Book Summaries: The Best Ideas from My Favorite Non-Fiction

These book summaries share my top takeaways from the best non-fiction I've read, taken notes on, and written about.

Updated:

I’ve loved reading books ever since I was wearing velcro shoes, playing with Ninja Turtles, and tearing through the Redwall and Choose Your Own Adventure series.

But I only started taking notes on the books I read in my thirties. Since then, I’ve evolved my own book summarizing approach:

  • Extract my favorite passages and quotes.
  • Summarize these most noteworthy ideas in my own words.
  • Sort these ideas into my own structure.
  • Package this structure into simple models I can wrap my head around.

I don’t love making these book summaries, but I love the results. They help me recall, refer to, interweave, and, most importantly, use the information I spend so much time consuming and digesting.

Of the hundreds of books I’ve taken notes on, here are the summaries I’ve taken the pains to tidy up and publish.

I’ve ranked them from most to least impactful on my life.

  • To be fair, they all impacted me. I wouldn’t waste my time writing about them otherwise.
  • To be clear, just because one book is more impactful than another doesn’t mean it’s a more enjoyable read. For example, The Psychology of Money was a super pleasurable read, but I don’t think it did much to impact how I live my life.

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A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

My Top Takeaway: Every story is “a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it,” and following that formula is the key to living well.

Read More: Take Control of Your Life’s Story: The 4-Step Guide

Richer, Wiser, Happier by William Green

My Top Takeaway: I seem to naturally share the unconventional mindset of many of the world’s most successful investors so, even if they have bigger brains, maybe I can use it to my advantage financially?

Read More: How “Richer, Wiser, Happier” Inspired Me To Go After All Three

Mindset by Carol Dweck

My Top Takeaway: You can’t do anything you put your mind to, but you can continually improve if you approach it with the right “growth mindset.” Also, you can’t have a growth mindset but can only work toward being more growth-minded (and less fixed-minded).

Read More: How to Find Your False Growth Mindsets and Un-Fix Them

The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey

My Top Takeaway: Whatever it is you want to improve at, you’ll learn faster, perform better, and have more fun if you get your tiger mom of a conscious out of your subconscious’ way.

Read More: The Inner Game of Tennis’ Strategies for Playing Out of Your Mind

The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter

My Top Takeaway(s): Climbing the “nature pyramid” and spending time in the wild is “like a meditation retreat. Except talking is allowed and the experience is free of costs and gurus.” Also, run less, ruck more.

Read More: How Nature’s 3-Day Effect Changed My Mind

The Molecule of More by Dan Lieberman and Mike Long

My Top Takeaway: Our brain’s balance of dopamine and “Here and Now” neurotransmitters plays a leading role in driving our actions. The trick to a rewarding life is to find activities that satisfy both.

Read More: How Your Balance of Dopamine vs. Here and Now Molecules Defines You

Reinforcements by Heidi Grant

My Top Takeaway: Rather than think that asking people for help is a burden on them, I can make it a win-win by making requests to people who are capable of helping me and will prove their effectiveness in doing so.

Read More: 5 Effective Ways to Ask for Help and Why You Should

A Short Stay in Hell by Steven Peck

My Top Takeaway: Relative to eternity, whatever I do with my life is so inconsequential that I’m free to do whatever I want. But I might as well satisfice on something while enjoying not being in a hellish library like the protagonist, Soren.

Read More: ‘A Short Stay in Hell’ Made Me Rethink My Shorter Stay in Non-Hell

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

My Top Takeaway: It’s well worth the effort to put a lot of intention into the purpose, guest list, and proceedings of gatherings you host—and to organize such get-togethers more regularly.

Read More: 5 Steps to Host Memorable Dinner Parties with Friends

Drive by Dan Pink

My Top Takeaway: When I want others (or myself) to take a specific action, I want to avoid using the carrots and sticks of extrinsic rewards and instead ask myself, “How do I make it the intrinsically obvious choice?”

Read More: The Most Motivating Things I Learned from Drive by Dan Pink

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

My Top Takeaway: Charisma is a handful of skills I wasn’t taught growing up but that I can work on, starting with better preparing myself in advance of social social scenarios with discomfort prevention and visualization.

Read More: How Even You and I Can Be (Slightly) More Charismatic

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

My Top Takeaway: Relationship issues often stem from misunderstandings of each others’ “love language.” Relate to others with their love language rather than yours, and the results can be remarkable.

Read More: The Five Love Languages Summary for Unsappy People

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

My Top Takeaway: Being smart with your money has little to do with having a big brain and a lot to do with not acting like a jealous, impetuous, insatiable, short-sighted moron

Read More: How to Be Smart With Your Money: 5 Wise Questions From an Expert

Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman

My Top Takeaway: Maslow never created a pyramid model for his hierarchy of needs. A better model for understanding how to live a self-actualizing, transcendent life is a sailboat.

Read More: The New Self-Actualization Model Replacing Maslow’s Pyramid

You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy

My Top Takeaway: To be a better listener and help talkers get to their point more concisely, put yourself in the mindset that you’re a reporter planning to write an article about what the other person’s telling you.

Read More: Expert Tricks and Tactics for Being a Better Active Listener

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👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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