 44 topics:

  • Biography  &  History
  • Politics ,  Culture  &  Society
  • Environment
  • Relationships ,  Sex  &  Parenting
  • Happiness  &  Self-Improvement
  • Money ,  Investing  &  Personal Finance
  • Productivity
  • Motivation & Inspiration
  • Marketing  &  Sales
  • Management  &  Leadership
  • Health ,  Fitness  &  Nutrition
  • Business, Startups & Entrepreneurship
  • Creativity & Writing
  • Education  &  Philosophy
  • Communication
  • Religion  &  Spirituality
  • Technology  &  the Future
  • Work ,  Careers  &  Success
  • Mindfulness & Mental Health

You can browse all our summaries below, sorted alphabetically. We also have a guide to help you remember what you read , a free course to help you read more , and a lifetime membership with audio versions of our summaries, PDF guides, full-length books, and a lot more!

Pro tip:  Use Ctrl + F (or Cmd + F on a Mac) and enter whatever title you’re looking for to quickly jump around on this page.

  • 10 Days To Faster Reading Summary
  • 10% Happier Summary
  • 10-Minute Toughness Summary
  • 12 Rules For Life Summary
  • 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do Summary
  • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do Summary
  • 1984 Summary
  • 2030 Summary
  • 21 Days To A Big Idea Summary
  • 21 Lessons For The 21st Century Summary
  • 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism Summary
  • 30 Lessons For Loving Summary
  • 59 Seconds Summary
  • 60 Seconds & You’re Hired Summary
  • 7 Strategies For Wealth And Happiness Summary
  • 75 Hard Summary
  • 8 Rules of Love Summary
  • A Beautiful Mind Summary
  • A Beginner’s Guide To The End Summary
  • A Brief History Of Everyone Who Ever Lived Summary
  • A Brief History Of Time Summary
  • A Crack In Creation Summary
  • A Curious Mind Summary
  • A First-Rate Madness Summary
  • A Force For Good Summary
  • A General Theory Of Love Summary
  • A Guide To The Good Life Summary
  • A Higher Loyalty Summary
  • A History Of The World In 6 Glasses Summary
  • A Message To Garcia Summary
  • A Mind For Numbers Summary
  • A Monk’s Guide To Happiness Summary
  • A More Beautiful Question Summary
  • A New Earth Summary
  • A People’s History Of The United States Summary
  • A Promised Land Summary
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street Summary
  • A Return To Love Summary
  • A Short History Of Nearly Everything Summary
  • A Splendid Exchange Summary
  • A Tale of Two Cities Summary
  • A Universe From Nothing Summary
  • A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman Summary
  • A Walk Around the Block Summary
  • A Walk In The Woods Summary
  • A Whole New Mind Summary
  • A Woman Of No Importance Summary
  • A World In Disarray Summary
  • A World Without Email Summary
  • A Year With Peter Drucker Summary
  • Abundance Summary
  • Accidental Genius Summary
  • Accounting Made Simple Summary
  • Adapt Summary
  • Adaptive Markets Summary
  • Affluenza Summary
  • Against Empathy Summary
  • Age Of Ambition Summary
  • Age Of Anger Summary
  • Agile Selling Summary
  • AI 2041 Summary
  • AI Superpowers Summary
  • Alchemy Summary
  • Alexander Hamilton Summary
  • Alexander The Great Summary
  • Algorithms To Live By Summary
  • Alibaba Summary
  • Alibaba’s World Summary
  • All About Love Summary
  • All In Summary
  • All Marketers Are Liars Summary
  • Alone Together Summary
  • Altered Traits Summary
  • Amazon Summary
  • Amusing Ourselves To Death Summary
  • An American Sickness Summary
  • An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth Summary
  • An Audience Of One Summary
  • An Invisible Thread Summary
  • An Ugly Truth Summary
  • Anatomy Of An Epidemic Summary
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Summary
  • Antifragile Summary
  • Anxiety at Work Summary
  • Anything You Want Summary
  • Are You Fully Charged Summary
  • Arise, Awake Summary
  • As A Man Thinketh Summary
  • Ask Summary
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Summary
  • At Home Summary
  • Atlas of the Heart Summary
  • Atomic Habits Summary
  • Attached Summary
  • Automate Your Busywork Summary
  • Awaken The Giant Within Summary
  • Aware Summary
  • Awe Summary
  • Bad Blood Summary
  • Bad Feminist Summary
  • Barbarians At The Gate Summary
  • Barking Up The Wrong Tree Summary
  • Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother Summary
  • Be A Free Range Human Summary
  • Be Fearless Summary
  • Be Obsessed Or Be Average Summary
  • Be Our Guest Summary
  • Be Useful Summary
  • Be Where Your Feet Are Summary
  • Becoming Summary
  • Becoming The Boss Summary
  • Behave Summary
  • Behind The Beautiful Forevers Summary
  • Behind The Cloud Summary
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Summary
  • Best Self Summary
  • Better Than Before Summary
  • Between The World And Me Summary
  • Beyond Order Summary
  • Big Magic Summary
  • Big Potential Summary
  • Billion Dollar Whale Summary
  • Bird By Bird Summary
  • Bit Literacy Summary
  • Bittersweet Summary
  • Black Box Thinking Summary
  • Blink Summary
  • Blitzscaling Summary
  • Blockchain Revolution Summary
  • Blue Ocean Shift Summary
  • Blue Ocean Strategy Summary
  • Blueprint Summary
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non fiction stories summary


