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 with the help of AI. He emphasizes the importance of reading fewer books and absorbing their knowledge by summarizing them in his own words. Forte demonstrates how to use Chat GPT to create high-quality book summaries by feeding it highlights from his digital notes, which are then refined into a structured outline. This process not only saves time but also enhances the retention of valuable insights from the books read, making the most of both human and artificial intelligence.


  • 📚 Thiago Forte, the author of 'Building a Second Brain', shares his method for effectively summarizing books with the help of AI.
  • 🔍 Thiago realized that reading numerous books without retention wasn't beneficial, leading him to summarize books in his own words for better knowledge absorption.
  • 🤖 Chat GPT was initially used to create summaries, but the results were unsatisfactory due to the lack of direct access to the book's text.
  • 🖍 By feeding Chat GPT with personal highlights from books, Thiago found that the AI could produce more insightful and detailed summaries.
  • 📖 Thiago's first step involves reading an eBook and exporting just the highlights to a digital note-taking app.
  • ✍️ The second step is to review and bold the most important points from the highlights, a process Thiago refers to as 'Progressive Summarization'.
  • 📝 In step three, Thiago turns the best points into an outline format, organizing major ideas and supporting points to guide Chat GPT.
  • 💡 The outline is then used as input for Chat GPT with a specific prompt to create a detailed and high-quality book summary.
  • ⏱️ This method saves a significant amount of time compared to traditional summarization, offering a 70-80% time reduction.
  • 🌟 The resulting summary is more detailed, specific, and includes more supporting points and examples than a standard Chat GPT summary.
  • 🚀 Thiago encourages readers, especially those who apply practical knowledge from books, to try this method to efficiently combine internet resources with AI capabilities.

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.

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

    -Thiago Forte realized that he was reading a lot but not retaining the information effectively.

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

    -He wanted the knowledge from the books to really sink in and make a difference in his life, rather than just having a vague feeling of forgetting everything he learned.

  • What was Thiago's initial experience with ChatGPT for summarizing books?

    -Thiago found that the summaries generated by ChatGPT on its own were too brief, superficial, and cliché, failing to capture the most important ideas from the books.

  • How does ChatGPT access the text of a book for summarization?

    -ChatGPT doesn't have direct access to the text of the book itself; it relies on summaries already written by others.

  • What service does Thiago use to save his highlights from ebooks?

    -Thiago uses a service called Readwise to automatically save his highlights from over 200 books into his digital notes app.

  • What technique does Thiago use to select the most important highlights from a book?

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

  • How does Thiago transform the selected highlights into an outline format?

    -He creates an outline with major ideas and supporting points beneath them, which helps ChatGPT understand which ideas to emphasize and which are most important.

  • What prompt does Thiago use when feeding the outline into ChatGPT for summarization?

    -Thiago uses a prompt that encourages ChatGPT to not only use the provided outline but also incorporate additional material that it finds on the web.

  • What was the result of using ChatGPT with Thiago's method compared to the initial attempt?

    -The summary generated using Thiago's method was far superior, longer, more detailed, specific, and had more supporting points and examples compared to the initial attempt.

  • How much time did Thiago estimate he saved by using this method for summarizing books?

    -Thiago estimated that he saved at least 70 to 80% of the time it previously took him to summarize books.

  • What does Thiago encourage viewers to do with the knowledge from books?

    -Thiago encourages viewers to try summarizing books, especially if they want to apply practical takeaways from the books in their own life or work.



😀 Embracing AI for Book Summarization

Thiago Forte, author of 'Building a Second Brain,' discusses the challenges of retaining information from extensive reading and his journey towards summarizing books to enhance knowledge retention. He introduces the idea of using AI, specifically chat GPT, to create summaries more efficiently. Thiago shares his initial disappointment with the AI's superficial summaries without direct access to the book's text and then describes his method of feeding AI his highlights from over 200 books to produce a more insightful summary. He outlines a step-by-step process involving reading, highlighting, and bolding key points, which are then used to generate a detailed book summary with chat GPT.


🤖 Streamlining the Summarization Process with AI

The paragraph details Thiago's method for creating an effective book summary using AI. He starts by reading an eBook and exporting highlights to his digital notes app, using a service like readwise. Thiago then refines these highlights by bolding the most significant points, which he sees as the core of the book's message. He proceeds to create an outline with major ideas and supporting points, which serves as a guide for chat GPT to generate a comprehensive summary. The process involves distilling the essence of the book into a structured format that emphasizes the most important aspects. Thiago demonstrates how to input this outline into chat GPT, using a prompt to enhance the quality of the generated summary, resulting in a detailed and time-saving approach to book summarization.


