39 books summarized in 3 lines

39 popular books summarized in 3 sentences or less

When I read nonfiction books, I usually take notes on the key ideas and lessons learned. Recently I added a fun twist to this process. Each time I have finished a book during the past year, I have tried to summarize it in just three sentences or less.

Today, I’m excited to share this list of nuggets and insights with you. As you’ll see below, I have included my three sentence summaries of nearly 40 books. 

These book summaries are not organized by category, so you might find a self-help book followed by a business book followed by a psychology book. It’s like speed reading your way through a library.

For now, I hope you enjoy the lessons below.

Book Summaries by Title

This is a complete list of my book summaries in alphabetical order by title.

10% Happier

by Dan Harris

The Book in Three Sentences: Practicing meditation and mindfulness will make you at least 10 percent happier. Being mindful doesn’t change the problems in your life, but mindfulness does help you respond to your problems rather than react to them. Mindfulness helps you realize that striving for success is fine as long as you accept that the outcome is outside your control.

The 10X Rule

by Grant Cardone

The Book in Three Sentences: The 10X Rule says that 1) you should set targets for yourself that are 10X greater than what you believe you can achieve and 2) you should take actions that are 10X greater than what you believe are necessary to achieve your goals. The biggest mistake most people make in life is not setting goals high enough. Taking massive action is the only way to fulfill your true potential.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life

by Anna Quindlen

The Book in Three Sentences: The only thing you have that nobody else has is control of your life. The hardest thing of all is to learn to love the journey, not the destination. Get a real life rather than frantically chasing the next level of success.

A Technique for Producing Ideas

by James Webb Young

The Book in Three Sentences: An idea occurs when you develop a new combination of old elements. The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on your ability to see relationships. All ideas follow a five-step process of 1) gathering material, 2) intensely working over the material in your mind, 3) stepping away from the problem, 4) allowing the idea to come back to you naturally, and 5) testing your idea in the real world and adjusting it based on feedback.


Adapt

by Tim Harford

The Book in Three Sentences: Seek out new ideas and try new things. When trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable. Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along.

Anything You Want

by Derek Sivers

The Book in Three Sentences: Too many people spend their life pursuing things that don’t actually make them happy. When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you create all the laws. Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers.

Are You Fully Charged?

by Tom Rath

The Book in Three Sentences: There are three keys to being fully charged each day: doing work that provides meaning to your life, having positive social interactions with others, and taking care of yourself so you have the energy you need to do the first two things. Trying to maximize your own happiness can actually make you feel self-absorbed and lonely, but giving more can drive meaning and happiness in your life. People who spend money on experiences are happier than those who spend on material things.

The Art of Possibility

by Rosamund Zander and Benjamin Zander

The Book in Three Sentences: Everything in life is an invention. If you choose to look at your life in a new way, then suddenly your problems fade away. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on the possibilities surrounding you in any situation rather than slipping into the default mode of measuring and comparing your life to others.

The Art of Profitability

by Adrian Slywotzky

The Book in Three Sentences: There are many ways to make profit and it is unlikely that your business all of them. People will pay different prices for the same thing in different situations (think: Coke in the grocery store vs. Coke in a nice restaurant). Good profit models are easy to brainstorm and hard to execute.

The Art of War

by Sun Tzu

The Book in Three Sentences: Know when to fight and when not to fight: avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak. Know how to deceive the enemy: appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. Know your strengths and weaknesses: if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

Bird by Bird

by Anne Lamott

The Book in Three Sentences: To become a better writer, you have to write more. Writing reveals the story because you have to write to figure out what you’re writing about. Don’t judge your initial work too harshly because every writer has terrible first drafts.

Born Standing Up

by Steve Martin

The Book in Three Sentences: Steve Martin was one of the most successful comedians of his generation. In his words, his career involved “10 years spent learning, 4 years spent refining, and 4 years spent in wild success.” This fantastic book provided beautiful insights not only into the details of his comedy act, but also into his early life and career development.