Multi-level summaries: A new approach to non-fiction books

This paper shows  how multi-level summaries can make non-fiction books easier to understand, remember and act on . ( Note 1 )

non fiction stories summary

Click on the image above to see a visual summary of the paper.

Part 1 of the paper looks at the problems with the current structure of most non-fiction books . Part 2 looks at how multi-level summaries can solve many of these problems .

A pdf of the document can be downloaded from www.francismiller.com/multi_level_summaries.pdf .

Part 1: Problems with reading books

Many readers don’t seem to get as much as they would like out of their reading of non-fiction books . Here are some of the problems they encounter.

1. Getting started with a book

  • finding it hard to get started . We all know the experience of excitedly buying a book and then having it stand unopened on a bookshelf for months, years or even for ever. Being confronted with hundreds of pages of text combined with the knowledge that they will take many hours to get through can make it hard to get started.

2. Giving up on a book .

  • losing interest . Many books are not finished because readers lose interest. A common experience is enthusiastically starting a book and then running out of momentum in the midst of Chapter 1 or 2.

3. Problems when reading a book

  • drowning in detail . When books don’t have a clear structure or summaries of the main points, it’s easy for readers to get confused as they start drowning in too much detail and losing sight of what the key ideas are and how they relate to each other.
  • returning to a book after a break . It’s easy to forget the thread of a book’s argument after putting it down for a few days or weeks. Readers then either have to carry on reading superficially without remembering the outline of the book’s argument or spend time struggling to identify the key ideas from the pages they have already read.

4. Problems after finishing a book

  • forgetting a book’s ideas . Many readers complain about how little they remember of a book’s ideas even after they have spent hours reading it. That’s to be expected. Cognitive psychology teaches how easily facts and ideas are forgotten. It is difficult to revise the ideas in a book without taking time-consuming notes which most readers don’t have either the time or the motivation to do.
  • struggling to work out what action to take . Many books suggest new behaviours and strategies for the reader. If these strategies and behaviours aren’t summarised adequately, it’s easy for a reader to move on to another book without taking any action on the previous one.
  • returning to a book . When readers want to remind themselves of the ideas in a book they have read in the past, a detailed re-read is often needed in order to get to grips with the book again.

non fiction stories summary

Sequential structure vs meaning structure: two ways of approaching a book

The structure of a book can be analysed in two ways. There is a sequential structure and there is also a meaning structure .

Because of the nature of language, books are constructed sequentially. Lines of words which go from left to right make up sentences, which together make up paragraphs. Paragraphs make up pages, which in turn make up chapters, which together comprise the book.

non fiction stories summary

And that’s the most obvious way to conceive of books, as a series of pages broken into chapters which should be started at the beginning and read through to the end. However that’s also where many of the problems of drowning in the detail and missing the bigger picture begin.

non fiction stories summary

A more productive way of approaching a book is through its meaning structure .

The purpose of most non-fiction books is to deliver an argument or series of arguments. Authors write books to persuade readers of the validity of certain ideas and/or to suggest that they take particular actions.

