Skip to Content

Book summaries vs Books: Pros and Cons

“This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases”

Book summaries vs reading

Book summaries vs books?

What is more effective?

What to choose?

In this short article, we will study this interesting question.

Book summaries: Pros

Book summaries vs reading

Book Summaries vs Books Pros and Cons
Book Summaries vs Books Pros and Cons

I think there are a lot of benefits to reading summaries, depending on what your goals are.

Saving time, energy and money

Book summaries vs reading

Maybe you are an avid reader and want to get a better sense of whether or not you should invest your time, energy, and money into reading the whole book. An extensive summary could help with making a proper decision.  Try to remember how many times you have started a book, and understood, that this is not what you think it was or just the book hadn’t caught your interest, after reading 25% or even 60% of the book.

To be honest, I feel not well after reading the book, which is not, interests me. Or sometimes, the case is that some non-fiction books are based around one or maybe two or three core concepts and are packed up into a full-length book. Reading them can therefore become rather boring. A book summary helps you cut through the peel to get straight to the key points. Book summaries help you to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fast recall of the main idea and key points

Book summaries vs books

Let’s say you read a book a while ago, a summary can refresh your memory so you can recall the key points without re-reading the whole thing. This could be especially useful if your book club is reading a book you’ve read in the past, or if the book is being made into a new movie or TV show. Book summaries eliminate the repetitive aspects of the book. You, therefore, feel better just by focusing on only the important subject matter.

Addition to an actual book

Book summaries vs reading

A summary could also serve as a companion to reading the full book, particularly if it is rather dense and complicated, enhancing the reading experience with further analysis and insight.

Time management technic (SECRET)

Book summaries vs books

I am a book lover with 10+ years of experience and several years ago I discover technic, which drastically increases the speed of reading and quality of remembering of the content.

Reading a book summary before starting an actual book is an effective time management technic. Our brain works faster, deeper, and more accurate when it has some prerequisite inside. Imagine starting university without a high school basis, getting a degree will become almost impossible, but for a high school kid with a 1500+ SAT score, it will feel like a decent challenge or even easier. 

After acquainting your brain and memory with the main idea and key points of a book, you’ve built an outline/skeleton and also calibrated the according to memory parts of your brain, i.e. you’ve made information processing easier and more effective for yourself.

Bookmark for the future

Book summaries vs reading

Or maybe you just really want to get the key ideas or points from the book and simply don’t have the time to read hundreds of pages of details. A summary can distill the main points into 20–30 pages or sometimes even less. And maybe one day you’ll decide to read the whole book when you have more time in the future.

There is another interesting example of book summaries usage. This is a real story from my family.  My cousin works at a local book store, and as you can imagine, every day hundreds of people ask him questions about different books and he also needs to publish a short description of the books to social media channels and companies’ websites.

How do you think, how my cousin can read hundreds of books a week?

Ha-ha!!! As you have probably guessed he doesn’t read all these books, he reads book summaries.

Best for reading on-the-go

Book summaries vs books

Book summaries are very convenient to read on-the-go.

Waiting for a friend or doctor’s appointment? Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Social Media or YouTube, why not open a book summary to quickly read a new book?

Or let’s say you are traveling in public transport, it is not always convenient to take out the physical book, but it is almost trouble-free to read a book summary on a screen of a smartphone.

This is especially useful if you are using book summaries apps or big projects like getAbstract or Blinkist.

Higher amount ideas per hour value

Book summaries vs reading

A book summary gives the main thesis and necessary evidence without going into as much detail. Presumably on an ideas-per-hour-invested basis, summaries will win out over full books. You can quickly memorize and recollect the main idea and key points of the book.

Tooooo many books out there

Book summaries vs books

Hundreds of thousands of books are being published every year. And as you see, it is impossible to go through all of them. Book summaries are a good way to get to know many more books than you can read.

Book summaries: Cons

Book summaries vs books

Book Summaries vs Books Pros and Cons
Book Summaries vs Books Pros and Cons

Despite a good amount of pros, there are several downsides to book summaries.

