Read a book a day with “Four Minute Books”

About a month ago while browsing through Quora, I chanced upon a question asking What are the Best Book Summary Websites.  In one of the responses was Niklas Göke‘s answer: Four Minute Books.

Four Minute Books is Niklas’ passion project for 2016 where he reads a book and writes a summary everyday for a year and shares it with anyone who will read it. FREE.

4-min-summary

I’ve always dreamed about doing something like this (if I only could write) and have seen similar book summary websites, but nothing resembling this level of commitment for a side project. Needless to say I was pretty impressed. Until I went to his website and saw the summaries that he wrote. Then I was blown away.  So much so it compelled me to write this as my answer (this response has been replicated from Quora).

“What are the Best Book Summary Websites”

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WOW

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1-Sentence Summary: I like the idea of your passion project but I LOVE what you’ve done with Four Minute Books!

Favourite Quote:

“I believe that everyone should be able to learn from the world’s best books for free.”

Lesson 1: I love the format of Four Minute Books!

  • The One Sentence Summary is killer. So difficult to do.
  • The favourite quote in visual format. I love collecting quotes. Will happily fill up my Buffer account linking the quotes to your summaries! Who needs to hire a social media manager??
  • Most of all, I love the “Who would I recommend” section, be it the 15 year old teenager, the chicken farmer’s daughter, the 32 year old consultant or the 54 year old woman. It’s funny, and it whether deliberate or not, it sends a subliminal message to forward it to a friend!

I realise that all of this is mentioned in Niklas’ answer above, but I skimmed through the answer and missed it. It was only when I went to the Four Minute Book website that I saw how each summary was structured.

Lesson 2: It takes Niklas 2 hours to condense a 15 minute blink into a 4 minute summary

By writing the summary, it forces one to think hard about what the key lesson is and how to communicate it in a pithy way. By making it available to the public, it helps to ensure that quality remains high and increases the cost of “slacking off for a day”.

I love the format because it reminds me of techniques that voracious readers and writers like Maria Popova, Ryan Holiday and Jeremy DuVall use to record and better remember what they read – some form of summary that captures Ideas, Quote, Main Point. However, the difference is that those are “me-first” summaries where the writers share their personal methods to retain information. In contrast, the format of Four Min Book is designed to benefit the reader as well.

Nik’s style of writing is simple. But as Steve Jobs said, “Simple is harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple”.

If all you take away is the ability to mention the book and the one line summary or the quote, that would still be a big win and would impress those who didn’t know any better!

Lesson 3: Four Minute Book readers get 20% discount if they subscribe to Blinkist

These summaries are not meant to replace Blinkist or books but are to help everyone learn something new every day. They can then decide which books to spend more time reading.

Four Min Book readers get a 20% discount if they subscribe to Blinkist! (Affiliate fee but Nik deserves every cent for the amount of effort put in!)

These summaries are FREE. He gets $0.50 for everyone who signs up to Blinkist even if you have no interest SIGN UP NOW! It’s the least you can do!

My Personal Takeaways

One thing to watch out for with short summaries: there is a risk that one “reads superficially” without actually absorbing any information.

But Niklas’ use of visual lamp-posting by breaking each summary up into sections and using numbered section headers, numbered lists and bolded text, makes it far more effective vs a block of text (this style of writing is also what we used at Bain – which we called Communicating for Results or CFR).

I really like this format – it’s a great template for anyone to use when reading a new book/blink.

For those reading the 4 min books, it might be a hat on top of a hat on top of a hat to write down your one key takeaway. But I intend to challenge myself to think about something tangible I can do that incorporates one of the lessons from the summary. Except perhaps the lessons from the “Sex on Dawn” summary.

Other Things you can Learn

Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports. Bill Gates reads 50 books per year. Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks. Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day, according to his brother.Maria Popova reads 15 books a week. Tim Ferriss says he does not know any entrepreneur that does not read. Now thanks to Niklas, no one has an excuse not to read a book a day!

I’ve subscribed and have added it to my Feedly collection and I recommend that you do too!!

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Challenge: Try something like this!

On Quora, I see so many questions asking about what extra curricular activities a student can engage in to catch a recruiters attention.  Activities mentioned include joining the Consulting Club.  Here’s my answer (one of my most upvoted!) to one of those questions.

If you want to get noticed by a recruiter, try something like this.  A side project like Four Minute Books is AUTHENTIC.  There’s no way this kind of passion can be faked.  It demonstrates COMMITMENT.  “2 hours a day, 5am in the morning” = Scary German levels of discipline and commitment for a 25 year old boy doing his masters!!  Leadership, initiative, passion, dedication to learning, altruism, helping others by broadening their knowledge (it certainly has mine, I read at least 2 a day now!) …. I could go on and on about the positive signals something like this will send a recruiter.

Now that’s not to say it is perfect, YET. I love almost everything about it.

But Nik, we have to MLS (make look sexy) your 4MB. 😉

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