Self-help Books. How to Be fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer

How to Be fine- What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books

How to Be fine- What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books

How many self-help books have you read? How much of their advice have you actually put into practice? Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer have just saved us the price of at least 50 self-help books by publishing their own book How to Be fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books (pub William Morrow).

We recommend that wherever possible you read summaries to get a good overview of what the text or subject is about. So we were attracted by what is effectively a summary.

And here’s a summary of their summary:

  • ignore the books that tell you to want the life the author has – it’s about them, not you
  • ignore books that make you feel bad or implies you’re to blame
  • ignore books that give you ‘the secret to being happy all the time’ – life is way more complex and interesting than a single emotion
  • be open to finding out new things about yourself – lots of books can be helpful, even if not in the way the author planned
  • you are the judge of what’s best for you – choose the books you want to read

Our message about self-help books is that previewing a book (flicking through it for 2-5 minutes to find out what it’s about) can make sure you choose the right book according to those (or your own) criteria (and that it could also have given you the summary above). Once you’ve found the right book then the best way of getting the information is to give yourself 20 minutes to find and write down 6 things from the book you will actually put into practice.

Self-help is much easier and more effective if you speed read with a clear purpose.

Summary of Radical Uncertainty: Decision-making for an Unknowable Future by John Kay and Marvin King

Summary of Radical Uncertainty- Decision-making for an Unknowable Future by John Kay and Marvin King

Summary of Radical Uncertainty- Decision-making for an Unknowable Future by John Kay and Marvin King

Times of radical uncertainty require a book
From John Kay (an economic professor) and Marvin King (the governor of the Bank of England), the authors of the classic handbook, The British Tax System comes an interesting and timely book with useful reminders mostly about the financial domain which can be generalised to other domains. If you might get overwhelmed by the page count (544 pages = 10 hours and 53 minutes of non-speed-reading reading) I’ve boiled it down for you to this short and practical summary on how to make decisions (their simple strategy might surprise you so if you’re already a speed reader, you know where to start getting the key message of this summary ie at the end).

What is radical uncertainty?
Firstly, what’s ‘radical uncertainty’? The authors make a distinction between ‘reservable uncertainty’ and ‘radical uncertainty’. For ‘reservable uncertainty’ there is usually a simple solution that exists somewhere ie you can look it up. For example, if you’re uncertain what’s the capital of Estonia, you can check it easily. Or you can use known probability distribution outcome for the spin of a roulette wheel.

For ‘radical uncertainty’ there is no way of resolving the problem. In short, there, the correct answer is ‘don’t know’. There are many aspects of ‘radical uncertainty’ such as vagueness, ambiguity, ignorance, obscurity, ill-defined issues and most of all the lack of information. It’s classical, “unknown unknowns” coined by Donald Rumsfeld, the United States Secretary of Defense who famously said, “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Another example of radical uncertainty is ‘black swans’ coined by Nicholas Taleb in his book with the same title.

“We see, but through a glass, darkly.”
Basically, what they mean by the above statement is that forecasting is difficult, even with all the available knowledge of probabilistic reasoning because of the state of being uncertain which is “not able to be relied on, not known or definite” (the Oxford Dictionary definition). When it comes to decision-making strategies, there is no general theory on how to do it best. The existing literature on decision-making frames it in terms of a puzzle-solving which is fine for puzzle-type decisions but when it comes to mystery-type questions there is little research. They suggest that a good place to start for mystery-type decisions is creativity which is inseparable from uncertainty. Examples of that approach include Sumerians who invented the wheel, Einstein who imagined riding on a beam of light, Steve Jobs thinking differently, Frank Knight and John Maynard Keynes emphasising the significance of radical uncertainty in the financial domain.

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Sun Tzu on Speed Reading (the author of The Art of War)

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has been adapted to many disciplines, apart of military strategy, obviously such as business, management, politics, marketing, logistics planning, strategy, sport, negotiations and conflict resolution, problem-solving and so on and this classic still inspires people with its timeless wisdom.

The Art of War is a classic text attributed to the Chinese general Sun Tzu, who lived about 2,500 years ago.

If war, fighting or military strategy is not your value or metaphor for strategy, reframe it as the art of speed reading or a strategy for solving problems. Replace ‘war’ as the stand-in noun for ….  (For the record, I’m against war and war machine).

A good example of how to read this classic is: The Art of War Visualized: The Sun Tzu Classic in Charts and Graph by Jessica Hagy

Let’s see how we can read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for speed reading purposes.

“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”
Speed reading: preview books – spend time looking over the book/text to get a general idea of the text; speed read reviews and look for summaries. Do you focus on details before you’ve understood the big picture?

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Speed reading: use thin-slicing principle – speed read books so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the information overload

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Speed reading: read more, learn more, know more and you can speed read hundreds of books every year

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
Speed reading: even the worst book can teach you something, for example, how to choose a better book next time and avoid ‘bad’ books

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
Speed reading: use summaries to get through books with easy and speed. According to research, people who read summaries remember more for longer. Summaries are a valid way to get overviews and details.

