If you are looking for the best free book summary websites, you have found the right page.
My name is Lucio.
I am a social scientist, an avid learner, and a self-development nut.
I write lots of summaries myself, and I love taking a look around the web to see what other readers do.
In this post, I will analyze the best book summary websites available as of 2019.
Optimize.me is Brian Johnson’s creation.
And Brian is a bit of a legend.
He has been running a YouTube channel for a while, and he is awesome on video.
It’s also refreshing to see a human being deliver the book summaries and reviews, rather than the more typical “animated summaries” that are common on YouTube.
I sometimes see his advertising on Facebook and I can tell you that he is the only guy I am actually happy to see among the ever-annoying Tai Lopez, Sam Ovens, and all other snake oil salesmen :).
- Contagiously positive guy
Brian Johnson is the only guy who makes me happy when he shows up on my feed as a paid advertiser.
Don’t ask me how he pulls that off, but he does :).
- High-quality free book summaries
- The blackboard style feels like a free online university
- “Meta-summaries” by topic: The best shortcut to knowledge
Brian and ThePowerMoves are the only ones on this list to provide “meta-summaries” by topic.
Such as, taking tens of books on a given topic and summarize all their content into one (VS a summary for each different books).
That way, you can get an overview of the whole literature in one hour, saving tons of money and time.
- Paying options limited the free content
The video summaries on YouTube are still available.
But the website seems to be mostly locked down now, so those summaries are not free anymore.
That’s the only reason why Optimize.me features at the beginning of this list.
- Less critical reviews
Brian Johnson is one of those reviewers who had decided to only say positive things about the book he reviews.
Brian Johnson does not challenge or criticize potential snake oil salesmen and only decides to share the positive of their messages.
I respect that, but personally prefer a different approach.
As you might have noticed, this is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t just like to read what’s good about something. I also want the author to be challenged. I like to read about biases, mistakes, and why the author might have been wrong -or why he’s been proven wrong-.
That’s why I personally don’t like the approach of “neutral summaries”. But hey, that’s just me.
- Bit less scientist, more philosopher’s approach
Brian considers himself a philosopher, which is great.
I also love philosophers.
When it comes to knowledge acquisition, I personally prefer a scientist approach. Best of all, a skeptical scientist approach.
8. Paul Minors
When Paul summarized a book that I was interested in, he used to be the guy I turned to.
Paul was my #1. favorite resource of free book summaries.
Nowadays my favorite books tend to be very specialized in psychology, advanced social skills and strategies, power dynamics, or truly research-based texts, so it rarely happens that Paul covers one of them.
- Detailed, in-depth summaries
- Summaries follow the book’s chapter structure
That way, you truly get much more than a simple sneak peek but a much deeper overview.
- A few typos here and there
- More summaries, less reviews
Paul does not weave in much of his personal life and personal thoughts. For some, that’s an advantage. For some others, it’s not. Up to you.
- Guns for hire summaries
Paul Minors is not personally writing the summaries anymore, and sometimes that shows.
7. Four Minute Books
Niklas is a legend.
He is a friendly and really likable guy, but when it comes to free book summaries, he is also the 900-pound gorilla in the room :).
One might probably say that Niklas started this whole “free book summaries” thing, and a few more joined in after seeing his success -and mimicking his website’s name, too-.
When it comes to quantity, FourMinuteBooks is unbeatable.
And Niklas doesn’t rest on his laurels, but keeps on going and going, publishing 3 (!) new book summaries a week, that keep adding to what’s already the biggest completely free book summary repository on the web.
Niklas summarizes books into 3 major takeaways for each book.
No more, no less.
If you want a quick look into a popular book -or almost any book in the near future, really- Niklas probably can help.
- One of the largest collections on the web of free book summaries
- Niklas seems like a cool, good-spirited person
- Summaries of summaries
The book summaries are often summaries of Blinkist summaries, so it’s actually a summary of a summary.
That works out well for many books, but since I’m not a huge fan of Blinkist, I am sometimes skeptical when it comes to heavier and more research-based books.
- More summaries, less reviews
Niklas focuses on the summary of the book. He provides a small review section, but he does not go berserk like yours truly in finding faults, criticism, and comparing notes with other books.
That must not necessarily be a con though.
Depending on your point of view, that might even be a positive.
- 3 lessons learned format: pros & cons
Niklas said he chose this format for ease of writing and for speed of execution.
That makes sense.
And I can also appreciate the format that repeats for every single book: it’s a sleek-looking solution.
Of course, the downside is that some books need more than 3 takeaways, while some won’t even need 3 🙂
Again, that’s my approach as a petulant reader. For most other people, 3 takeaways will do just fine.
6. The Book Summary Club
This is a relatively new entry in the world of free online summaries.
