It’s December 2016 and I’ve taken the afternoon to review and reflect on the last 12 months of my life.
For the first time ever I’ve managed to read 150 books in a year. I won’t lie, I’m feeling pretty smug.
But that was the high point.
Because when I tried to write down the top things I’d learned from those books I got… nothing.
Nada. Zero. White noise.
Beyond a few general ideas, I had literally no detailed memory of the works I’d just spent hundreds of hours of my year reading.
And so I began to write book summaries.
Why? Two reasons:
First – I realised I’d get far more from investing deeply in one excellent book and really connecting with it than reading 100 great books with cursory intimacy. (The same, it took me a long time to learn, goes for people.)
Second – I remembered from university that the only topics I’d understood with real clarity were those I’d written essays on.
Forcing yourself to rephrase and restructure information in your own words is by far the best way to build (and also the only real test for) understanding.
And here’s another pro tip: Forcing yourself to teach that information to someone else puts that same method into overdrive.
Why should that discovery matter to you? Because if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re the kind of curious, thoughtful person who would love to accelerate their learning.
And if that’s the case, then perhaps the best thing you can be doing is not reading more book summaries or articles, but writing them.
If you write even one summary of your own this year, I promise you you’ll get more from the process than reading ten more books on the topic or a hundred 3rd party synopses.
Where should you start? If you haven’t already, grab a copy of my free 10-step effective reading cheat sheet from the top of the “Read More” section of F2M. (This is the same overall process I use to write all the book summaries on the site.)
Next – pick a book. Revisit something you love, or get inspiration from F2M’s growing number of reading lists.
Then – read, digest and summarise. Don’t worry if this process takes time or feels hard. Do what you can, from where you are, with what you have and you’ll improve as you go along.
Summarising a book means closing the gap between your mind and that of an author. That’s a tough thing to do, even with decades of practice, but the rewards are well worth it.
Finally – (optional, though recommended) post your efforts online. This was probably one of the hardest steps I took mentally but also the most rewarding.
Not only has doing so taken my summaries (and understanding) to the next level, it’s also connected me with wonderful people like you.
Where should you publish? A great, free option is something like Medium.com. It’s the “YouTube of writing” and a wonderful, low-risk environment to get started in.
Or (like me) you can go straight to a blog.
Getting a basic, no-tech-skills-needed blog up and running takes about 30 minutes and is honestly as easy as that. (Of course, there’s tons more to learn, but if you get that far, let me know and I’ll send you some resources to help.)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that reading without summarising is pointless. Devouring books, summaries and articles is an invaluable habit and skill.
But if you’re already a voracious reader and want to throw a life-changing curveball into the mix here’s my suggestion:
Read less. Write more.
Clear writing means clear thinking. Clear thinking means clear action. And clear action is the key to happiness – for you and the people around you.
Take the leap from consumer to creator and see what happens. Because as someone who’s experienced both sides I can tell you, the grass on this side of the fence is pretty awesome.