“To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
Speed reading: use downloading/photoreading technique to download books into your ‘non-conscious’ mind and prime yourself with the info

Summary of The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread – and Why They Stop by Adam Kucharski

Summary of The Rules of Contagion Why Things Spread - and Why They Stop by Adam Kucharski

Summary of The Rules of Contagion Why Things Spread – and Why They Stop by Adam Kucharski

A timely study on how contagions spread in the world
A timely book on why things, including viruses, spread in the world and how to stop them. Although Adam Kucharski, a mathematician and an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, doesn’t address specifically the coronavirus COVID-19, you’ll learn how to think about pandemics and spread of diseases. And if you’re worried about what modern life has in stock for you, including the coronavirus COVID-19, this books has lots of insights and answers. In short, the book explains how things including ideas, diseases, viral news, folks stories, financial crises, loneliness, crime, obesity, social media and misinformation spread in the world.

The spread of things is influenced by four factors such as
Duration
Opportunities
Transmission
Susceptibility
or DOTS for short, says Kucharski. These factors affect the reproduction number or R and allow us to calculate how fast a disease or other things could spread and be stopped from spreading. Reducing one or all four factors will reduce the spread of a virus, for example. So quarantine and self-isolation work because they reduce the ‘opportunities’ factor. But with social media or viral marketing/content or desire to “own the internet” (the title of one of the chapters), you want to push the R factors, not reduce them. Please like this blog via twitter and Facebook below.

What about the coronavirus COVID-19?
The book was written before the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 but published at the critical time (he cracks masterfully chance, risk, decision-making, luck and gambling or watch Adam’s talk below) when we need to know as much as possible how to deal with possible pandemics. In an interview for The Sunday Times paper, he suggests a few things that might minimise your exposure to the virus. Think twice before visiting A&E because “the transmission data shows similarities with the Sars epidemic: there were a lot of super-spreading events around healthcare and hospitals, and we’re seeing that the Covid-19 too. We’re also seeing early indications of a lot of transmission in household settings and gatherings. We’ve found nine or 10 examples, barbecue and that kind of thing, where a large proportion of people there get infected.” In the book, he quotes that on average in the UK, people have five contacts a day (but in Italy, the number is 10/day), so perhaps go for elbow-bumps instead of handshakes and keep buttoned-up British reserve to save us.

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Summary of Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty

Summary of Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty

Summary of Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty

Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty is going to be published in March 2020 (it was published in French in September 2019) but you can get a good overview and summary of the main points by watching Thomas Piketty’s talk about it at LSE in London in February 2020 (he studied at LSE). Speed reading tip: whenever a book is not published yet, search online for talks or video presentations of that book.

Thomas Piketty, the ‘rock star’ of economics, suggests that Capital and Ideology is much better than his previous bestselling book (2.5 million copies) Capital in the Twenty-First Century and it offers lessons from the history as the struggle of ideologies and the quest of justice in inequality. In his previous book, he suggests a historical mechanism of why inequality increases over time: R>G ie return is greater than growth, therefore wealth grows faster than income resulting in more inequality. In Capital and Ideology, he argues that inequality is a moral and illegitimate issue and asks if inequality isn’t justified, why not change it. “Every human society must justify its inequalities; unless reasons for them are found, the whole political and social edifice stands in danger of collapse.” he writes and continues “A just society organises socioeconomic relations, property rights and the distribution of income and wealth in such a way as to allow its least advantaged members to enjoy the highest possible life conditions”.

From our accelerated learning perspective, the most interesting aspect is his take on education which is key for any national growth. We believe that speed reading is everyone’s right but unfortunately it is not taught at schools at an early age. Piketty suggests that societal inequality stems from lack of education or highly unequal access to education. Educational equality is the biggest factor in economic development, more than property rights, etc he suggests in Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty. (Unfortunately, Thomas Piketty ‘predicts’ that there will be more inequality post-Brexit in the UK.)

The book has four parts. Part One: Inequality Regimes in History, Part Two: Slave and Colonial Societies, Part Three: The Great Transformation of the Twentieth Century, and Part Four: Rethinking the Dimensions of Political Conflict

See the pdf of the slides from Thomas Piketty LSE talk (short version)  and long version

Thomas Piketty talks about Capital and Ideology at LSE in London in February 2020

Capital and Ideology

We are now LIVE with LSE alumnus Professor Thomas Piketty and LSE Director Minouche Shafik discussing his new book ‘Capital and Ideology’.

Posted by The London School of Economics and Political Science – LSE on Thursday, February 6, 2020

 

Summary of A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind

How To Thrive in a World Without Work | with Daniel Susskind

Summary of How To Thrive in a World Without Work | with Daniel Susskind

336 pages and Kindle suggests that it would take you 6 hours and 43 minutes to read it in a traditional way (or 20 minutes if you speed read it). Don’t have 7 hours – just watch this 60-minute talk by Daniel Susskind summarising his book A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond.

If you’re worried that you’ll be out of work in the near future – relax – it might take some time to be free of work (at best, a decade or so at least). But it’s certain that a world without work is already approaching, gradually (you’ll be pleased to know), whether you like it or nor, or understand it or not. Automation, AI, quantum computing and master algorithms will make all work obsolete in the future.

The new AI machines no longer need to reason like us or be modelled on human behaviour in order to outperform us. Already, AI is better at diagnosing illnesses, drafting legal contracts, writing PhDs, navigation and driving cars, etc. For example, AI can spot loopholes in contracts in just 26 seconds and with 94% accuracy compared to humans who take 93 minutes with 85% accuracy. There goes the whole profession. So if you’ve got a meaningful job/career/vocation – enjoy it while it lasts.

