I read books to make better decisions and understand how things work. I also forget a lot of what I read.

These book summaries are my way of retaining more information and understanding the books better. I share them online as free tools, and I hope you’ll find them helpful!

About my book summaries

Why are my book summaries so long?

My goal is to capture 90% of the key information of the book in 10% of the text. If I later forget what a book’s about, I can quickly recover most of its content by reading my summary. Thus my summaries usually have between a 10:1 to 20:1 page ratio – a 300-page book will be condensed to 15-30 pages.

Most other summaries I’ve seen capture just 30% of the information in 2% of the text – a 300-page book might be captured in 6 pages. While these shorter summaries do contain the main points, I find them unhelpful for actually changing my behavior. When the summaries are too high-level, they just read like platitudes, not compelling enough to change what you’re doing. No one reads the Ten Commandments and suddenly stops coveting things.

Instead, in my summaries, I reinforce a book’s main points with its key research studies and illustrative anecdotes. I like questioning a book’s objectivity, looking for the cited research papers and countervailing evidence. My summaries also include discussion questions and ways to apply the teachings to your personal situation.

How can it be that a book can be compressed to 10% of the text without losing much of the information? 

My summary comprehension works like .zip file compression, in that repeated content is discarded. Instead of rephrasing important points 9 different ways, I state them once; from many supporting examples, I choose only the most compelling few. If the author rambles into unhelpful territory, I discard it.

Necessarily, a lot of information might be lost in the compression. My summary has to omit much of the character and rhetoric of the original books, and most of the author’s original voice. In all cases, if you like a book summary, I encourage you to buy and read the original book. They often contain more personality than my (rather dry) writing. Most writers and readers would probably agree that for high-quality books, there really is no replacement for the original.

How much of the summary is faithful to the book vs. your interpretation?

For the bulk of the summary, I’m faithful to the author and what’s presented in the book. As a reader, you’re probably more interested in what the book is saying and less interested in what I think about the book.

My attitude when reading books is, “what are the best things I can get out of this book?” I don’t obsess over its weaknesses and I don’t dismiss the book wholesale, like some critics do. Even lower-quality books have something to take away.

When I add my own commentary or examples, I enclose them in [brackets]. So any disagreement with things in [brackets] should be directed at me!

 

Of the dozens of books I've read, these are my all-time favorites. These have materially improved my life in the years since I've read them, and they're relevant to pretty much anyone doing anything. I suggest you check out my summaries below, or the full books on Amazon:

 

List of summaries

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel

Traction, by Gino Wickman

The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell

An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison

How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

Make Your Bed, by William H. McRaven

The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan

Turn the Ship Around, by L. David Marquet

Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyle

The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson

The Ideal Team Player, by Patrick M. Lencioni

The Power of Moments, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell

The Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin

The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

Essentialism, by Greg McKeown

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig

Eat That Frog!, by Brian Tracy

Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan

Minimalism, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick M. Lencioni

Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser

The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham

The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber

The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John D. Mann

Leadership and Self-Deception, by The Arbinger Institute

Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain

The Plant Paradox, by Steven R. Gundry

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs, by William N. Thorndike

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon

How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas C. Foster

The Richest Man in Babylon, by George S. Clason

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury

David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell

The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod

First Things First, by Stephen R. Covey

Measure What Matters, by John Doerr

Peak, by Anders Ericsson

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

The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale

Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow

The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

The Five People You Meet In Heaven, by Mitch Albom

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch

Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck

Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann

The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins

Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom

Getting Things Done, by David Allen

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

The One-Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

The One Thing, by Gary Keller

Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

Nudge, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Educated, by Tara Westover

The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk

The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman

Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne

Moneyball, by Michael Lewis

A Warning, by Anonymous

Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray

The Black Swan, by Nassim Taleb

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas C. Foster

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch

The Art of War, by Sun Tzu

The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell

The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

Hillbilly Elegy, by JD Vance

Influence, by Robert Cialdini

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis

Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl

The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz

Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book

The Hacker’s Diet, by John Walker

Never Binge Again, by Glenn Livingston

The PayPal Wars, by Eric Jackson

Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies, by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy, by Joan Magretta

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, by Mortimer Adler

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts, by Ryan Holiday>

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond, by Judith Beck

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The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

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Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

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The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, by Bethany McLean

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Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, by Scott Adams

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Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana

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How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

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Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker

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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou

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Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World Forward, by Adam Grant

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Sam Walton: Made in America, by Sam Walton

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12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan Peterson

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The Lessons of History, by Will & Ariel Durant

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Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, by Nesse and Williams

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An American Sickness, by Elisabeth Rosenthal

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Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies Make Billions Selling Our Medical Records, by Adam Tanner

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Essentials of the US Healthcare System, by Shi and Singh

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The Road Ahead, by Bill Gates

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The Everything Store, by Brad Stone

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Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, by Carlota Perez

hooked_cover

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal

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The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, by Eliyahu Goldratt

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Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, by Thomas Sowell

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Principles: Life and Work, by Ray Dalio

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A Theory of Fun for Game Design, by Raph Koster

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

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Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong, by Emily Oster

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Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by Renee Mauborgne and W Chan Kim

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The Upstarts (Uber and Airbnb History), by Brad Stone

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Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink

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The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight

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Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, by Paul Marciano

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Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success, by Adam Grant

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Poor Charlie’s Almanack, by Charlie Munger

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Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth

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Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, by Tim Ferriss

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How Not to Die, by Michael Greger

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