This could be, for example, to:

  • explain the reasons for inequality in the world economy
  • explain why human beings have had such an impact on the world
  • describe who and what influenced Matisse’s art
  • persuade the reader to follow a particular business strategy
  • persuade the reader to vote for a political party
  • explain how gravity works
  • make the case for a certain interpretation of historical events.

The content of a book is written in order to back up the argument . To do this, authors need to explain various key ideas and concepts, to elaborate on them by bringing in supporting topics and then to provide a detailed explanation.

This can be shown hierarchically:

non fiction stories summary

Of course, this is a generic diagram. Each book will have its own unique structure depending on:

  • the number of key concepts and ideas, and how they are linked to each other
  • how the supporting topics are developed.
Readers need to identify and understand the meaning structure if they are to get the most out of a book.

The reader’s problem

The problem for readers is how they get from this:

This is a critical problem. Readers need to identify and understand the meaning structure if they are to get the most out of a book .

Implicit vs explicit meaning structures

All books have a meaning structure, which exists along a continuum from fully implicit to fully explicit . A fully implicit structure would just be a series of paragraphs of text. No attempt would be made to explain how different sections of the book related to each other or to highlight the main argument, the key ideas and concepts, and the supporting topics.

A fully explicit structure, on the other hand, would show the key components of the book’s structure and how they relate to each other at different levels of detail.

At the moment, most non-fiction books tend towards having more of an implicit structure . Books are divided into chapters and sections within chapters. There may be diagrams and tables, as well as summaries of key points. However there is often little attempt to show how the different ideas, concepts and topics relate together through providing summaries of the structure and content.

non fiction stories summary

The problems caused by implicit meaning structures

The problems caused by implicit meaning structures can be explained using the theories of cognitive load theory and retrieval practice .

The cognitive energy taken up by trying to make the implicit meaning structure explicit reduces the energy available for the more important tasks of understanding, assessment and reflection.

Cognitive load theory

Cognitive load theory, initially developed by Professor John Sweller, refers to the cognitive demands placed on learners. Due to the limitations of working memory, learners find it difficult if excessive cognitive demands are placed on them . So the greater the cognitive load, the more learners are going to struggle with learning.

One of the critical issues in learning, therefore, is to reduce the unnecessary cognitive load imposed on learners as far as possible.

As Sweller and his colleagues write: “One aim of instructional design is to reduce extraneous cognitive load so that a greater percentage of the pool of working memory resources can be devoted to issues germane to learning rather than issues extraneous to learning.” ( Note 2 )

It is my contention that a book with more of an implicit rather than an explicit structure increases extraneous cognitive load .

Readers should be spending their precious cognitive energy understanding concepts, assessing the truth and usefulness of a book’s arguments, and reflecting on how the book’s ideas integrate with or challenge their existing mental models.

Instead the cognitive energy taken up by trying to make the implicit meaning structure explicit reduces the energy available for the more important tasks of understanding, assessment and reflection .

Retrieval practice

Retrieval practice can be defined as the retrieval of information from memory .

Academics Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel in their book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning write:

“While the brain is not a muscle that gets stronger with exercise, the neural pathways that make up a body of learning do get stronger, when the memory is retrieved and the learning is practiced. Periodic practice arrests forgetting, strengthens retrieval routes, and is essential for hanging onto the knowledge you want to gain (pp.3-4)…..
“Repeated retrieval not only makes memories more durable but produces knowledge that can be retrieved more readily, in more varied settings, and applied to a wider variety of problems (p.43).” ( Note 3 )

Readers who want to try retrieval practice need to be clear about the key points they are trying to remember and then have them available in a concise format so they can identify the gaps in what they have retrieved and refresh their memories about these gaps.

Non-fiction books in their present format fail on both counts. Often it is hard work to identify what the key points are, which means also that the information is not in a suitable format for returning to repeatedly .

The alternative to this is writing notes to use for retrieval practice but this can be very time-consuming and few readers seem to do this.

It is more effective to give readers explicit meaning structures rather than to help them cope better with implicit ones.


Not everyone struggles with reading non-fiction books . Academics, for example, need to get through numerous books and extract useful information from each of them. Many have therefore developed very effective strategies for reading.