Book summaries deprive you of book reading experience

Book summaries vs reading

Naturally, reading the book summary will never be as good as reading the whole book.

A book summary deprives the text of subtleties of tone, style, and the colors of language, leaving only the essential ideas.

For example, some authors have a humoristic or sarcastic way of delivering information, which makes this manner rather appealing to readers. And of course, the book summary doesn’t have that, as book summaries’ goal is to share the key points.

Reading book summaries works great with more academic books like James Clears’ “Atomic Habits”, but it does worsen the reading experience in the majority of the books, as you don’t hear the writer’s true voice.

Book summaries provide a second-hand reading experience

Book summaries vs books

With book summaries, you get second-hand information. You are reading the other person’s interpretation of the key ideas of the book and not the original way the author wrote or presented his or her ideas.

The book summarizer decides what is important and what isn’t. Hence, you run the risk of missing out on crucial ideas or details when reading a book summary versus the original book.

It’s harder to absorb information reading book summaries

Book summaries vs reading

The greatest strength of reading a book summary is also its greatest weakness.

When you are reading a book summary, you have to be very concentrated, it is required for deeper understanding of the main idea and key points.

Do you know that moment when you’re so intently focused on a book that everything around you seems to fall away?

Yeah, you won’t get that experience with a book summary.

Naturally, spending more time with each book allows you to digest the information more easily. With book summary, the reading experience becomes touch-and-go; useful for learning about big ideas, but not as useful for deep reading.

Quickly digesting many different books can cause ideas to blur together in your mind. I found it difficult to remember what I read from the previous book after starting on a new one without referring to my notes and highlights.

Low mental load

Book summaries vs books

I think that the value of books comes not only from their ideas, which of course can often be read from a summary but from being a rather difficult mental task that requires focus and simultaneously develops deeper thinking.

That said, reading a hard book is more than just the ideas you obtain from it. Thinking about the book’s content while you read it is what matters. A long, good book on a topic will provoke much longer reflection and therefore have a much larger impact than a summary or perhaps even many short summaries.

Book summary is not deep enough

Book summaries vs reading

By reading the book summary only, you get just the essence, but not the details. The average educated adult probably knows that Benjamin Franklin was one of the greatest diplomats, but doesn’t know what he has done and why.

In this view, because summary-level knowledge is common, you can get a competitive advantage by having read works in greater depth. Knowing a few things to a deeper level might make up for having greater, broad summary-level knowledge because you can specialize in conversations and intellectual arenas which benefit from that deeper insight.

Absence of subtle details

Book summaries vs books

The primary goal of the book summary is to share the main idea and key points, therefore there is hardly ever a small decorative detail of the plot. And sometimes these subtle things are very remarkable and memorable. Remember, how many times you recalled funny quotes, lines, or descriptions from the book you had read.

Weaker emotional level

Book summaries vs reading

Your level of emotional connection to the book strengthens only when you are reading through all the lines of the book. But, just by going through the book summary, you may not, in reality, be paying attention to the essence of the matter. You cannot get into the author’s world and envision scenes that make up the book.

The author is not THE Author

Book summaries vs books

And of course, it worth mentioning, that the book summary’s author is a different person or group of people, and he/she might not truly understand or feel what the original author wanted to convey, and in some cases, it is possible to skip the “first brain” perspective. It means you are reading the original books through the eyes and brain of the corresponding summary writers.


Final Thoughts

Great books contain a stunning amount of wisdom and guidance that cannot be summarized into several pages. That kind of book needs to be read, studied, and gradually implemented into your life.

Book summaries, on the contrary, serve as an introductory step or test drive to a book. Book summaries will help you to decide to invest or not your time, energy, and money into a book. Book summaries can be used as a filter to choose books, that worth reading. And also they can be an accelerator, which helps to absorb information from the actual book faster and more qualitatively.

What do you think?

Can book summaries replace reading actual books?

Is it better to focus your reading time on a whole book, or should you go in a wider way and focus more time on book summaries and reviews?

Top Business Books Summaries For Free can read at