In high school I bought and read the CliffsNotes for Macbeth: I thought I was pretty savvy. Even though we read Macbeth in class and the teacher tried to explain it as we read it, the CliffsNotes, I recall, helped give me more context.
Book summaries are a great way to get the context: the main idea. A summary can entice you to want to know more, to read the full book, study deeper. With so many books available on every topic imaginable a book summary can help you get the gist of what the author wants you to know. They can save you time determining if you want to read the book, study the subject further or leave it as that.
Book summaries are like the try before you buy option you can get on so many products and services these days. Free summaries tend to be aligned to a thought leader who’s sharing their insights into a book (see Jame’s Clear’s list).
There’s nothing wrong with just reading summaries but it’s widely unused amongst people who invest in growing their knowledge from deeper reading.
Reading a book is more than the ideas that are sparked from you reading it, it’s the total thinking you do while you read that matters. (A great justification for a book club – where you can share your thinking.)
A summary lacks depth and can be seen as too easy where reading takes you deeper in to a theory, evidence, process: it’s an activity of prestige.
That all being said, I value my Blinkist subscription as it can help me create a reading list. It guides me when I’m researching a topic. So a quality book summary is a valuable part of my business tool kit. I don’t use it in isolation however, when I want to explore a topic I check out the current best seller, the classic (has stood the test of time), and what the summaries and reviews (like Good Reads) offer.
Do you use book summaries?
If not, is there a specific reason why not?
If you do, what’s your favourite one and why?
Here’s a list of summaries I found: