Why I Don't Read Those Business-Book Summaries

Joe Wikert sings the praises of business book summary services like getAbstract. I don’t read "summaries."

Could the World is Flat be summed up in one sentence? Probably. Key word: globalization.

Could Freakonomics be summed up as "correlation does not equal causation"? Perhaps.

Could Execution be summed up with "Execution is more important than strategy." Definitely. This is the only thing I got out of the book.

But "getting the point" of a business book is not why I read business books. (I don’t read many business books in the first place, most are bullshit.)

I learn best reading books because it’s at once entertaining, informative, and reflective. That is, while reading I will reflect. If it’s a memoir, I’ll reflect the story at hand to my own life. If it’s about business, I’ll think about my own business in the context of the book. If it’s about economics, I’ll conjure my own theories while reading. There are very few places in today’s hyperconnected world where we have time to think. Reading is this place for me. Every so often I find myself just staring at a page and not processing the words; my mind is elsewhere. I’m "busy" to people around me, and now have time to think.

If you want to understand the three main points of a book, read a book review. If you want to dive deeper and think while reading, read the book.

7 Responses to Why I Don't Read Those Business-Book Summaries

  1. Sam Kaufman says:

    I agree entirely.

    Besides, you often gather very different information from a book than the author intended–from anecdotes or historial examples, for instance. I would guess that plenty of readers first learned from The Tipping Point that William Dawes also rode on Paul Revere’s “Midnight Ride” rather than from a history class.

  2. Joe Wikert says:

    Hi Ben. Thanks for visiting my blog and adding your point of view regarding book summaries. I think you make an excellent point. I’m curious to see how many times I’ll want to read the whole book after reading one of these summaries. I don’t doubt it will happen at some point, but I’ve read 7 or 8 of them now and haven’t found one I want to read in its entirety yet. Nevertheless, I can definitely see what you’re saying and I realize I may not be the norm on this point.

  3. Zoli Erdos says:

    Ben, you are reading for the experience of reading, the thinking process, and the knowledge you gain – in short, you’re reading for yourself, and no quick summaries will do for you.

    There are a lot of people who want to pretend to be more well-informed, well-read then they are, and they might get away with the shallow knowledge you get from reading summaries :-) So for them this works.

    As a compromise, I can imagine a situation where I am heading to a group discussion knowing a certain book will be the subject and I may quickly want to at least know what it’s about (akin to reading the preface + toc). But I would not pretend I actually read the book …

  4. Zoli Erdos says:

    I take some of what I said back – not that I don’t believe in it, but it’s not valid for this specific site.
    The prices are ridiculous, $179 for 6 months or $399 for a year. Those rates exclude the casual user, this is really for the show-off types who think they can prentend they read 100 business books in a year.
    “Real” people who actually are interestes in those books might as well buy 2-3 business books per month for the same price.

  5. Andy says:

    Ben I agree that those summaries are bad but for a different reason — in order to believe something, I think that you have to be convinced of why it works or how it makes sense. From just reading your synopsis on Execution, for example, I gain nothing. I would have to read the book and agree with the point before I’d actually want to apply it to my decisions in life.

  6. Happy birthday, Mr. Casnocha. Enjoying your blog!

  7. Whoops, wrong month, but I still enjoy the blog, lol.

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