How to write a book summary

One of the most frustrating things about being an avid reader, especially one that’s on the quest of self-growth, is forgetting some of the lessons you learn from the books you’ve read. It’s easy to forget things and feel as though we’re having a hard time processing the information we read, no matter how important we think it is. While re-reading the books that taught us the most is always a good idea, sometimes we need an easier, more accessible way to give our brains a bit of a refresher.

Possibly the best way to remember more of what you read, while also having a personalized synopsis of a book to go over any time you feel like it, is to write a summary of the book you’re reading. More importantly, by actively taking notes while you read, you become more immersed in the book’s subject matter and ultimately keeps you more focused.

How to write a summary

A key aspect to keep in mind is that writing skills are not needed. You are free to jot down quick little notes, or entire paragraphs-worth of information. The idea here is for you to get more from your reading. Here are some of the more important things to keep in mind while you’re trying to write a great summary.

Step 1: Make summary notes as you’re reading

Summary writing is most efficient when it’s done as you read. Not only will this make for a great summary to look back on, but it will also be a great way for you to remember the essentials of the book you’re reading. It’s also a good idea to summarize each chapter individually, as it will make it easier for you to find the information you’re looking for when you’re reading through what you wrote. You can do this anywhere you read by using a good note taking app or book summary app, though if the classic pen and paper works for you, go for it.

It’s also important not to simply copy and paste or write down word-for-word what’s written in the book. Adding your own perspective to your summary will not only make it personal to you, but also ensure that you process the information you’ve just read efficiently. If you want to reread a book, also revisit the summary you made of it, adding any information that you think you may have missed, or removing some notes that may no longer be relevant to you.

To write a summary with Underline, simply open the app, tap the “Add Book” button and type away. To make your life easier, you can use the OCR reader feature to scan pages from the book or take advantage of the recording feature to skip typing altogether. You can make your Ideas as long and detailed or as short and sweet as you like, making notes on what you feel is most important as you go. You can personalize the text as well, adding highlights or writing certain words or phrases in Bold, to make it easier to revisit when you come back to your summary.

Step 2: Make highlights of the main ideas you want to revisit

When thinking about how to write a summary in the best way possible, you should consider creating highlights that would trigger your memory when you want to revisit your book notes. These highlights should be separate from your summary notes and serve as an even more boiled down version of the idea itself. Much like chapter titles, these will help you shuffle through the main points of the summary with ease. Within the Underline app, you can scan paragraphs from the book you’re reading and add them to the “Highlights” section. You can even customize them by adding a background that will make it easier to spot. For example, if you’re reading a self-help book about negotiation, you can add different colored backgrounds to chapters on different negotiation techniques. You can also rewrite the highlight at a later time using the “Reminder” feature. By rewriting a note you’ve already made, it will be easier for you to recall it in the future.

Step 3: Plan to remember

If you’re having trouble remembering what you read, then this bit of information might shed some light on why that is. While you’re reading, you’re using your working memory to store information that you’re receiving long enough for you to process it and arrive at some conclusion based on it. The issue is that information stored in the working memory only lasts about 10-15 seconds and unless it’s committed to your long-term memory, it will decay and be replaced with new information.

This is where some planning comes into play. After reading and taking notes from one chapter, make sure you revisit its summary after a few hours or the next day. This will ensure that the information you chose to add to your summary stays with you in the long run.

If you’re using the Underline app to write a summary, once you’ve written a note or an “Idea”, you can tap the “Remember” button on the bottom of the screen to see some activities that will help you remember what you read more efficiently. These include transforming it into an action by applying what you’ve learned to your day to day life.

Step 4: Add quotes to your summary

While it’s important to add your own perspective to the summary you’re creating, it’s also beneficial to save a few quotes that you find powerful or motivating. You can quote the author as many times as you wish and choose either part of a phrase or an entire paragraph. As with anything in your summary, this is completely up to you and what works for you. If you’re writing this summary by hand in a notebook, you can write out quotes in different colors so that they stand out more. Or if you’re using a word processing software, you can use a text box or a larger font in a different color to catch your eye when you reread your summary.

With the Underline app, you can create a quote by simply going to the “Quotes” tab and tapping “Add Quote”. Just scan a sentence, save, and create your quote. Or, if you’ve already saved a Highlight, you can edit it from the same screen, beautify your quote and share it in seconds. Choose a solid background or search for an image that would best suit the quote. These are, of course, shareable with your friends or followers and you can even display them as stories within the app if you choose to make your summary public. If you’re wanting to create a longer quote and don’t necessarily want to type it out, the app offers an OCR reader. With this feature, you can scan a page or paragraph from the book you’re reading and it will be transformed into an editable text that you can use.

As you can see, summary writing isn’t difficult with the right tools and a good plan. As with anything in life, practice makes perfect. The more you write, the easier it will become and the more value you’ll get from the books you read. Happy writing!