Key ideas:
• In times of radical uncertainty – flexibility and career adaptation are key.
• You have to evolve and educate yourself. You won’t be able to leave education – ever (learn how to learn and speed reading now). It’s not only what and how you learn but also, when. Skills to compete and build things (systems and machines) will be in high demand.
• Technology will surpass humans with AI, patterns recognition, etc.
• In the world without work, work as the source of money and meaning will have to be redefined. If you define yourself by what you do – stop. What you do is NOT who you are.
• It’s going to be more about leisure, not about the world with less work since most people won’t be working. Leisure (virtual or onsite) is going to be the biggest business.
• It will be a better world, more prosperous thanks to technology with the increasing capacity of machines to do amazing things, such as write beautiful music or poetry or design wonderful buildings (which AI already can perform). And it will be a world with more complex challenges such as the distribution of wealth, meaning without work, inequality, basic income (universal or conditional), social-political power, etc, as well as surveillance and privacy issues.
• When? To quote William Gibson (who coined the term ‘cyberspace’), “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Watch (How To Academy) Daniel Susskind talk about his book A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond

Get the ebook A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind

A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind is a natural continuation of his previous book The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind which suggests the same idea ie whatever your profession is – it is not safe – because it will be automated, done by an algorithm, AI or computers much better in the near future.

Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives by Helen Taylor. Questionnaire about Women’s Fiction Reading

Summary of Why Women Read Fiction The Stories of Our Lives by Helen Taylor

Summary of Why Women Read Fiction The Stories of Our Lives by Helen Taylor

Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives by Helen Taylor is available on Kindle

Women are not only great readers, speed readers but also keener buyers of fiction – accounting for 80% of sales of fiction in the UK, US and Canadian. Surveys show that more women than men are literary festivalgoers, library members, audiobook readers, literary bloggers and members of literary societies and evening reading classes. And women teach children to read, both at school and at home and women who set up book clubs. In our speed reading courses though, on average, the ratio is about 50-50.

“When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.” said Ian McEwan when in 2005, he conducted an experiment in parks where he handed out books to strangers. Men rejected them while women gratefully accepted the novels.

“Questionnaire about Women’s Fiction Reading” at the end of the book offers useful insights about your reading preferences, habits and why you read and how.

1. When did you learn to read, who taught you, and what is your earliest memory of reading?
2. Do you recall the children’s books you read, and which remain in your heart?
3. Were you encouraged or taught to read by parents, siblings, teachers, friends? Was your earliest reading teacher male or female?
4. Have your parents, partner(s), children, and friends encouraged and supported your reading habit? Has it sometimes been a secret or illicit pleasure?
5. Did/do you read religious/sacred texts, e.g. the Koran, the Bible? How important are these to you?
6. Do you read poetry, and if so which poets and poems are most special to you?
7. Have you read all your life, or have you had periods when you read little or nothing (perhaps in hard or challenging times)—or just newspapers, comics, magazines, etc.?
8. How has your education formed and influenced your reading—at school, further education college, evening class, university, etc.?
9. Did you read ‘set books’ at school and/or college and do you recall and cherish (or now hate) them? Please give examples.
10. Do you read every day, and if so at what time? Do you read at bedtime, and is that choice of reading matter different from other times of day?
11. Do you buy fiction regularly? At a bookshop or online?

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Summary of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Summary of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Summary of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A very tiny book written by Charlotte Bronte at the age of 14, a miniature work, called The Young Men’s Magazine, is returning to the UK after being bought by the Bronte Society at auction in Paris. Experts at her museum suggest this section of the story is “a clear precursor” of a famous scene between Bertha and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, which Charlotte would publish 17 years later. A part of the Young Men’s Magazine paints a picture of a murderer driven to insanity after being haunted by his victim’s ghost and how “an immense fire” burning in his head causes the bed curtains to catch fire.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)

Type of work Psychological romance
Setting Northern England; 1800s
Principal characters
Jane Eyre, an orphan girl
Mrs Reed, Jane’s aunt, and mistress of Gateshead Hall
Edward Rochester, once-handsome owner of Thornfield Manor
St John Rivers, a young clergyman

Story overview
Orphaned at birth, Jane Eyre was left to live at Gateshead Hall Manor with her aunt-in-law, Mrs Reed. Jane remained at the estate for ten years, subjected to hard work, mistreatment and fixed hatred.

After a difficult childhood, the shy, petite Jane was sent to Lowood School, a semi-charitable institution for girls. She excelled at Lowood and over the years advanced from pupil to teacher. Then she left Lowood to become the governess of a little girl, Adele, the ward of one Mr Edward Rochester, the stern, middle-aged master of Thornfield Manor.

At Thornfield, Jane was comfortable with life – what with the grand old house, its well-stocked and silent library, her private room, the garden with its many chestnut, oak and thorn trees, it was a veritable palace. Mr Rochester was a princely and heroic master, and, despite his ireful frown and brusque, moody manner, Jane felt at ease in his presence. Rochester confided that Adele was not his own child but the daughter of a Parisian dancer who had deserted her in his care. Still, even with this forthright confession, Jane sensed that there was something Rochester was hiding.

