“No two persons ever read the same book.” – Edmund Wilson
I find it very difficult to remember everything I read in a book. After some time I even forget the bigger ideas or core concepts. For fictional books I don’t mind so much. I read them for fun. But with non-fictional books it is different. I read them to get better and grow. Reading them is an investment into my future. It should pay off!
As I don’t have time to re-read the books, I started to summarize them. Even if I forget something, I could read my summary and recall the important information. Doing it for the last 2 years I realized that summarizing had some positive side effects.
- Summarizing is like learning with rocket fuel. You retain much more
- You learn how to extract information and chunk it
- You learn to distinguish better between important and unimportant information
I write all my summaries into one place. Every 3 months I read them all. Looking for information I can use in my current situation. Also, it puts the information into a bigger context. I see relations between the books and their topics. I gain a greater and more accurate insight of the topic.
How to summarize
I summarize in two steps.
Step one: While I read the book I stop at the end of every chapter. I go over it again and write down the important information. Most of the time I just copy the key sentences and quotes. Occasionally it makes more sense to write down the ideas in your own words. Sometimes I point to other books, especially if both books have the same idea or concept under different names. I like to keep the books order, so I use the same headlines.
Step two: After completely reading the book, I write a one page summary. Something that explains the main ideas of the book and their effects. Also, I rate the book, on a scale from 1 to 10.
As I look at reading as an investment, I always ask myself: Is this information useful in 5 years? Will this help me (ever)? If something isn’t important in five years, I will not summarize it.
Always remember that time is the most important currency. Don’t waste it! Read a book once, but right! Write a summary!
Call on Action:
Write summaries for all books you read!