The BEST Way to Summarize Books with ChatGPT

Tiago Forte
12 Oct 202310:30

TLDRIn this video, Thiago Forte, author of 'Building a Second Brain', shares his method for effectively summarizing books using AI. After realizing traditional reading wasn't retaining information, he began summarizing in his own words. With the advent of ChatGPT, he discovered a time-efficient way to produce high-quality summaries by feeding the AI his highlighted book excerpts. Forte's process involves reading, highlighting, selecting the most impactful points, creating an outline, and then using ChatGPT to generate a detailed summary that captures the book's essence, saving a significant amount of time compared to traditional summarization methods.


  • πŸ“š Thiago Forte discusses the use of AI to summarize books efficiently, emphasizing the importance of retaining knowledge from reading.
  • πŸ” He realized that reading many books without summarizing didn't help knowledge retention, leading him to change his approach.
  • πŸ“ Forte suggests summarizing books in one's own words to better internalize the information.
  • πŸ€– Initially, he tried using ChatGPT to create summaries without success, due to the AI's lack of direct access to book texts.
  • πŸ“˜ He discovered that feeding ChatGPT with his own highlights from books produced better summaries.
  • πŸ–‹οΈ The process involves reading ebooks, exporting highlights, and then selecting the most important points to bold.
  • πŸ“‹ Forte uses a 'Progressive summarization' technique to distill the highlights down to the most critical points.
  • πŸ“ He then turns these points into an outline format, which helps ChatGPT understand the structure and importance of each idea.
  • πŸ—‚οΈ The outline is fed into ChatGPT with a prompt that encourages the AI to incorporate the provided material into a detailed summary.
  • ⏱️ This method saves a significant amount of time compared to traditional book summarization, with a high-quality output.
  • πŸš€ Forte encourages readers to experiment with this method, especially for books with practical applications, to harness the power of AI in knowledge synthesis.

Q & A

  • What is the main topic of Thiago Forte's video?

    -The main topic of Thiago Forte's video is how to effectively use ChatGPT to summarize books, with a step-by-step example of creating a book summary.

  • What problem did Thiago Forte face with his reading habit?

    -Thiago Forte faced the problem of not retaining information from the books he read, as the knowledge was not sinking in despite reading thousands of words every month.

  • Why did Thiago decide to summarize books in his own words?

    -Thiago decided to summarize books in his own words to ensure that the knowledge he gained from reading really sunk in and made a difference in his life.

  • What issue did Thiago encounter when he first tried to use ChatGPT for summarizing books?

    -Thiago found that the summaries generated by ChatGPT were too brief, superficial, and clichΓ©, failing to capture the most unusual, insightful, and important ideas from the books.

  • Why were the initial summaries from ChatGPT not satisfactory?

    -The initial summaries were not satisfactory because ChatGPT does not have direct access to the text of the book itself and was relying on summaries written by others, which resulted in summaries of summaries that were not good.

  • How does Thiago use his highlights from ebooks to improve the quality of summaries?

    -Thiago feeds his highlights, which include the points he found most surprising, resonant, and thought-provoking, into ChatGPT to produce a far better summary.

  • What is the first step Thiago takes when creating a book summary with ChatGPT?

    -The first step is to read the ebook and export just the highlights to a digital note-taking app.

  • What technique does Thiago use to select the most important parts from his highlights?

    -Thiago uses his Progressive Summarization technique to select only the most important parts from his highlights.

  • How does Thiago turn the best points from his highlights into an outline format?

    -Thiago creates an outline with major ideas and supporting points beneath them, which tells ChatGPT which ideas to emphasize and which ones are merely supportive.

  • What prompt does Thiago use when feeding the outline into ChatGPT to generate a summary?

    -Thiago uses a prompt that encourages ChatGPT to not only use the provided material but also to incorporate it with other material that it finds on the web, focusing on the importance of details in good writing.

  • How much time did Thiago save by using ChatGPT for summarizing books compared to doing it manually?

    -Thiago saved at least 70 to 80% of the time it previously took him to summarize books by using ChatGPT.



πŸ€– Utilizing AI for Book Summarization

Thiago Forte introduces the concept of using artificial intelligence to summarize books, a task that traditionally requires significant time and effort. He discusses his journey from reading numerous books to realizing the importance of retention and summarization for effective learning. Thiago shares his method of using Chat GPT with his digital highlights from ebooks to create detailed summaries, emphasizing the need for quality over quantity in reading material.