One well-known British academic, who is a prolific author, wrote the following to me in an email: “I never read a book…just fillet them by using table of contents, index and concentrating strictly on what’s relevant to what I’m writing. That way I would ‘read’ up to twenty books a day.”

There are strategies for more effectively reading books with an implicit meaning structure. However, in most cases, I believe that it is more effective to give readers explicit meaning structures rather than to help them cope better with implicit ones.

Part 2: Multi-level summaries

In Part 1, I explained that:

  • most non-fiction books have more of an implicit meaning structure
  • having an implicit meaning structures causes problems with cognitive load and retrieval practice.

The alternative to an implicit meaning structure is an explicit one and one way of providing them is through multi-level summaries .

To recap, an explicit meaning structure looks generically like this.

non fiction stories summary

This structure can also be simplified into a pyramid.

non fiction stories summary

Multi-level summaries show the big picture at different levels of detail in the book and how the different elements of content are connected to each other.

The most effective way to do this would be to create the following:

i) a whole book summary , showing how the book is structured and giving details of the key ideas and concepts ii) individual summaries for each of the chapters , which show the structure of the chapter and provide a summary of the key ideas/concepts and the supporting topics in that chapter iii) visual elements within individual chapters . Diagrams, tables, flowcharts, timelines and other visual elements are a very effective way of summarising complex ideas and most non-fiction books could use more of them.

There are potential variations to this:

i) If the chapters are divided into parts or the book is made up of very short chapters, it might be better to summarise linked chapters together.

ii) If a chapter has a great deal of content and is particularly dense, it might be better to add summaries within chapter sections as well.

It is important that each summary is contained on a single book page (or across a spread of two adjacent pages, if absolutely necessary) so that the relationship between the different content elements can be seen in a glance.

Multi-level summaries give readers the ability to zoom in and zoom out in a similar way to Google Maps.

Using Google Maps as an analogy

A good analogy for multi-level summaries is Google Maps in that it also provides the opportunity to view information at different levels of detail . ( Note 4 )

Let’s use Green Park in London as an example. One can choose a detailed view to see its position in relation to other landmarks in central London such as Westminster Abbey or St James’s Palace.

non fiction stories summary

Zooming out to a wider view, Green Park can then be seen in relation to areas of London like Kensington, the City of London and Canary Wharf.

non fiction stories summary

Zooming out even more, Green Park can be seen in the context of southern England and its location can be viewed relative to places like Bristol, Brighton and Ipswich.

non fiction stories summary

While Google Maps has eighteen levels of detail from its most detailed view all the way out to a map of the world as a whole, most books will have just three or four levels of detail.

Multi-level summaries give readers the ability to zoom in and zoom out in a similar way to Google Maps . Readers can zoom in to focus on the detailed explanation in the text. They can then zoom out to the chapter summary to see how that detail fits into the context of the chapter. They can then, if they want, zoom out even further to the summary of the book to review the book’s key ideas.

The location of multi-level summaries in a book

Multi-level summaries would be located as follows:

i) there would be a summary of the whole book right at the beginning

ii) there would be a chapter summary at the beginning of each chapter.

iii) the book summary and all the chapter summaries would be repeated at the back of the book so that readers can consult them easily in sequence without having to page through the book looking for individual summaries.

non fiction stories summary

Visual aspects of multi-level summaries

Summaries of books solely using text often look uninteresting and unappealing. So I think it is important that multi-level summaries use what Robert Horn calls visual language ie. a combination of words, images and shapes. ( Note 5 )

These visual elements can include:

  • diagrams to show the structure of the book and how different ideas connect to each other
  • boxes to separate text and show a hierarchy of importance
  • the use of colour
  • the use of diagrams, icons, tables, timelines and flowcharts to describe ideas
  • text itself being given a visual aspect – eg. capitalisation, text drawn as illustration etc.

There is a continuum between more text and more visual aspects . Different authors and different designers will plump for a different balance.

Sketchnoting, a field developed by designer Mike Rohde, has a great deal to offer multi-level summaries. Rohde defines sketchnotes as “rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes and lines”. ( Note 6 )

There is a great deal of innovation in this field at the moment. The sketchnoters and other visual thinkers whose work I particularly respect include Mike Rohde himself, Dave Gray , Dan Roam ,  Oliver Caviglioli , Rob Dimeo  and Makayla Lewis .