Off and on, Jane heard bizarre, mysterious sounds at Thornfield. She finally discovered that Rochester kept a strange tenant on the third floor of the mansion. This hermit-like woman, once employed by Rochester – or so he said – often laughed maniacally in the night. And other disturbances soon followed.

One evening, after the household had gone to sleep, Jane was roused by the smell of smoke – to find Mr Rochester’s bed on fire. Only with a great deal of exertion did she manage to extinguish the flames and revive her employer.

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Micro Summary of Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

Micro Summary of Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Micro Summary of Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

At first, it looks like Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell lacks a single zeitgeist-defining idea but nevertheless the key discussion is about communications and interactions among strangers at the individual, collective and ideological levels. “Any element which disrupts the equilibrium between two strangers, whether it is alcohol or power or place, become problematic. The book is really about those disruptive influences,” says Malcolm Gladwell.

The underlining concept is taken from Timothy Levine, the US academic who specialises in deception – the truth default theory. Levine suggests that our fundamental instinct to any new information is to believe it because we simply couldn’t function without the default to the truth (belief comes easily; doubt takes effort and time). No communication can proceed without the default to truth. On the other hand, the well-known phenomenon is that far from defaulting to the truth, we tend to believe only the information that fits our preconceived unconscious biases.

Self-help tip from the book: don’t judge people too early; delay your conclusions about other people, especially strangers who can be most likely untypical in their behaviour and difficult to read.

In sum, it looks like people aren’t totally transparent to us. Liars seem honest, spies seem loyal and nervous people can look guilty. Face reading doesn’t seem to be a reliable tool for reading people, as Hamlet put it: one may smile and smile and be a villain: “There is no art / To find the mind’s construction in the face.” This psychological phenomenon is called ‘the illusion of asymmetric insight’ where we tend to consider ourselves opaque to others while thinking that other people are easy to read. The book reminds us that strangers are not easy to read.

Micro-Summary of Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto in ONE WORD

The complete history of human imagination and the book (Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto) summarised in ONE WORD

Summary of Out of Our Minds- What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Summary of Out of Our Minds- What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto

The acclaimed historian, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, takes us on a journey through the history of the human imagination, from the dawn of civilization to the advent of social media in his new book Summary of Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It 

To imagine – to see that which is not there – is the startling ability that has fuelled human development and innovation through the centuries. As a species, we stand alone in our remarkable capacity to refashion the world after the pictures in our minds.

Traversing the realms of science, politics, religion, culture, philosophy and history, Felipe Fernández-Armesto in his latest book, Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It reveals the thrilling and disquieting tales of our imaginative leaps – from the first Homo sapiens to the pioneers of the digital age. Through ground-breaking insights into cognitive science, he explores how and why we have ideas in the first place, providing a tantalising glimpse into who we are and what we might yet accomplish.

So the micro-summary of  Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto in ONE WORD… is divergence (with an additional word to give a complete picture – keep speed reading…). It takes a genius to capture the history of humanity and where we are going with just one word+. This is the ultimate thin-slicing.

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Summary of 1984 by George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell Summary

1984 by George Orwell Summary

1984 by George Orwell (1903-1950)

Micro-summary: Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s’ terrific and terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is a slave to a tyrannical regime under a constant lockdown.

“More relevant to today than almost any other book that you can think of.” Jo Brand, an English comedian, writer, presenter and actress

“Right up there among my favourite books … I read it again and again.” Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale

Published 70 years ago, this seminal classic has every generation captivated, especially in the times of any political, social and global turmoil. Big Brother’s long shadows and the vital defence of truth as well as newspeak, doublethink and thought police – refresh your memory of the past and future with the summary of 1984 by George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective ‘Orwellian’, connoting things such as official government deception and propaganda, secret surveillance, censorship, lockdown or soft martial law, wartime mythology and nostalgia, fact-free leadership, harmful narratives, myths and frames of social control, creative reading and misreadings, repurposing forces of repression for apparent liberation, hijacking and politicising any crisis and manipulation of statistics by a totalitarian or authoritarian state.

Type of work Futuristic, cautionary novel
Setting London, in the mythical country of Oceania; 1984 (in the future)
Principal characters Winston Smith, a rebel against society, Julia, his lover, Mr Charrington, an elderly antique shop owner, O’Brien, the only member of the Inner Party Winston trusts

Story overview
As Winston Smith entered his apartment building, he passed a familiar poster. “It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” Then Winston opened the door to his flat to be greeted by a voice on his “telescreen” – a device he could dim, but never shut off completely. Telescreens broadcasted government propaganda and served as the eyes and ears of the Thought Police, who scrutinized everyone for any possible deviation from acceptable thought or action.

In the flat was a tiny alcove just out of sight from the telescreen’s vision. Winston sat down to write in his diary, an act that was not officially illegal, “but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death. …” While he sat writing, a recent memory stirred in his mind; that day’s “Two Minutes Hate,” a government-sponsored work break in which every worker at the Ministry of Truth was required to participate, had consisted of an interlude when everyone raged and screamed as the telescreen alternately flashed images of enemy Eurasian soldiers and Golstein, an abhorred traitor. That morning, Winston had noticed a “bold-looking girl of about twenty-six” who worked in the Fiction Department. This particular girl – wearing the bright scarlet sash of the official anti-sex league – gave him “the impression of being more dangerous than most,” and Winston had the unnerving feeling that she was watching him.