It uses a “3 lessons learned” format similar to “Four Minute Books”, but Book Summary Club has longer summaries, “real” reviews, and a more personalized approach.
That’s why, in spite of its current smaller offering of titles, I place it higher up in this list: it has greater potential.
- High-quality summaries
Which often include video embeds, pictures and helpful notes from the author.
- Learn with Humor
Vince adds his personal touch for each book summary, making the read not only informational, but also fun and entertaining. A true breath of fresh air.
- Vince’s personality
While perusing Vince’s book summaries for this review, I couldn’t help but smile at this quote of his “The 4h Hour Body summary“, talking about Ferris’ advice on sex:
I also learned during this book that at times, I’m still too immature to read things like this without giggling.
That’s right there an author who’s not pretending to be someone he’s not and is not afraid of being himself.
Reading Vince’s review feels in between reading a summary and reading a well-written magazine article.
- Needs to grow the offering a bit
But that will come with time. And Vince might consider doing a few summaries in a row on specific topics, which will help grow his expertise and make him more of an authority on specific niches.
As far as I understand, 12min.com was formerly known as “Nuggets” and now it shifted its focus from simple quotes to full summaries.
As of today, 12Min is both a book summaries website app and a website. And, as well, even a cool organizer of events in several world cities (I attended a few myself, and were always great).
- Audiobook version of each summary
- Longer summaries: on average, 12min provides summaries which are long enough to truly get to the core of what a book is about
- Critical review in the end: 12min tries to combine both neutral summaries writing to personal touch by adding a personalize critical review in the end
- More summaries, “professional” reviews
Their reviews are very professional, and in this day and age, that can feel a bit politically correct to some, as if in fear of offending someone.
I get that, and see the point -I’ve had a few issues myself with angry authors who didn’t appreciate my reviews :)-.
- The audiobook summary version is read by a robotic voice
By now robot readers are pretty good, so this doesn’t have to necessarily be a con.
It’s such a great idea that… I might think about it for this website as well.
- The writers are “12min team”, it feels impersonal
I like book reviewers who put their face behind their business and their writers.
You can write to them, comment, understand where they come from… And maybe even grab a drink one day with them.
But when it’s “teams”, like 12min or Blinkist, then it feels impersonal, and you are also lacking some crucial information about the reviewer.
- Random list of quotes
The last section of their summaries is a list of tweetable quotes.
But the quotes are out of context and left unexplained. Why are those quotes good or important? That section feels like an afterthought thrown in there just to grab more SEO real estate with the keyword “name of the book + quote”
4. Nat Eliason
Nat Eliason is a legend.
You don’t just get summaries from guy who simply loves reading, but from a doer who’s been using that information. He has been a successful startup employee, plus a successful entrepreneur, plus a very successful blogger, too.
He doesn’t call his book summaries “summaries”, but “notes” and “lessons learned”.
For practical purposes, that’s basically the same.
- Great reviews
- Nat summaries are personal reviews
Nat doesn’t try to be neutral: he puts his own personality, thoughts, and experiences in his summaries, and I like that
- Nat’s not afraid of thrashing what needs to be thrashed
This is what I loved the most.
Nat seems like a book summary writer who is not afraid of speaking his mind and calling a spade a spade.
For example, he gave a 3/10 to “Tools of Titans” and 1/10 to “You Are A Badass”.
I agree with both. And that, in my opinion, makes Nat’s website a good resource to decide what you should or should not read.
- Varying quality:
some summaries are great, some others are shorter
- Random topics might dent authority:
Nat is interested in many different topics, and I can relate to that.
That lack of specialization might make the reviews somewhat less authoritative if you’re looking for a specific subject matter expertise subject (say, for example, psychology books and reviews).
On the other hand, I must say that he is reviewer with high critical thinking skills, and those apply to any subject.
- Some summaries are bullets and/or lists of quotes:
I’m not a fan of summaries in bullet points or in a list of quotes taken straight from the book (more on it below).
On the other hand, there are countless full-length summary, so to speak.
3. Fight Mediocrity
Fight Mediocrity is a Youtube channel chock full of free book summaries that he shares in short and sweet video drawings.
As you can see, I don’t differentiate between websites or YouTube channel. And I also don’t differentiate between a book or a course: what matters most to me is the quality.
Fight Mediocrity is a top pick in my best book summary websites because of the uniqueness of the videos.
He often shares interesting and relatable stories of how the books apply in his own personal life.
- Personal summaries that stick
This guy doesn’t just talk about books.
But he takes a book and spins around his life.
He talks about “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and shares his time in former Soviet countries, growing up with a family of complaining small minds who envied success.
And then contrasts his poor experience with the gold nuggets of the book, so that the lessons will truly stick with people.
- Too little about the book?
Sometimes sharing his own life takes time away from good wisdom in the book
- No critical review
I’d wish to see some stronger reviews from him, like things he didn’t like, or truly disagreed about.