Why multi-level summaries work

This is how multi-level summaries can help with the previously-identified problems about reading non-fiction books .

1.1 Finding it hard to get started

Problem : being confronted with hundreds of pages of text that will take many hours to get through can make it hard to get started.

Solution : the 20 minutes or so needed to read the book and chapter summaries provides an easy way in to starting a book.

2. Giving up on a book

2.1 losing interest.

Problem : many books are not finished because readers lose interest. A common experience is enthusiastically starting a book and then running out of momentum in the middle of Chapter 1 or 2.

Solution : the summaries allow readers to be much clearer about whether the book is going to be worth reading in full and to quickly identify which chapters of the book they are going to find most interesting. In addition, even if they only spend 20 minutes on a book, they will have got the big picture of the book and read the main arguments – in the same time that a reader not having access to multi-level summaries would take to get bogged down in the middle of Chapter 1 and give up.

3.1 Drowning in detail

Problem : when books don’t have a clear structure or summaries of the main points, it’s easy for readers to get confused as they drown in too much detail and lose sight of what the key ideas are.

Solution : having multi-level summaries in addition to the text gives readers the flexibility to choose between detail and context. When they want to focus on detail, they can zoom in to find it in the text. When they’re getting confused, they can zoom out using the multi-level summaries to understand where that detail fits into the big picture.

3.2 Returning to a book after a break

Problem : it’s easy to forget the thread of a book’s argument after putting it down for a few days or a few weeks. Readers then either have to carry on reading superficially without remembering the outline of the book’s argument or spend time struggling to identify the key ideas from the pages they have already read.

Solution : multi-level summaries allow readers to refresh their memories about what they have previously read quickly. That means that they can easily pick up the thread of the book’s argument and therefore carry on reading productively.

4.1 Forgetting a book’s ideas

Problem : many readers complain about how little they remember of a book’s ideas even after they have spent hours reading it. That’s to be expected. Cognitive psychology teaches how easily facts and ideas are forgotten.

Solution : As previously explained, the concept of retrieval practice is increasingly recognised as a key part of helping both children and adults to remember more. When readers come across ideas they want to embed in their memory, having multi-level summaries allow readers to engage in retrieval practice easily.

In addition, having clear explanations of how the detail fits into the big picture can make the book’s ideas more memorable.

4.2 Struggling to work out what action to take

Problem : many books suggest new behaviours and strategies for the reader. If these new strategies and behaviours aren’t summarised adequately, it’s easy for a reader to move on to the next book without taking any action.

Solution : having adequate summaries allows readers to easily revisit the recommended strategies and behaviours once they have finished a book and then decide which, if any, they are going to put into practice.

4.3 Returning to a book

Problem : when readers want to remind themselves of the ideas in a book they have read in the past, a detailed re-read is often needed in order to get to grips with the book again.

Solution : having multi-level summaries means that readers can get an overview of the whole book in 15-20 minutes.

non fiction stories summary

Examples of multi-level summaries

I have provided four examples of summaries. The three by myself comprise a book summary and an individual chapter summary from Cal Newport’s book Deep Work , and a summary of the Conclusion chapter of Tim Shipman’s book about the EU referendum campaign All Out War . I have also included a book summary by Sacha Chua of Josh Kaufman’s book The First 20 Hours .

I make no claim for my summaries being definitive ones. The authors would no doubt want to summarise their ideas in different ways. In addition, designers with much better design skills than mine will be able to produce nicer looking summaries.

However they provide an idea of what summaries can look like.

(i) a book summary created by myself of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (Piatkus, 2016).

non fiction stories summary

Click on the image to see the full pdf.

This summary allows readers to find out in a short time some of the key information about the book:

  • it explains the main argument of the book, provides a definition of the main concept and explains the book’s main hypothesis
  • it provides a simple diagram showing the structure of the book
  • it provides short descriptions of the main arguments for the validity of deep work
  • it outlines all the different strategies for increasing deep work capability, grouped into the four categories.

(ii) an individual chapter summary created by myself of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (Piatkus, 2016).

non fiction stories summary

This chapter summary goes into more detail about the six Work Deeply strategies. It allows readers to see at a glance a summary of each of the six strategies.

