Introduction: How to Summarize a Book for Professional Development
After you have read a book, if there are potential ways that the information can help you, make note of it. I also want to discuss how to summarize a book for professional development. According to How to Read a Book, there are three main reasons why you read a book – for entertainment, information, and to deepen your knowledge on a topic. Reading should be an educational journey, even if you are reading for entertainment. Great ideas can come from any genre of books, even fiction.
When you are reading for information or to deepen your knowledge on a topic, you often have questions that you would like to answer. While you are reading, always have the questions in the back of your mind. Study the questions until they become second nature to you.
While I’m reading, I make notes in a notebook, but sometime I also make notes in the front and back covers of the books, if I do not want to interrupt the flow of the text. If it’s a book that I’m reviewing, I often wait a few days after I have finished reading the book to digest its contents. I have discovered that I often have a delayed reaction to the book, and some of the points that strike me as most significant often come later. This could be because I am an introvert.
Additional Thoughts on How to Summarize a Book for Professional Development
Since I first wrote this post over six years ago, I have read many books. And I have learned many new things. I would like to think that I have evolved and grown and can add more to the conversation. Every book has a structure, core ideas and secondary ideas. If you are reading the book for professional development, you must have an understanding of it. The structure of a book is the table of contents. But these days, I have noticed that many books, including non-fiction ones, do not have a table of contents.
To find out what the core ideas and secondary ideas of a book are, requires a bit more work. You have to pre-scan the book, which you should be doing at all times, to get an idea of what the book is about. To do this, requires that you preview the table of contents; read the preface and introduction; dip into sections of the book that interest you, reading a page or two here and there; and scan the index. This should take 20 to no more than 45 minutes. By this time you will have a good sense of what the book is about. And you should be able to identify the main and secondary ideas.
Eight Elements of Thought
To really understand a book, the Critical Thinking Foundation recommends that you use the eight elements of thought. When you answer the questions below, you will likely have a sound understanding of what the book is about, which is necessary for profession development.
- What’s the author’s purpose for writing the book
- What’s the author’s point of view on the issue
- What assumptions are the author making?
- What are the implications of her reasoning?
- What information does she use to reason through the issue?
- What are the inferences and conclusions?
- What are the most basic concepts?
- What’s the question the author trying to answer in the book?
How to Summarize a Book for Professional Development: Questions to Ponder
Below are some questions I created before I learned about the eight elements of thoughts. I think they are still important and useful.
- How does the author’s ideas or solutions relate to your life and work?
- Did you come across any different ways to solve every day problems?
- What breakthroughs did you have while reading this book?
- Does the document contain facts that are somewhat surprising because they are different from what you know?
- Are there any rule breaking in the book? If yes, what are they?
- What are the additional insights?
- Is there a method of thinking, or metaphor implied in this book that you can adopt to solve problems?
- What are the top 5 takeaways from the book?
- In what ways can you use the ideas/insights/takeaways to increase the value of your product/service to my customers (internal/external)?
- In what ways can you use the ideas/insights/takeaways to add value to your life?
How to Summarize a Book for Professional Development: Writing Up The Summary
You read the book because you wanted to grow professionally. In what format would the information benefit you the most, so that you can refer to it from time-to-time? It’s all about you, and what will be most beneficial. Type up the responses to the above questions if you feel that the information will help you. It’s also a way to build your general knowledge which is critical to creative problem solving and idea generation.
I would like to add though, that you should make sure that you play around with ideas, combining them, then tie them to a human need. Why not find a way to benefit from the information beyond growing professionally?
Below is a template I use to guide me when summarizing a book. You can pick the pieces that make sense to you!
Book Summary Template
|Name of Book|
|Introduction||Theme of Book
What is the book about?
What is being said in detail and how?
Is the author qualified to talk about this topic?
What problems is the author trying to solve?
Which of the problem that the author had to solve did he succeed in solving?
What are the authors’ solutions?
How does the author’s ideas or solutions relate to my life and my work?
Did you come across any different ways to solve every day problems?
What breakthroughs did you have while reading this book?
Does the document contain facts that are somewhat surprising because they are different from what we know?
Are there any rule breaking in the book? If yes, what are they?
What are the additional insights?
Is there a method of thinking, or metaphor implied in this book that I can adopt to solve problems?
|Five Great Ideas
What are the top 5 takeaways from the book?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the book?
16. Does the book leave unanswered questions?
In what ways can I use the ideas/insights/takeaways to increase the value of my product/service to my customers (internal/external)?
In what ways can I use the ideas/insights/takeaways to add value to my life?
MAJOR UPDATE: First published April 2011
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book)HOW TO SUMMARIZE35 Reading Passages for Comprehension: Main Ideas & SummarizingSummarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling: Skills for Better Reading, Writing, and Test Taking