“So many books, so little time.” — Frank Zappa
Ever since humans learned to read and write, everything changed.
We could pass on information and wisdom to the next generations and that’s the reason for our dramatic growth.
We all know the importance of books. Yet, not all of us can read books as often as we’d like to. Here are a few reasons for that:
- Lack of time and energy
- Shortening of attention span (due to technology and social media)
- The confusion of which book to read next
So we either turn to book summaries or we don’t read at all.
But there’s a problem…
When you read a book summary, you hear voices like:
“Reading summaries of books does NOT replace reading books.”
“Book summaries are NOT enough!”
Should You Read Book Summaries?
The short answer is yes.
Of course, book summary websites, apps, or videos don’t replace books. But that doesn’t mean they don’t provide value.
In fact, they provide more value than you could ever get from the passive consumption of social media.
Instead of choosing between reading book summaries or reading books, why not do both?
I’ve read book summaries of so many books that I will never touch in my life and I still read the books I want to read.
The best part?
I’ve already done the hard work for you and compiled a list of websites with free book summaries (especially nonfiction book summaries) along with the summarizer’s best or favorite book summary to start with.
Let’s dive in.
The Best Websites To Read Book Summaries (Free & Paid)
Best Book Summary Apps And Subscription Services
Some famous apps include spark notes or cliff notes. Cliffs notes is mostly for students while Sparknotes is for literature and fiction book summaries. But if you’re looking for summaries of nonfiction books, here are the top apps and websites like Sparknotes (for non-fiction):
Blinkist is the first app that comes to mind when we speak of book summaries. It really is a wonderful app and best for listening to the summaries on the go.
Out of all the Blinkist alternatives, Shortform is one of the best I’ve read or listened to. summarizes books in detail, but it also works as a book guide with exercises.
Note: You can use the link below to get a 5-day free trial plus 20% off your annual membership.
Instaread is big on quality over quantity. If you prefer long in-depth book summaries, it can be a great app for you.
If you’re looking for book summaries on self-improvement, it’s got to be Brian Johnson’s Philosophers Notes. They are plain epic.
Folks at Readingraphics are doing a brilliant job. They provide audios, PDFs, and even infographics for the books. Infographics are great since you can revisit them to remember the big ideas from the books.
If book summaries weren’t enough, how about summaries of articles, reports, and videos such as TED talks? You get all of that at Getabstract in addition to the in-depth book summaries.
Headway uses gamification and spaced repetition to make learning easy and fun. They mainly focus on self-development books.
Read or listen to business and personal development book summaries in less than 12 minutes. Their catalog is not the biggest out there, but it’s still a good service if you want to get the biggest ideas from books in less time.
Bookey provides long book summaries in audio and text forms. They also give you a mind map for each summary so you can also get the key points in a digestible format.
Best Free Book Summary Websites Or Blogs
10. James Clear
James is a famous blogger in the self-improvement niche and shares his “informal” notes which are a combination of quotes from the books and his own insights.
11. Derek Sivers
Derek shares his insights or highlights from the books he reads so he can reflect on them later.
12. Nat Eliason
Nat’s notes are crisp, to-the-point, written in short sentences. Once you start reading, you will keep scrolling for more.
Arthur’s blog is a goldmine for lifelong learners. He summarizes books in no-nonsense lists, bullet points, subheadings, and easy to follow sentences.
Start with: Getting Things Done By David Allen
If you’re looking for a giant library of book synopsis, look no further than Nik’s Four Minute Books. He further summarizes books from the Blinklist app with 3 big lessons and his own personal takeaway.
Start with: The One Thing By Gary Keller
Sam provides five big ideas for each book and then continues writing a longer book summary by chapter.
Start with: Essentialism by Greg McKeown
16. Paul Minors
Speaking of organizing, Paul’s book summaries make such good reads. You can scan, read or skip as you scroll down because they are written keeping the reader in mind.
Start with: You Are A Badass By Jen Sincero
17. Alex J. Hughes
Alex writes slick book notes that you can visit anytime you want to read or re-read the gist of books he has summarized.
Start with: Atomic Habits By James Clear
They not only provide book summaries in text, but they also create graphics that go along with the posts. It’s super useful if you’re a visual learner.
Start with: Principles: Life And Work By Ray Dalio
19. Actionable Books
Actionable books is an incredible website that summarizes books and provides an amazing reading experience.
Start with: The Magic of Thinking Big By Dr. David Schwartz
Nils’ and Jonas’ summaries are remarkable. They break down the books into sub-headings and then cover the details so you can read them like you read articles.
Start with: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Another gem with a great reading experience. I love the simplicity of Basile’s and Ali’s summaries.
Start with: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck By Mark Manson (Paperback | Audiobook)
Kyle summarizes just the kind of books I love reading. Learning how to live is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.
23. Ivaylo Durmonski
Ivaylo does a great job at distilling down the books into key takeaways and then explaining them further.
Start with: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
How To Read A Book Summary
Here’s a quick rundown of the different ways you can use these book summary websites:
- Read summaries of books to dip your toes before buying them.
- Read them to revisit the best concepts from a book (because repetition is the mother of lifelong learning).
- Read them to hunt for books to read.
- Read them like you read articles.
- Actually apply the lessons you learn from these summaries because learning more is not always the answer.
The last thing you need is a plan for reading the best book summaries. It won’t fit in your schedule by accident. For that, determine your reading frequency, set a trigger, create a focused environment and get reading.
- Reading frequency: 5 book summaries a week
- Trigger: Reminder on my phone
- Environment: Remove distractions (you can use FocusMe, Freedom, or Cold Turkey)
- Set a reward (optional)
We live in an information age where we jump from one article to another. That’s no way to accelerate your learning. You need focused time-blocks to read what matters. You can learn more about how I read books or articles by clicking here.
Readwise is a great tool to gather all your book notes and use spaced repetition to remember what you read.
Books are still one of the best sources of learning. Now that you know where to find the best-summarized version of them, it’s your turn to “hack” your way through life one book summary at a time.
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