What is To Summarise?

To Summarise is a blog with a lot of summaries. Mostly book summaries, but sometimes I find other things worth summarising. Occasionally I post blog posts about the books I’ve read.

How To Summarise began

A couple of years ago, I started summarising books that I’d read. My memory’s not the best, and I found I often forgot most of what I’d read within weeks or months, even if the book had lots of interesting things I wanted to remember. It felt like such a waste, spending hours reading books and retaining just a few sentences from each.

Initially I just took brief notes of titbits I found interesting. A quote here, an idea scribbled down there. If I want to check something in the book, it’s much easier to refer back to my notes than to track down and re-read the book.

Over time, and especially for books I found useful, my notes got more detailed. My notes became summaries. The process of writing summaries helps me learn. It’s slow going, which gives me time to think critically about a book’s ideas. Writing summaries also forces me to think through how an author’s ideas best fit together (the best order for a summary is rarely the order presented in the original book). One day I just decided to start sharing my summaries online.

Who are you?

I am currently working as a policy analyst. Before my current job, I was a lawyer. I’ve always had to read and write a lot for my work.

Fortunately, I quite enjoy reading and writing. I always wanted to be a writer, so blogging seemed like a natural fit for me. Yet I didn’t want to limit myself to a niche and blogging generally about “my thoughts” seemed a bit too self-indulgent. So I figured I’d just start by summarising what other people have written and see where that takes me.

Why are you so obsessed with summaries?

When I was a law student, I found that making summaries was a great way to learn and to study for tests and exams. First, I would tidy up the raw notes I took in class. Then I would summarise those notes, condensing an entire semester’s course into about 10-15 pages. Finally, I’d create a 1-2 page “skeleton” summary of my summaries.

The process of summarising forced me to think about how all the different things we learnt linked together and reinforced all the course material in my mind. I did pretty well at school, and I believe my summaries were a huge part of that.

My jobs since then have also involved lots of summaries. I’ve had to summarise cases for judges, advice for clients, and reports for the government. Being able to summarise lengthy and complex ideas is, I believe, an underrated skill. Most people don’t want to read the “whole thing”. They just want a summary.