🚀 Leveraging AI and Internet Resources for Efficient Learning

In the final paragraph, Thiago emphasizes the power of combining internet resources with AI to revolutionize the way we learn and create knowledge. He encourages viewers to experiment with this method of summarizing books, which not only saves time but also allows for a deeper understanding and application of the material. Thiago invites the audience to share their experiences and results in the comments section, fostering a community of learners who are embracing the future of AI-assisted knowledge acquisition.




To summarize means to provide a brief statement or account of the main points of something, such as a book or a video. In the context of the video, summarizing is the process of condensing the content of a book into a shorter form while retaining its essential ideas. The script mentions the author's realization that summarizing books in his own words helps knowledge to 'sink in,' which is a crucial part of his learning process.

💡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. In the video, AI is used to automate the process of summarizing books through Chat GPT, which is portrayed as a futuristic and efficient tool that can significantly reduce the time required for manual summarization.

💡Book Summary

A book summary is a condensed version of a book's content, highlighting the main points and themes without going into detail. The video emphasizes the importance of book summaries as building blocks of knowledge that can be incorporated into one's work or shared with others. The author's journey from reading many books to focusing on summarizing fewer books for better retention is a central theme.


In the context of reading and note-taking, highlights refer to the passages or points in a book that the reader finds particularly important or interesting. The script describes how the author uses digital highlights from his readings, which are then used as input for Chat GPT to create a detailed book summary.


Readwise is a service mentioned in the script that allows the user to save highlights from ebooks directly to a digital notes app. It plays a crucial role in the process described by the author, as it automates the collection of highlights from over 200 books, facilitating the summarization process.

💡Progressive Summarization

Progressive Summarization is a technique used by the author to distill down the highlights from a book to only the most important parts. This method is part of the first pass selection process, where the author decides which highlights are valuable enough to be included in the final summary, thus refining the content further.


An outline is a list of main points and sub-points that organizes and structures the content in a hierarchical format. In the video, creating an outline is a step in the summarization process where the author arranges the most important ideas and supporting points, which then serves as a guide for Chat GPT to generate a coherent summary.

💡Chat GPT

Chat GPT, as mentioned in the script, is a tool or platform that utilizes AI to generate text based on the input provided to it. The author uses Chat GPT to create book summaries by feeding it with the distilled highlights and an outline, resulting in a detailed and efficient summarization.


Innovation refers to the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. In the script, the author discusses the concept of innovation as a gradual process of development and recombination of ideas, which is a key point in the book 'Where Good Ideas Come From' by Steven Johnson.


Details are the small but important pieces of information that contribute to the overall understanding and interest of a subject. The script emphasizes the importance of details in writing, stating that compelling writing is often about having interesting, unique, and unusual details, which is a point the author considers when creating summaries.


The author discusses the use of AI to summarize books efficiently, a task that traditionally requires significant time and effort.

Thiago Forte, the author of 'Building a Second Brain,' shares his method for maximizing the value from consumed content.

The realization that reading numerous books without retention led to a shift in reading habits, focusing on fewer books and summarizing them.

Summaries act as building blocks for knowledge, which can be incorporated into work or shared with others for mutual benefit.

Chat GPT was initially tested for creating book summaries but produced superficial and clichéd results without access to the book's full text.

The solution involved feeding Chat GPT with personal highlights from电子书, leveraging a service like readwise to automate the process.

A detailed step-by-step method is introduced, starting with reading and exporting highlights from an ebook to a digital notes app.

The process involves selecting and bolding the most important and resonant points from the highlights for further refinement.

A first pass is made to choose only the most important parts using a progressive summarization technique.

The main argument of the book is identified as a key point to emphasize in the summary.

Innovation is described as a gradual process of developing, mixing, and recombining ideas rather than a single 'Eureka' moment.

The author suggests creating an outline with major ideas and supporting points to guide Chat GPT in generating a summary.

The outline is used to inform Chat GPT which ideas to emphasize and which are supportive, leading to a more coherent summary.

A prompt is developed for Chat GPT to incorporate the provided outline into a detailed and insightful summary.

The final summary produced by Chat GPT is significantly better and more detailed than earlier attempts, saving a considerable amount of time.

The author encourages readers to try this method, especially for books with practical takeaways, combining internet content with AI capabilities for efficiency.

The method is presented as a future-oriented approach to summarizing books, leveraging the power of AI for a task that was traditionally time-consuming.