Book Summaries

This page shares a list of book summaries I have compiled over the years. I have tried to summarize each book in one paragraph as a quick way to share the main ideas of the book. If you’re interested in the details of a particular book, click on the title of the book and you can read all of my notes on it. 

I have given each book a rating and sorted the books according to rating. The categories can vary quite a bit from one book to the next, so feel free to pick and choose which books you find interesting to read more on.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown (10/10) Very few things actually matter in life. Things that do matter include your family, your health, and your contribution to the world through your work. The way to increase both happiness and productivity is not through doing more, but through removing more. Say “yes” to what is essential in your life and say “no” to the rest.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (10/10) “Resistance” is the invisible force that prevents us from getting our most important work done. In general, the more important a piece of work is to our own development, the more Resistance we will face. Resistance is not something that goes away either; we must fight it each day when we choose to sit down and work on our art.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (10/10) Sleep enhances our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, immune system failure, stroke, heart failure, cancer, dementia, skin problems, and overeating. 

Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert (9/10) Humans have a tendency to fall victim to a wide range of biases that cause many of our predictions about the future and even memories of the past to be inaccurate. This makes it surprisingly difficult to predict what will make us feel happy.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (9/10) The only way to become a better writer is to write more. Nobody writes a perfect first draft. All good writing starts with terrible first efforts.

On Writing by Stephen King (9/10) The way to become a better writer is to read a lot and write a lot. This is simple but not easy to do. It’s important to cut out all distractions when you write. Shut the door to your room, make your desk face the wall, and leave all technology outside the room if you must. All great writing involves a boatload of editing and revising. 

Wealth, Poverty, and Politics by Thomas Sowell (9/10) There is no single reason that can explain the differences in income and wealth among individuals, races, nations or civilizations. There are countless factors and combinations of factors like geography, culture, social factors, and politics that vary so much from one nation to the next that it would actually be a miracle if somehow income and wealth was equally distributed throughout the world.

Keep Going by Austin Kleon (9/10) The creative life is not a linear journey to a finish line, but rather a loop. This means you should find a daily routine that you can repeat over and over again, that fuels your creativity and allows you to keep doing what you do for as long as you live. Cultivate creativity by going for walks and by disconnecting from the world often. Worry less about getting things done and more about the worth of what you’re doing.

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (8/10) We are always in one of three stages in life: aspiring, succeeding, or failing. Conquering our ego -the unhealthy belief in our own importance – helps us be humble in our aspirations, gracious in our success, and resilient in our failures.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason (8/10) Pay yourself before you pay others. Spend less than you earn and invest the difference. Avoid buying things that have little or no value after a few months. Spend time accumulating skills and knowledge that others will pay you for.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (8/10) The way to live a good life is to only give a f*ck about things that you find important and meaningful. Don’t give a f*ck about anything else. Every life has its own set of unique problems. You can find happiness through solving problems as they arise, not through avoiding them.

Atomic Habits by James Clear (8/10) If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves not because you don’t want to change but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. The way to make good habits easier to implement is to make them obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. The way to make bad habits harder to implement is to make them invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying.

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson (8/10) Simple daily decisions made consistently over time is the only way to achieve anything meaningful. Things that are easy to do are equally easy not to do. Your daily decisions won’t affect where you are tomorrow or next week, but they will determine where you’ll be a few years from now.

Grit by Angela Duckworth (8/10) Most people are obsessed with talent, but effort is the one variable you can control and should focus on. The number one predictor of achievement is grit, which is the ability to stick with something even when it’s hard. To develop grit, you can cultivate interests, develop and habit of daily practice and work on a purpose beyond yourself.

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams (8/10) Research shows that spending time in nature can boost cognition, reduce anxiety, improve mood, and enhance creative thinking. Even small doses of nature like house plants, 10-minute outdoor walks, and screensavers of forests have been shown to improve overall well-being.

Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (8/10) Asymmetries exist all over the place in society. In most transactions, one party typically has more information than the other. In many professions, there is no penalty for giving bad advice. In many industries, one group is able to take risk without incurring potential losses. Skin in the game – having exposure to both upside and downside – is the solution to most problems involving asymmetry. 

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine (7/10) Stoicism is a set of techniques and beliefs that can be used to live a good life. The core principles of stoic philosophy include: practicing gratitude, controlling desires, experiencing joy in the present, and recognizing that status and material possessions rarely lead to happiness.

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca (7/10) Life is short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future. However, life is long if you know how to use your time wisely. Live immediately, recognize your own mortality, guard your time carefully, and don’t put important things off. 

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday (7/10) You can’t always control what obstacles you will face in life. You can, however, control your reaction to them. If you’re willing, you can treat every obstacle as an opportunity to get better, stronger, or tougher.

The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards (6/10) The behavior gap refers to the gap between investment returns and investor returns. Due to fear, greed, and irrationally, most people buy and sell at the wrong times and lose money. The best investment strategy is often the simplest investment strategy.

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (6/10) Humans have an innate tendency to trade goods and services, which drives human progress and prosperity. As people continue to specialize in their skills, prosperity will likely continue to increase in the future.

Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod (6/10) It takes a long time to find your own unique creative voice. The only way to improve is to simply put in the hours. The people who stick with something the longest are usually the ones that experience the most success in the long run. When you come up with truly unique ideas, it will difficult for other people to give you advice. Ignore everybody.

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