The Compound Effect

by Darren Hardy

The Book in Three Sentences: The compound effect is the strategy of reaping huge rewards from small, seemingly insignificant actions. You cannot improve something until you measure it. Always take 100 percent responsibility for everything that happens to you.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

by John Perkins

The Book in Three Sentences: The United States is engaging in a modern form of slavery by using the World Bank and other international organizations to offer huge loans to developing nations for construction projects and oil production. On the surface this appears to be generous, but the money is only awarded to a country if it agrees to hire US construction firms, which ensures a select few people get rich. Furthermore, the loans are intentionally too big for any developing nation to repay and this debt burden virtually guarantees the developing nation will support the political interests of the United States.

Fooled by Randomness

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Book in Three Sentences: Randomness, chance, and luck influence our lives and our work more than we realize. Because of hindsight bias and survivorship bias, in particular, we tend to forget the many who fail, remember the few who succeed, and then create reasons and patterns for their success even though it was largely random. Mild success can be explainable by skills and hard work, but wild success is usually attributable to variance and luck.

Free Will

by Sam Harris

The Book in Three Sentences: We do not have the freedom and free will that we think we do. Yes, you can make conscious choices, but everything that makes up those conscious choices (your thoughts, your wants, your desires) is determined by prior causes outside your control. Just because you can do what you want does not mean you have free will because you are not choosing what you want in the first place.

The Goal

by Eliyahu Goldratt

The Book in Three Sentences: Doing work and making money are not the same thing. Simplify your problem to the point where you understand the true goal of your organization. With your goal in mind, identify the constraints within your system (i.e. bottlenecks) and focus on improving the output of that constraint without worrying about the productivity of all related processes.

Guns, Germs, and Steel

by Jared Diamond

The Book in Three Sentences: Some environments provide more starting materials and more favorable conditions for utilizing inventions and building societies than other environments. This is particularly notable in the rise of European peoples, which occurred because of environmental differences and not because of biological differences in the people themselves. There are four primary reasons Europeans rose to power and conquered the natives of North and South America, and not the other way around: 1) the continental differences in the plants and animals available for domestication, which led to more food and larger populations in Europe and Asia, 2) the rate of diffusion of agriculture, technology and innovation due to the geographic orientation of Europe and Asia (east-west) compared to the Americas (north-south), 3) the ease of intercontinental diffusion between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and 4) the differences in continental size, which led to differences in total population size and technology diffusion.

Ignore Everybody

by Hugh MacLeod

The Book in Three Sentences: We do not have the freedom and free will that we think we do. Yes, you can make conscious choices, but everything that makes up those conscious choices (your thoughts, your wants, your desires) is determined by prior causes outside your control. Just because you can do what you want does not mean you have free will because you are not choosing what you want in the first place.

Incognito

by David Eagleman

The Book in Three Sentences: Conscious thought has a surprisingly small impact on your life and most of your behaviors are driven by the unconscious mind. There are competing beliefs within your unconscious mind that are all battling for the single output of your conscious behavior. The complex interactions between your genetics and your environment determine the trajectory of your life.

Intimations of Paradise

by Christopher Burkett

The Book in Three Sentences: A book of 73 photos by master landscape photographer Christopher Burkett.

Just Mercy

by Bryan Stevenson

The Book in Three Sentences: The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. Simply punishing the broken only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

by Kamal Ravikant

The Book in Three Sentences: Everyone has a truth that they need to live and share. For the author, that truth was committing to the daily practice of repeating the phrase “I love myself.” When you love yourself, life loves you back.

Manual for Living

by Epictetus

The Book in Three Sentences: Some things are in your power and some are not—do not confuse the two and do not desire the things that are not in your power. It is our opinion of things that determines how we feel about a particular event, not the event itself. Think carefully about how you spend your life because people often spend their lives chasing things that are neither as desirable nor as important as they seem.

Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews

by Calvin Tomkins

The Book in Three Sentences: This book is a collection of transcriptions from a series of interviews between writer Calvin Tomkins and artist Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp believed strongly in doing work that was free from tradition and starting with as much of a blank slate as possible. He was also quite playful, worked slowly, and saw laziness as a good thing.

Mastermind Dinners

by Jayson Gaignard

The Book in Three Sentences: Hosting dinners with like-minded people is one of the most powerful way to build fantastic relationships in business and in life. You should think carefully about who you invite to these meals and look for uncommon commonalities that make it more likely the guests will resonate with one another. Be the gatekeeper of your network and assume responsibility for the people you surround yourself with in life.