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Summary of the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME by Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Summary of the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo Victor Hugo

Summary of the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo Victor Hugo

Type of work Gothic Romance
Setting Paris, France; 1842
Principal characters
16-year-old gypsy girl
Pierre Gringoire, a poet and writer
Claude Frollo, an archdeacon who desires Esmerelda for his own
Phoebus, captain of the guard, loved by Esmeralda

Story Overview
It was the Festival of Fools day in Paris. A boisterous crowd had gathered to witness the performance of a play written by poet Pierre Gringoire – and to choose the Prince of Fools, the title bestowed on the ugliest person in all Paris. Several acts into the play, however, the Parisians grew restless and demanded that the “Prince of Fools” be elected immediately.

To Gringoire’s consternation, the crowd turned its attention from his production to the contestAfter several hideous contestants had shown their faces, one particularly grotesque figure appeared before the judges. His huge head was “covered with red bristles [and] between his shoulders rose an enormous hump.” This candidate had a forked chin and lip from which protruded a tusk, and one eye was covered by a wart. In spite of his deformities, he was surprisingly strong and agile. This hideous creature was unanimously acclaimed Prince of Fools.

“It’s Quasimodo,” the crowd roared, “the bell ringer of Notre Dame.” Placing a jester’s hat on his head, a miter in his hand, and a robe on his rounded back, they paraded him through the streets of the city, singing and playing instruments. Quasimodo was overcome; this was the first time he had ever felt “the gratification of self-love.” Deaf from long years of ringing Notre Dame’s massive bells, he grinned in dignified muteness at the spectacle around him.

The procession paused when the crowd reached a spot where a trained goat danced gracefully to the enchanting sounds of a beautiful young gypsy girl’s tambourine. The girl was named Esmerelda. Suddenly, the Archdeacon Claude Frollo barged through the crowd, snatched the scepter from Quasimodo’s hand, and ripped off the hat and robe. The gathering stood aghast at the Archdeacon’s harsh treatment – yet they knew Quasimodo would submit himself to the master who, many years earlier, had taken in a deformed, unwanted baby left in the foundling box at the gates of the cathedral.

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Summary of Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz is a 1966 advertising classic and since it’s out of print, the price for this very detailed marketing manual is quite steep, starting from $125 upwards.

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz

“The greatest mistake marketers make is trying to create demand.” writes Eugene M. Schwartz
One of the core messages of the book is to capture the attention of the existing audience that is already interested in your product or service. So the market research is key. So not much point wasting time to convince people who don’t want your product/service. Position your product/service to sell it only to those who do want it already.

A scattergun approach is a common mistake of general advertising where advertisers try to appeal and resonate with a broad audience, “so that we get the most interest.” Market research should be focused on understanding and articulating the audience’s “hopes, dreams, fears and desires,” which are emotional hot buttons responsible for purchasing decisions instead of guessing about them all. So exploiting and channelling people’s needs and desires is the purpose of marketing according to Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz.

The key message of the book is contained in this quote:
“Let’s get to the heart of the matter. The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy. Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exists in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copy writer’s task: not to create this mass desire – but to channel and direct it. Actually, it would be impossible for any one advertiser to spend enough money to actually create this mass desire. He can only exploit it. And he dies when he tried to run against it.”
Eugene M. Schwartz in Breakthrough Advertising

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Summary of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Summary of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Summary of 21 Lessons for 21 Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Summary of 21 Lessons for 21 Century by Yuval Noah Harari

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari – the third book by the acclaimed author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This time he focuses on the present time and the problems and issues we’re facing (terrorism, fake news and immigration) and offers some solutions. 21 chapters/lessons are organised into five categories/parts: Part I: The Technological Challenge, Part I: The Political Challenge, Part III: Despair and Hope, Part IV: Truth and, finally and Part V: Resilience — and has tips on how to navigate the future we face – with the power of clarity. Some critics may argue that we’ve heard all this before but hopefully this time we’ll listen to the present-day voice of Cassandra. 

368 pages and Kindle typical time of non-speed reading of it is 7 hours and 6 minutes but with this in-depth summary, you’ll be up to speed on it in minutes (especially if you just read the micro-summary of this summary at the end of the blog or watch Harari talk about his new book).

On your future career prospect: soon you might not have one

“No remaining human job will ever be safe from the threat of future automation.” Critics or sceptics will say to this, that there has always been a talk of amazing futuristic innovations that haven’t really actualised yet. Say that to all candle makers who missed the memo that electricity was going to disrupt their business. The revolution of automation and AI will make humans redundant from all sorts of fields from truck-drivers to lawyers to accountants to teachers and so on.

“Once AI makes better decisions than us about careers and perhaps even relationships, our concept of humanity and of life will have to change.”

On future education: change is the only constant and learning to learn is the top skill to master

“The now century-old model of production-line school education is bankrupt.” AI the ultimate master machine learning algorithm will be able to do everything. Forget teaching kids programming, the best skill you can teach them is reinvention. “So what else should we be teaching? Many pedagogical experts argue that school should be switched to teaching ‘the four Cs’ – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.” And how to deal with constant change in the constantly changing world. “To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and a great reserves of emotional balance.”

