By Theo Winter
This article was inspired by a Tweet from James Clear who asked his followers to share, in one sentence, the main idea from a book that changed their life.
Reading the responses got me thinking and I considered building a list of 500+ summaries — but quickly realised that was nuts. Even 50 is a lot for a single post. Going by chunks of 30 at a time is probably more digestible for readers (and more manageable for me). Since many books have more than 1 big idea, I might build a Twitter bot called “1 Sentence Book Summaries” should people like this sort of (over?) simplified content. Not sure. But let’s see.
Please note: these are just my own reflections. You may have very different takeaways.
1) The Alchemist | Paulo Coelho A great search outside awakens deep truths inside.
2) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People | Stephen Covey Habits and strategies built on "universal principles" — including fairness, integrity, honesty, service, patience, and humility — are the fundamental source of long-term success.
3) Sapiens | Yuval Noah Harari While money, human rights, nations, and religions don't exist in any concrete sense, our ability to unite en masse around shared myths (stories) is a big part of why we — and not our primate cousins — are the most dominant species on the planet.
4) Man’s Search for Meaning | Viktor Frankl Everything can be taken from you, but the one thing nobody can touch, the very last of the human freedoms, the place where all personal growth takes place, is the gap between stimulus and response: your freedom to choose your attitude.
5) The Richest Man in Babylon | George S. Clason Arkad, the protagonist in this fable, shares 7 secrets to gaining wealth, the most important of which is to appreciate the power of compounding effects by saving at least 10% of your income.
6) Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) | Carol Tavris and Elliot Arnson Perhaps the single hardest thing in the world for a human being to say is, “I’m sorry, I was wrong” — and people will go to extraordinary lengths to rationalise contradictory behaviour.
7) Bird by Bird | Anne Lamott The same formula a teary-eyed, overwhelmed 10-year-old uses to push through a school report on birds applies to adults who seek to conquer their own Everests: one step at a time, bird by bird.
8) Meditations | Marcus Aurelius Being emperor of Rome is actually pretty easy in comparison to ruling over one’s mind: remember always, what injures you (psychologically) are your thoughts about external events, not the events themselves.
9) Think and Grow Rich | Napoleon Hill Achieving fabulous success is about BURNING DESIRE, and some other things, but mostly BURNING DESIRE.
10) Rich Dad Poor Dad | Robert Kioyosaki The main difference between the rich and the poor is knowing the difference between an asset and a liability, and investing in assets (note: your home is probably NOT an asset).
11) Success Intelligence | Robert Holden Happiness is not an "it," money is not a purpose, wisdom is not an MBA, and success is not "busyness," but the Manic Society has convinced legions of consumers otherwise — and it's killing them.
12) Trump: Think Big and Kick Ass | Donald Trump and Bill Zanker The single worst book I have ever read.
13) Outliers | Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of practice is a good rule of thumb for attaining mastery in many complex domains and luck (e.g., date of birth, upbringing, timing) almost certainly has a lot more to do with our picture of success than what we might first assume.
14) Closing the Mind Gap | Ted Cadsby Human beings are fundamentally irrational, illogical, innumerate, overconfident, superficial, self-righteous hypocrites who are impressively under-equipped to handle the nuance and complexity of the modern world.
15) The Speed of Trust | Stephen M. R. Covey Your no. 1 priority in business is to build trust; trust = character + competence; when trust is low the speed of doing business goes down and costs go up.
16) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion | Robert Cialdini All marketing, sales, and influence tactics essentially boil down to 6 principles: reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
17) Thinking, Fast and Slow | Daniel Kahneman Humans have two basic modes of thinking: one fast, automatic, and prone to numerous biases; the other slow, deliberate, and can — under some conditions — make us look a little less foolish (the best we can hope for).
18) How to Win Friends and Influence People | Dale Carnegie Show an interest in others’ interests; don’t criticise, condemn, or complain; and remember that people are more hungry for your appreciation than for your knowledge.
19) Emotional Intelligence | Daniel Goleman IQ is one of the most well-validated constructs in psychology, but EQ (skill with self + skill with others) plays a unique and often under-appreciated role in success — especially in team work, sales, service, and leadership.
20) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team | Patrick M. Lencioni The most important dysfunction of the five that cause teams to underperform and fail is the absence of trust in the form of PERSONAL VULNERABILITY.
21) First, Break All the Rules | Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman Among other things, the world’s greatest managers make sure employees know exactly what is EXPECTED, ensure employees can play to their STRENGTHS, and basically GIVE A SHIT about their employees as human beings.
22) Flow | Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow is profound psychological absorption in a task — a kind of cognitive ecstasy — that many of us spend our entire lives chasing, which is typically experienced when our skills are neither ABOVE or BELOW but MATCHED to a significant challenge.
23) The 80/20 Principle | Richard Koch Because about 20% of what you do produces about 80% of the results, you can radically improve your business / life by focusing on the “critical few” inputs that produce the greatest outcomes.
24) The Four Hour Work Week | Tim Ferriss You don’t need to be a squillionaire to escape the 9-5 rat race and live a lifestyle of ultimate freedom; you just need a book filled with tons of practical examples to get the possibilities flowing.
25) Awaken the Giant Within | Tony Robbins The most basic formula for success is: 1) decide what you want; 2) take MASSIVE action; 3) adapt.
26) Flourish | Martin Seligman Known as the PERMA model, human well-being or happiness is a function of five things: (P) positive emotion, (E) engagement, (R) relationships, (M) meaning, (A) achievement.
27) The Demon-Haunted World | Carl Sagan The tools of science and scepticism are not just for the scientists; they sharpen our eyes to the truth, open our hearts to the wonders of nature, and help us see the awe-inspiring beauty that often lies beneath piles of human bullshit.
28) Drive | Dan Pink Extrinsic motivation (carrot & stick) is common yet has many drawbacks; tapping into intrinsic motivation — autonomy, mastery, and purpose — creates energy like you've never seen.
29) Start with Why | Simon Sinek Despite the fact that every company and every individual functions on 3 levels (WHAT they do, HOW they do it, WHY they do it), the first two are usually overemphasised and yet the latter is the biggest driver of trust, success, and fulfilment.
30) A Short History of Nearly Everything | Bill Bryson This sentence blew my mind: "On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over a thousand feet away and Pluto would be a mile and a half distant." 😲