Not Fade Away

by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton

The Book in Three Sentences: It is more important to live fully than to live in a straight line. The surest gauge of the impact a life makes is how many other lives it touches. Nothing in life looks the same once you truly understand that you are not exempt from death.

The Nurture Assumption

by Judith Rich Harris

The Book in Three Sentences: The two classic drivers of human development are nature (genes) and nurture (environment). Many people mistakenly believe nurture only refers to how parents raise their children. Although children do learn things from their parents, they learn far more from their peers. The world that children share with their peer group is what shapes their behavior, modifies the characteristics they were born with, and determines the sort of people they will be when they grow up.

On the Move: A Life

by Oliver Sacks

The Book in Three Sentences: Oliver Sacks was a brilliant physician and a fantastic writer. He lived a full life that included dealing with criticism over being gay, attending medical school at Oxford University, experimenting with heavy drug use, traveling the United States and Canada by motorcycle, suffering life threatening injuries, squatting a California state record of 600 pounds, and being honored by the Queen of England for his many books and storied career as a physician. Sacks is a symbol of the importance of writing, the power of exploration and inquisitiveness, and the need for empathy.

The Power of Fifty Bits

by Bob Nease

The Book in Three Sentences: The human brain is wired for inattention and inertia. As a result, many people already have good intentions, but don’t follow through due to forgetfulness, procrastination, or a general lack of awareness. We can bridge the gap between our intentions and our behavior by using strategies to lock in our future behavior like active choice, pre-commitment, good design, reframing, and simplicity.

The Practicing Mind

by Thomas M. Sterner
The Book in Three Sentences: All of life is practice in one form or another. Actively practicing something is very different from passively learning. You will never reach a level of performance that feels complete, so learn to love the art of practicing your skill.

Resplendent Light

by Christopher Burkett

The Book in Three Sentences: A book of 68 photos by master landscape photographer Christopher Burkett.

The Reason I Jump

by Naoki Higashida
The Book in Three Sentences: This book is an autobiography written by a 13-year-old boy from Japan about what it is like to live with autism. The way autistic people view the world is very different than the way we may perceive them to view the world. This disconnect between how we view and treat people with autism and how they actually view the world makes living with autism is even more difficult than it already is.

The Richest Man in Babylon

by George S. Clason
The Book in Three Sentences: Save at least 10 percent of everything you earn and do not confuse your necessary expenses with your desires. Work hard to improve your skills and ensure a future income because wealth is the result of a reliable income stream. You cannot arrive at the fullest measure of success until you crush the spirit of procrastination within you.

Sapiens

by Yuval Noah Harari
The Book in Three Sentences: Human history has been shaped by three major revolutions: the Cognitive Revolution (70,000 years ago), the Agricultural Revolution (10,000 years ago), and the Scientific Revolution (500 years ago). These revolutions have empowered humans to do something no other form of life has done, which is to create and connect around ideas that do not physically exist (think religion, capitalism, and politics). These shared “myths” have enabled humans to take over the globe and have put humankind on the verge of overcoming the forces of natural selection.

Stumbling on Happiness

by Dan Gilbert
The Book in Three Sentences: What makes humans different from every other animal is that we think about the future. However, our brains fall victim to a wide range of biases that cause our predictions of the future (and our memories of the past) to be inaccurate. Because of these mental errors it is remarkably difficult to predict what will make us feel happy.

Superhuman by Habit

by Tynan
The Book in Three Sentences: You can do just about anything if you break down the task into habits. You are more likely to stick with good habits over the long run if you start with tiny habits that are incredibly easy in the beginning. When you miss a habit once, getting back on track and sticking with the next occurrence of that habit should become the top priority in your life.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

by Marshall Goldsmith

The Book in Three Sentences: Behavioral problems, not technical skills, are what separate the great from the near great. Incredible results can come from practicing basic behaviors like saying thank you, listening well, thinking before you speak, and apologizing for your mistakes. The first step to change is wanting to change.

Who Moved My Cheese?

by Spencer Johnso

The Book in Three Sentences: Letting go of what we know is hard, but essential for growth and improvement. The quicker you let go of old things, the sooner you can learn new skills and create a better future. When you change what you believe, you can change what you do.

 

 

Credits to james clear. http://www.jamesclear.com

 

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