This chapter on education is most interesting to me because of my interest in accelerated learning and education. In it, Harari charts the past and future of the education and what we should be doing now to ensure that the quality of education, information and knowledge is enhanced as opposed to degraded. The advice he gives to a 15-year old is: “don’t rely on the adults too much. Most of them mean well, but they just don’t understand the world.” What should you rely on then? Technology? Not really. Biotechnology, machine learning and algorithms? No. Should you rely on yourself then? If you know yourself, maybe – by most people don’t know themselves and are products of external influences because we’re living in the era of hacking humans. “To succeed in such a daunting task, you need to work hard on getting to know your operating system better.” But hurry, because your competition (Google, Amazon, Coca-cola, Facebook, Baidu, Netflix, Match or eHarmony, governments, religions, etc) is racing to hack you first.

Learning to learn or self-learning is the most important skill you’ll be relying on in order to reinvent yourself and face uncertainty and unknown leading to 2040.
Speed reading is a part of the accelerated learning methodology. Speed reading courses for kids as young as nine are available.

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Summary of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Summary of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Summary of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

200 years ago, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1797-1851). Shelley was 18 years old when she started writing the story and the first edition was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20. Her name then appeared on the second edition which published in 1823.

Summary of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Type of work Conceptual horror novel (plot: overcoming the monster which is one of top six or seven universal plots in novels)
Setting Switzerland; late 1700s
Principal characters
Robert Walton, an explorer attempting to sail to the North Pole
Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a “monster”
Clerval, Frankenstein’s friend
The Monster, Frankenstein’s angry, frustrated, and lonely creation 

Story overview
His ship surrounded by ice, Robert Walton watched with his crew as a huge, misshapen “traveller” on a dog sled disappeared across the ice. The next morning, as the fog lifted and the ice broke up, they found another man, nearly frozen, on a slab of floating ice. By giving him hot soup and rubbing his body with brandy, the crew restored him to health. A few days later he was able to speak.

This stranger, Victor Frankenstein, seemed upset to hear that an earlier sled had been sighted. Then he began to tell his story:

Victor had been born the only child of a good Genevese family. During a journey with her husband abroad, his mother found a peasant and his wife with five hungry babies. All were dark-complexioned, save one, a very fair little girl. His mother decided at that moment to adopt the child.

Victor and his adopted sister, Elizabeth, came to love one another, though they were very dissimilar in character. Elizabeth “busied herself with following the aerial creations of poets,” while, for Victor, “it was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn…the physical secrets of the world.”

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Top 100+ Books on Prosperity and Wealth Creation

Prosperity booklist 

Prosperity, money and wealth creation – mean different things to different people. Whatever it means to you and if you want to have more of it, there is plenty of advice from people who have mastered the art of wealth creation. And what’s the best, easiest and cheapest way to learn how to do it – speed read their books or at least read the summaries of the books which counts as speed reading (we’ve summarised some of them for you). In an interview with Bill Gates, he was asked, “If you could have one superpower what would it be?” He responded with, “The ability to read super fast.”

Our personal choice for the top 6 books on prosperity

Richard Wiseman The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind (2004) – Read the summary
Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer Creating Money: Attracting Abundance (2008)
Anthony Robbins book Money: Master the Game – 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom (2014) – Read the summary
Paul McKenna I can make you rich (2007)
Deepak Chopra Creating Affluence (1998)
Shakti Gawain Creating True Prosperity (1997)

From: 50 Prosperity Classics by Tom Butler-Bowdon

ATTRACT IT
Master the inner game/mindset of wealth and abundance with books such as

James Allen The Path of Prosperity (1905) In short: You will only become truly prosperous when you have disciplined your mind. Paradoxically, wealth (and happiness) comes most easily to those who forget themselves in their service to others.
Genevieve Behrend Your Invisible Power (1921)
Rhonda Byrne The Secret (2006)
T. Harv Eker Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (2005)
Charles Fillmore Prosperity (1936)
Esther Hicks & Jerry Hicks Ask and It Is Given (2004)
Napoleon Hill The Master-Key to Riches (1965)
Catherine Ponder Open Your Mind to Prosperity (1971)
John Randolph Price The Abundance Book (1987)
Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer Creating Money (1988) 
In short: If you know the universe to be an abundant place, you won’t fear not having the resources to pursue your purpose or mission in life.
Marsha Sinetar Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow (1987)
Max Weber The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–5)

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Books that changed my life and inspired me (Jan Cisek)

Why I read, speed read and spd rdng?

Many successful people are avid readers and speed readers such as Bill Gates who releases an annual list of his favourite books every year or  Barack Obama who said that reading helped him survive his two terms as President.

Over the years many books and authors have inspired me and changed the course of my life (thousands and thousands of books – I’ve lost count). I read for knowledge and wisdom as well as for pleasure (I am a bookaholic). The key difference between knowledge and wisdom is that wisdom has better longevity and is possibly timeless as opposed to knowledge which as has an expiration date or if you like, it’s updated all the time. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ (prevention is better than cure) was relevant 100 years ago and probably will be relevant 100 years from now on. On the other hand, human understanding that the Earth was flat didn’t last long. Also, as an expert in some fields, I read for difference and new information, since difference gives me new learning, as opposed to reading for sameness which only increases my understanding and confirms what I already know. Some books have transformed my life to a new level and some books only clarified my existing life and made it better. We need both: understanding (repetition, sameness) and learning (difference, new). For example, Zen transformed my life because as a child and teenager I had no idea about such a domain and it expanded and increased my consciousness and my freedom as well as boosted my creativity. Books by Gilles Deleuze have transformed my life by making me a better thinker. On the other hand, books by Yuval Noah Harari clarified and confirmed my existing understanding – in a better, more concise way. (When I just mention authors, I’ve read all their books and books about their books as well – I did mention I’m a bookaholic, right?)

