How to Summarize Books Using ChatGPT


Chief of Digital Strategy

How to Summarize Books Using ChatGPT

The video “Best Ways to Summarize Books with AI” by Tiago Forte provides a step-by-step guide on how to effectively use ChatGPT to create high-quality book summaries. Tiago Forte, the author of “Building a Second Brain,” shares his experience and insights on maximizing the value of the content and information consumed daily.


Forte used to read 50 books a year but realized that he was not retaining much of the information. He decided to start reading fewer books and summarizing them in his own words to ensure that the knowledge truly sank in. These summaries became valuable building blocks that he could incorporate into his work or share with others.

However, writing book summaries is time-consuming, especially for busy individuals. When ChatGPT was released, Forte saw an opportunity to create book summaries in a fraction of the time. Initially, he tried asking ChatGPT to write summaries on its own, but the results were brief, superficial, and cliched. The problem was that ChatGPT did not have direct access to the full text of the book and relied on summaries written by others.

To overcome this issue, Forte developed a four-step process for creating high-quality book summaries using ChatGPT:

Step 1: read the ebook and export highlights

Forte’s first step in summarizing books using AI involves reading the ebook and exporting highlights, forming the foundation for creating detailed and insightful summaries. He reads ebooks using the Kindle app on his iPad, a popular choice for digital reading due to its user-friendly interface and features. The Kindle app allows users to easily highlight text and make notes as they read, enabling Forte to capture key ideas, quotes, and concepts that resonate most with him. Highlighting is an active reading technique that encourages deeper engagement with the text, ensuring that the most valuable parts of the book are easily accessible for review and summarization.

To efficiently manage and organize these highlights, Forte uses a service called Readwise, which connects with the Kindle app and automatically imports highlights and notes. This synchronization eliminates the need for manual copying and pasting, saving time and ensuring that all important information is centralized.

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Readwise offers several benefits: automatic syncing of highlights, daily review emails that reinforce material through regular review, and tagging and organization features that make it easier to categorize and retrieve specific information later. Additionally, using digital notes to save highlights provides advantages such as searchability, accessibility from any device, and integration with other note-taking and productivity tools like Evernote, Notion, and Roam Research.

Step 2: bold the most important and interesting points

In the second step of Tiago Forte’s summarization process, he goes through the highlights and bolds the most important, interesting, and resonant points. This step is crucial because the highlights saved from a book are often too extensive for ChatGPT, which has a word limit. By employing his progressive summarization technique, Forte distills the highlights down to the best of the best.

This technique involves iteratively highlighting and bolding key passages, effectively filtering the information to retain only the most valuable insights. This method not only makes the data manageable for ChatGPT but also ensures that the summary generated is rich in detail and relevance.

Step 3: turn the best points into an outline format

In the third step of Forte’s process, he creates an outline with the major ideas and supporting points beneath them. This structured format guides ChatGPT on which ideas to emphasize and which ones are merely supportive. To achieve this, Forte sets up a typical environment with the highlights on the left side of the screen and a new note on the right side.

He then copies and pastes the bolded passages into the new note, arranging them into a clear and organized outline. This method ensures that the most critical points are highlighted, facilitating a more coherent and detailed summary when processed by ChatGPT.

Step 4: dump the outline into ChatGPT

Forte copies the entire outline and pastes it into ChatGPT’s prompt window. He uses a specific prompt that instructs ChatGPT to incorporate the provided information into other material found on the web. This ensures that the summary is not solely based on the highlights but also includes additional relevant information.

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The resulting summary is far superior to the one generated by ChatGPT when simply asked to write a summary based on its knowledge. It is longer, more detailed, and specific, and includes more supporting points and examples.

By using this method, Forte saves at least 70-80% of the time it previously took him to summarize books. He encourages others, especially those who read books with practical takeaways, to give this method a try. Combining the incredible content available through the internet and books with the capabilities of artificial intelligence makes it easier and more efficient to create valuable summaries that would have taken much longer in the past.

Forte emphasizes that good writing is all about details. What makes a piece of writing compelling is not poetic turns of phrase but interesting, unique, and unusual details. By providing ChatGPT with a well-structured outline containing the most important and resonant points from a book, users can generate high-quality summaries that capture the essence of the book and its key ideas.


In conclusion, the video demonstrates how artificial intelligence, specifically ChatGPT, can be leveraged to create detailed and insightful book summaries in a fraction of the time it would take to write them manually. By following Forte’s four-step process, readers can ensure that they retain the most valuable information from the books they read and share that knowledge with others in a concise and meaningful way.


1: Who is Tiago Forte?

Tiago Forte is the author of “Building a Second Brain” and a productivity expert. He focuses on helping individuals maximize their productivity and retain valuable information from the content they consume daily.

2: Why did Tiago Forte start summarizing books?

Forte used to read around 50 books a year but realized he wasn’t retaining much of the information. He decided to read fewer books and summarize them in his own words to ensure the knowledge was deeply understood and could be incorporated into his work or shared with others.

3: How does ChatGPT help in summarizing books?

ChatGPT can significantly reduce the time it takes to create book summaries. However, Forte found that simply asking ChatGPT to write summaries often resulted in superficial content. To improve this, he developed a structured four-step process that leverages ChatGPT’s capabilities more effectively.

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4: What is the first step in Forte’s process?

The first step is to read the ebook and export highlights. Forte uses the Kindle app to read and highlight important passages. These highlights are then automatically saved to his digital notes using a service called Readwise.

5: What does Forte do after exporting the highlights?

In the second step, he reviews the highlights and bolds the most important and interesting points. This progressive summarization technique helps distill the highlights to the most valuable points, making it easier for ChatGPT to process the information.

6: How does Forte structure the information for ChatGPT?

In the third step, Forte organizes the bolded points into an outline format. This structured outline includes major ideas and supporting points, guiding ChatGPT on which ideas to emphasize.

7: What prompt does Forte use when inputting the outline into ChatGPT?

In the fourth step, Forte copies the outline and pastes it into ChatGPT’s prompt window. He uses a specific prompt instructing ChatGPT to incorporate the provided information with additional material found on the web, ensuring a more comprehensive and detailed summary.

8: How effective is this method compared to manual summarization?

Forte’s method using ChatGPT saves him at least 70-80% of the time it would take to manually summarize a book. The resulting summaries are more detailed, specific, and supported by relevant points and examples.

9: Why is detail important in writing good summaries?

Forte emphasizes that compelling writing is all about details. Interesting, unique, and unusual details make a piece of writing engaging. By providing ChatGPT with a well-structured outline, users can generate high-quality summaries that capture the essence and key ideas of the book.

10: Who can benefit from this summarization method?

This method is especially useful for busy individuals, such as parents, professionals, and anyone who reads books with practical takeaways. It allows them to efficiently create valuable summaries and retain important information.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Denise Jans; Unsplash; Thank you!


Tim Worstell

Chief of Digital Strategy

Strategic influencer in digital marketing and leadership, freelance 501c(3) consultant. I work with companies to create scroll-stopping SEO-optimized content to expedite ROI. Irrationally Optimistic and always dreaming.


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