πŸ“š Streamlining the Summarization Process

The speaker outlines a step-by-step process for creating book summaries using Chat GPT. This includes reading an ebook, exporting highlights, selecting the most important points, and organizing them into an outline. The outline is then used to guide Chat GPT in generating a comprehensive summary, which is more efficient and detailed than a summary created solely by the AI. The process is demonstrated with the book 'Where Good Ideas Come From' by Steven Johnson, highlighting the importance of distilling key ideas and supporting details.


πŸš€ Embracing AI for Enhanced Learning and Efficiency

In the final paragraph, Thiago encourages viewers to leverage the power of AI and the internet to enhance their learning process. He emphasizes the efficiency gains from using AI to summarize books and apply the insights practically. The summary process is positioned as a way to make the most of the vast amount of information available, suggesting a future where AI plays a significant role in knowledge acquisition and retention.




To summarize means to provide a brief statement that represents the main points of a longer text or discussion. In the video, summarizing is the process of condensing the content of a book into a shorter form, which is crucial for retaining and applying the knowledge gained from reading. The script mentions the use of Chat GPT to create summaries more efficiently, which is a key part of the video's theme.

πŸ’‘Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The video discusses the use of AI, specifically Chat GPT, to assist in summarizing books, demonstrating how AI can be integrated into knowledge management and learning processes.

πŸ’‘Second Brain

The term 'Second Brain' is used metaphorically in the video to describe a system for organizing and storing information that one encounters, akin to how the human brain functions. Thiago Forte, the author of 'Building a Second Brain,' explains how to maximize the value from the content consumed, which includes summarizing books for better retention and application.

πŸ’‘Book Summary

A book summary is a condensed version of a book's content, highlighting the main ideas and themes. The video's focus is on creating high-quality book summaries using Chat GPT, which can save time and help in better understanding and applying the knowledge from the books read.


In the context of the video, highlights refer to the passages or points in a book that the reader finds particularly important or interesting. These are used as the basis for creating a book summary with Chat GPT, ensuring that the summary captures the essence of the book.


Readwise is a service mentioned in the script that allows users to save and organize their highlights from ebooks. It plays a role in the process of summarizing books by providing a digital repository of the reader's highlights, which can then be used to feed into Chat GPT for summary generation.

πŸ’‘Progressive Summarization

Progressive Summarization is a technique used by the author to distill the most important points from a set of highlights. The script describes how this technique is applied to select the best parts from a book's highlights before using them to create a summary with Chat GPT.


An outline is a structured list of the main points and supporting details of a piece of writing. In the video, creating an outline from the book's highlights is a step in the summarization process that helps Chat GPT to understand the hierarchy of ideas and produce a coherent summary.


Elaboration in the video refers to the process of expanding on the main points and supporting details in a book summary. It is part of the technique used to create a detailed and comprehensive summary that captures the depth of the book's content.

πŸ’‘Practical Takeaway

A practical takeaway is a concept, lesson, or piece of advice that can be directly applied in one's life or work. The video emphasizes the importance of creating summaries that not only capture the essence of a book but also provide actionable insights for the reader.

πŸ’‘Tangible Collection

A tangible collection in the video refers to the physical or digital compilation of book summaries that serve as evidence of the knowledge gained from reading. It is a way to ensure that the reading process results in tangible benefits and is not just a fleeting experience.


The author shares his learning about how to effectively use Chat GPT to summarize books.

Author Thiago Forte used to read 50 books a year but realized the information wasn't sticking.

He started summarizing books in his own words to ensure knowledge retention.

Chat GPT can create book summaries but initial attempts were too brief and superficial.

Chat GPT doesn't have direct access to the book text, relying on summaries by others.

Using a service like Readwise to feed Chat GPT with personal highlights improves summary quality.

Step-by-step guide includes reading the ebook and exporting highlights to a digital notak app.

Bold the most important and resonant points from the highlights for a first pass selection.

Create an outline format with major ideas and supporting points for Chat GPT to emphasize.

Use a prompt to instruct Chat GPT to incorporate the provided outline with additional material found on the web.

Good writing is about details, which make a piece compelling and unique.

The summary produced by Chat GPT with the provided outline is far superior to previous attempts.

The author saved 70-80% of the time it previously took to summarize books using this method.

Encourages readers to combine the content available via the Internet with AI capabilities for efficient summarization.