My timeless books list

I’m speed reading some of these timeless (for me) books, from time to time – not all but, just thin-slicing some of them again.

Fairy Tales by Grimm Brothers and any other fairy tales (when I was a child)

Sherlock Holmes (When I was a child 8-11, Sherlock was my mentor and teacher training me in deductive thinking. Mastermind by Maria Konnikova is the book about that kind of thinking if you want to think like Sherlock Holmes which I highly recommend.)

Teoria i metodyka ćwiczeń relaksowo-koncentracyjnych / Theory and Methodology of Relaxation-concentration Exercises compilation by Wiesław Romanowski (this was my first book on personal development I read when I was about 11 and it’s about the importance of relaxation as a way of dealing with stress and about meditation, autogenic training and Zen)

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
J.K. Rowling

Cybernetyka i charakter (Cybernetics and Character) by Prof Marian Mazur (This book I read several times when I was 14 and didn’t understand it, because I haven’t developed my mathematical intelligence enough but when I picked this book again when I was 15, I got it immediately. It’s about systems thinking and neurofeedback and presents a cybernetic theory of human character. The key argument is that our ‘character’ (not to be confused with the psychological term ‘personality’ relating to symptoms of human behaviour, not its source) cannot be changed by compulsion or persuasion or even self-persuasion. Therefore, in order to establish conformity between one’s character and one’s situation the only possibility (according to cybernetics) is to change the situation or environment, not the character, which is now been confirmed by genetics. Prof Mazur was nominated for the Nobel prize for his work and that’s why I got interested in this discipline at that young age.)

Poe, Musil, Kafka (from the age of 12 to 15 I was reading lots of literature by Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and similar)

Huna by Max Freedom Long (At 14 I was reading everything that was mind-expanding, extraordinary and about unlimited human potential. Huna was very trendy at that time in Poland.)

Introduction to Zen Buddhism by DT Suzuki (when I was 17, this book enlightened me to spirituality beyond Catholic religion)
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Speed Reading Trends: Micro-summaries of Books

Micro-summaries of books – the latest speed reading trend

Shortage of reading time sparks a trend of micro-summaries for people who don’t have time even to read regular summaries. I guess 240 characters could suffice to summaries almost anything as Twitter made it possible. Originally, started by Woody Allen’s famous quote “I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia.”

Microsummaries are good examples of thin slicing of books.

 “Brevity is the soul of wit.” William Shakespeare

A few tongue-in-cheek macro-summaries

How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Simile. Listen. Look interested. Remember people’s names. Repeat.

The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Stop thinking about the past, stop anticipating the future. In fact, stop thinking. Now.

The 4-hour Work Week by Timothy Harris
Maximise results while minimising time spent. Decides to work less, then find a way to do that. Delegating is useful.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson
Because they keep moving the cheese, you really need to be ready for the cheese to move. Got it? A business category for two mice, two little people in a maze seeking cheese.

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
If you had a black box (like on a plane), you’d see how you failed and how to succeed.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Ask ‘why’ questions and you’ll be more innovative, influential and profitable than others.

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
Focus on your top five talents or capabilities (after you’ve done a Gallup test online) to thrive.

Outliers: The Story Of Success by Malcolm Gladwell: Get born at the right moment, in the right place, to the right family and then still you have to work really hard.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell  is number 6 on The 100 Best Books of the Decade according to The Times

Micro-summaries of some novels

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Provincial life is deadly dull.

Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
The aristocracy is decadent.

Le Misanthrope by Molière
Humankind is fundamentally flawed.

Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal
Hypocrisy is rife.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Forgiveness is elusive.

Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Vendettas are ruthless.

La Bête humaine by Émile Zola
Train drivers are murders.

Book summary of ‘Thin slicing’ of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers: The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell’s books summarised

Anthony Robbins book Money: Master the Game – 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom: earn more, spend less and automate the investing process

Micro-summary of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
There are three main threats to human civilisation:
1) nuclear war,
2) climate change/ecological collapse and
3) technological/biological disruption.
The key suggestions are:
• to start the conversation about all the above threats because these global problems can have only global solutions,
• get real – throw off the false faiths of institutional religions and
• meditate.
Speed read the full version of the summary of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto: DIVERGENCE
(with an additional word CONVERGENCE)

Read the best book summaries

How to speed read 365 books/year

The importance of reading summaries first – speed reading technique #26

Errornomics – The Science of Making Errors and How to Avoid them – Summary

Summary of Errornomics by Joseph Hallinan and why we make errors and what we can do to stop them.

Errornomics: Why We Make Mistakes and What We Can Do To Avoid Them

Errornomics: Why We Make Mistakes and What We Can Do To Avoid Them

Hallinan began working on this book by collecting cuttings involving human error. ‘Some were funny, some were tragic. There was one from Britain where people had ransacked the home of a baby doctor because they had mistaken the word paediatrian for paedophile.’

