How to easily create unique and valuable content from the books you read
The story doesn’t end when the book does.
That’s when it’s time for you to create from what you consume. But I often struggle with how to write usefully about what I read.
On Twitter, I asked how people write about the books they read, and got some excellent responses. You’ll see those interspersed throughout these writing suggestions.
Everything is a remix.
And you can remix the books you read into content that serves your mission, your voice, and your readers.
First thing’s first: take notes as you read
It’s easier to create content from notes. The key is to take notes through the lens you normally write from.
I’m into writing and writing techniques. So I highlight sentences that resonate with me as great writing, or provide insight on writing well. I also highlight and note techniques like foreshadowing and callbacks that are done well.
Take notes as you go, and you won’t stare into the gaping yaw of 60,000 swirling words, desperately trying to parse passages looking for something to write about. Instead, you have notes and highlights ready for assembly into a rough outline.
You’re on your way to writing well about books when you take notes along the way.
Write a book summary
Writing a book summary helps cement your understanding of a book’s ideas and themes. But there’s plenty of online competition for most book summaries: many people use this approach. So while writing a deep summary can be useful to you personally—go for it, if that’s the case—don’t expect a huge readership or SEO bump.
Summarize a few key points
Rather than a full summary, expand on a few key points or passages that resonated with you. Share how it changed the way you think or act. Describing a transformative journey (even a small one) through the lens of a book’s key ideas, is storytelling. And stories are what captivate us all.
As Charlotte says here:
Alex Wieckowski does this well in his newsletter, curating a few ideas to help readers learn and decide if they’d like to read the book themselves.
Go deep on one point
Drill down and then go wide on a single idea from a book, expanding on it based on your observations and experience.
As Charlie says:
And Coach Willis:
There’s a bonus benefit: this technique can help you create several pieces of content from every book you read. Choose several ideas to go deep on, breaking them into individual essays.
Write a review
Most book reviews are commodities: Amazon is happy to shovel you thousands of reviews for many titles.
Hard to be unique in that case.
I like Ayomide’s take here, though:
Strong opinions are compelling, but not the key to a good book review. The key is to be of service to the reader. Ayomide’s framework shows the way.
Write consistently from your unique perspective
What’s your area of expertise or experience that resonates? Use that as your lens to review and share ideas from what you read, like George does:
Combine several approaches
You don’t have to stick to a single formula, of course. You could summarize several ideas from your unique voice and perspective, for example.
The north star: Be of service to yourself and your reader
Writing about the books you read helps cement a book’s ideas and themes for you and helps your readers A) learn and B) decide if they want to read the book themselves.
So write about what you read. Sharing how a book changed you changes your reader, also.