One smart man once said:
A picture is worth a thousand words
Isn’t that true?
Well, often it is.
But unluckily books are all about text. Or… Are they?
Because ReadinGraphics set out to just change that.
ReadingGRaphics is the best infographic book summary website to mix pictures, content, and data.
If you think that pictures can help you learn, check out here ReadingGraphics subscription plans (it’s an affiliate link, meaning that if you subscribe I will get a small commission at no costs for you).
- Unique style
- A picture is worth a thousand words: perfect for some types of books
- Certain types of books are more difficult to summarize with infographics
1. The Power Moves
Oh well, am I not biased to talk about ThePowerMoves.com.
The Power Moves writes summaries from the perspective of a guy who’s passionate about getting wiser and takes knowledge seriously.
It categorizes the book summaries into genres which allows the readers to dig deeper into a subject in a matter of hours.
Since March 2019, you can sort both by category and by star rating.
It was a vision and dream of mine and it’s now live here:
- Interactive reading list (deprecated)
I shouldn’t say this in public, but the truth is that you can use that page to sort through the many space-filler books (2 and 3 stars) and focus on the very best of the best (4 and 5 stars).
Update: changed strategy
Sometimes you must admit when your vision and dream is just not the people’s vision and dream.
That interactive sorting option was not very used by the users of this website, so I took note, and moved on.
Removing the interactive sorting also helped me keep the website simple, which I highly appreciated.
- Critical reviews
What I am most proud of in my summaries is the highly critical approach I have for every book (or course) I review.
Every time I smell BS or something doesn’t add up, I dig deeper to find -and provide the readers- with a red flag.
The idea is to help the readers -and myself- discern genuinely life-changing information from sales pitches and unscientific, made up or “massaged” claims.
You can follow new posts by liking the Facebook page or subscribing.
- Links summaries to other related resources
This website provides an interconnected web of best-in-the-field resources to help you improve your life.
- Best-of resources
The “best of” lists help you go straight for the best of the best information, saving money and time, and making you more successful, quicker.
- The free book summaries are part of a people’s skills blog, cross-referencing each other
I use the best resources to inform this website’s own articles -and products-, so that you can get the most actionable bits of information, ready to use for your self-development and life success.
- Sometimes there are typos
Some book summaries were written for the author himself, just so that he could remember the content and come to it in the future.
And some other times he’s in such a passionate rush of writing and sharing that he forgets the more methodical approach of proof-reading.
- Highly opinionated, sometimes argumentative dude
Lucio weighs in heavily with personal opinion, which some might not like. Sometimes his disagreement is strong, and he might sound like over-criticizing (including, sometimes, for books which he actually enjoyed).
Update: I have been working on turning some of my strongest disagreements into more constructive criticism.
I don’t want to go all the way where I sound detached or where, God forbid, I hide my true thoughts on a book. But presenting harsh disagreement in a more constructive format is a good habit that I have been implementing.
Also deserving a shout-out:
- James Clear: the most famous of the summary-writers
When you write “book summaries” on Google, James Clear is the first result.
He was already running a very successful blog, and he became even more popular when he wrote his own wonderful book on habits and went on the TV-show tour.
Clear’s summaries are more limited in number, and that also impacts his “best of” lists, since they only include the books he reviewed on his website.
On the plus side, Clear is a wonderful writer and author himself, a big success story to learn from, and, last but not least, his website design is minimalistically awesome.
- Samuel Thomas Davies: bullet format doesn’t do it for me
If James Clear was lacking in quantity, Samuel Thomas Davies isn’t.
Sam is one of the biggest names in the free online book summaries space, ranking probably among the very top-3 of them.
And he is probably the best organized in this whole list, breaking up his summaries into tens of different categories, plus laying them all out in a clear
I am personally not a big fan of bullet-styles summaries. I feel some prioritization and narrative flow goes lost, and it’s harder to mentally store and digest information when it’s presented with a long list of bullet points.
However, many people obviously disagree, Sam Thomas Davies’ own popularity being the obvious proof of that :).
So hats off to him, I’m happy such a smart cookie is also churning out book summaries and reviews.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there free book summary websites?
Yes, there is a number of them.
Can I find all books summarized?
Not all of them. Usually most online reviewers focus on the best-selling books, and you risk missing some of the best “hidden gems”.
Can I learn from book summaries?
Yes, you can use a good summary to assess if a book is good enough to justify the full version. That’s why critical reviewers are so important.
Do I need paid summary services?
There are enough free summaries around. Paid services such as Blinkist don’t offer critical reviews, so I don’t personally use them.
Do I need to buy the full version of the books?
For the great books, you absolutely want the unabridged version.
For some other books the summary is enough. Critical reviewers help you assess what to buy in full.