(iii) a summary of the Conclusion chapter from Tim Shipman’s book All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class (William Collins, 2016).

For me, this particularly illustrates the power of visual summaries. Tim Shipman’s Conclusion is clearly written. However, in it, he provides a large number of reasons for Brexit, divided into a several categories. It is very hard to keep them all in mind. The visual summary allows the reader to easily see all the reasons grouped together on a single page and then makes it easier for the reader to start reflecting on them.

non fiction stories summary

(iv) a book summary by Sacha Chua of Josh Kaufman’s book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast . This is very much on the visual side of the text-visual continuum.

non fiction stories summary

The full-size graphic can be found at this link – www.sachachua.com/blog/2013/07/visual-book-review-the-first-20- hours-how-to-learn-anything-fast-josh-kaufman .

Objections to multi-level summaries

Here are some of the objections to multi-level book summaries that I can envisage.

1) Dumbing down

Some people may consider multi-level book summaries a form of dumbing down. They may say that books have done a good job for centuries and that creating summaries is pandering to reduced attention spans and the laziness of readers.

I would reply that the current structure of non-fiction books reduces the intellectual engagement that many readers have with the books they read. Having summaries will reduce needless cognitive load and therefore increase their intellectual engagement.

2) Reducing complexity excessively

Some authors may be concerned that multi-level summaries won’t be able to communicate the complexity of their ideas and that therefore the subtlety of their arguments will be ignored by readers who focus just on the summaries. This is a fair point. An answer to this is to make sure that summaries refer to the additional complexities so that readers can follow these up.

3) Book detail being ignored

Authors may also be concerned that many readers will just look at the summaries and ignore their hard work on the text of the book. This may be the case for some readers but they would probably not have finished the book in the first place. The key will be to create interesting enough summaries that will make readers keen to go on to read the detailed explanation in the book.

4) Extra work for authors

Of course creating a multi-level summary is yet another task for an author to complete, even if they hand over the design work to someone else. However, hopefully the benefits of having readers who are more engaged with the book’s ideas will outweigh the burden of the extra work.

5) Making arguments clearer may expose any holes in an author’s argument

The current structure of books makes it easier for authors to hide gaps or weaknesses in their reasoning. Needing to be clearer about the steps in their argument won’t be to the taste of every author.

6) Unsuitability of some books

One category of non-fiction books not suitable for multi-level summaries are those that are mainly stories where the point is to follow the narrative and where having an overview of the book from the beginning would spoil the reading experience.

Benefits for authors

I do think multi-level summaries will have benefits for authors as well as the drawbacks mentioned above. Summaries will make it easier for readers to engage with an author’s ideas and, where applicable, to put the ideas into action.

How may multi-level summaries be developed in practice?

There are four ways in which multi-level summaries may be developed:

(i) authors . I hope that more authors will include multi-level summaries in their own books.

(ii) publishers . I hope that innovative publishers will begin to see the value of multi-level summaries and encourage authors to include them in their books.

(iii) readers . More and more readers are putting sketchnotes or visual summaries of books they have read online. In most cases it is just a book summary so it would be good to have more chapter summaries too.

(iv) book summary companies . Book summary companies tend to summarise the sequential structure of a book and not the different levels of detail. I think there is a big opportunity for innovative book summary companies to start producing multi-level summaries.

Using multi-level summaries in other areas

Multi-level summaries will be especially useful in two other areas – education and training. I will write about these areas in future blog posts.

I believe that multi-level summaries have an important role to play in making non-fiction books easier to understand, remember and act on .

I would be very glad to receive your feedback about the idea of multi-level summaries. Please send me an email through my Contact page .

Get notified of updates

1. An important inspiration for the multi-level summaries concept has been Frederick Reif’s work on the concept of hierarchical knowledge organisation (or hierarchically organised knowledge), which is outlined in Chapter 9 of his book Applying Cognitive Science to Education: Thinking and Learning in Scientific and Other Complex Domains (MIT Press, 2010).

I have also found the holographic/linear concept outlined in Ian Harris and Oliver Caviglioli’s book Think It – Map It! (Network Educational Press, 2003 – pp.28-33) very helpful in developing these ideas – as has been Oliver Caviglioli’s work in general on educational ideas and how they can be explained more effectively through visuals.

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