So why do we make mistakes? According to Hallinan, an assumption is the mother of all cock-ups. “People have a poor understanding of how perception works and they tend to think it’s more foolproof than it is actually the case. In certain forms of perception, there are consistent, provable, biases and those biases predispose us to making errors.” A good example of this is taking exams. The perceived wisdom is to go with your first answer because it’s most likely to be right. In fact, academic research form past 80 years has shown the opposite to be true. It’s much better to go with your second guess but people don’t do that.

5 top tips for avoiding mistakes

1) Make a list.
A leading medical journal recently reported that when surgeons used a pre-surgical checklist, the death rate from surgical error plunged by 47%.

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Malcolm Gladwell’s books summarised

“Indeed, Gladwell’s three lucrative theses are deceptively simple — even superficially simplistic.
His first book, The Tipping Point, noted that at a point of critical mass . . . things change, and that certain people have outsize influence in making that happen.
The second book, Blink, points out that first impressions and gut feelings matter.
And now his third, Outliers, makes the case that to be successful you need to work hard and have some lucky breaks. To which one could certainly say, “Duh”.

Read the article about Malcolm Gladwell in the TimesOnline

Read the best book summaries

‘Thin slicing’ and summary of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers: The Story of Success

The secret of how to master anything: 10 000 hours of training. Summary and thin slicing of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers: The Story of Success

A fair slice of his latest book might be summed up in the old saw about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. His own favourite figure is that to be genuinely good at anything, from writing a book to being a Beatle, takes a magic total of 10 000 hours of intensive training – that’s about 3 hours/day for 10 years (like in this joke: “Excuse me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall? “Practise.”).

Plus you have to be born at the right moment, at the right place, to the right family and then still you have to work really hard. That’s about it. I just saved you £17.

By the way, thin slicing is a term used by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Blink’, which means taking the smallest slice of cake vertically in order to find out what the cake is like. Similarly the spd rdng techniques are designed to allow you to focus on the smallest amount of information possible to understand a subject or text. Summaries and micro-summaries are examples of thin slicing.

And AI machine learning algorithms can train themselves in minutes as opposed to humans who would take 10 000 hours. Soon humans will become irrelavent as one of the top Cassandras Yuval Noah Harari in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century predicts.

Summary of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder-How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place By Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman

Perfect Mess – mess is good for you

Perfect Mess – mess is good for you

A clutter-free environment can cost you
The inefficiency of tidiness. In praise of mess. Why keeping tidy can be bad feng shui. Tidiness and order are so ordinary. The new maximalism means messy home.

This book may not change people’s lives unless they tend towards being messy. Clutter, untidiness and hoarding, are not bad habits, the authors argue, but often more sensible than meticulous planning, storage and purging of possessions.

That is because being tidy is more costly
An improvised storage system (important papers close to the keyboard on your desk, the rest haphazardly distributed in loosely related piles on every flat surface possible) takes very little time to manage. Filing every bit of paper in precise colour-coded categories and a system of cross-referencing, will certainly take longer and will not save time.

The authors of this book search the furthest reaches of psychologymanagement studiesbiology, music and art (art depends on mess; remember Tracy Emin’s messy bed) and physics to show why a bit of disorder is good for you. Mainly, it creates much more room for coincidence and synchronicity or luck if you like. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin because he was notoriously untidy, and didn’t clean a petri dish, thus allowing fungal spores to get to work on bacteria.

Smart people are messy
It will be difficult to convince your mum, but research confirms that if you’re messy, it might mean that you’re smart. Researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted a study that explained that if you are not tidy, it simply means that your brain is occupied with more important matters. As if that was not enough, the conclusion of the scientists is that a somewhat messy environment inspires greater creativity.

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Only-ness Principle from Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier

Only-ness principle comes from Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier

Only-ness statement reads like this: “Our brand (offering) is the only … (category) that … (benefit).”

The only-ness test

The only-ness test

Simple branding process to put it all together to position your brand well is to ask: WHAT is your category? HOW are you different? WHO are your customers? WHERE are they located? WHY are we important? And WHEN do they need us (underlying trend)? The only-ness statement provides a framework for your brand. Once you’ve defined your point of differentiation, you will have a decisional filter for all your company’s future decisions. By checking back against your statement you can quickly see whether any new decision will help or hurt, focus or clutter, purify or modify your brand. The brand positioning is about one simple, starting fundamental question: What makes you the “only”? Onlyness is the secret of brand’s positioning.

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Summary of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. Thin-slicing: the art of speed reading.

‘Thin slicing’ or/and summary of Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

The key concept of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by (and Spd Rdng) is ‘thin-slicing’ which is our instinctual or intuitive ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. In other words, spontaneous decisions are often as good as – or even better than – carefully planned and considered ones. Gladwell draws on examples from science, advertising, sales, medicine, and popular music. However, your ability to thin slice can be corrupted by your likes, dislikes, prejudices and stereotypes, and you can be overloaded by too much information.

The key message is to learn when to trust your gut reaction. A key strategy for getting the gist of a book is to ‘thin slice’ the cross-section of the book to get as much of the message as possible without reading it from cover to cover.

How do you slice a cake in order to find out what it’s like?
(Obviously, you cut a vertical slice  – but most people read books as if they were eating a cake layer by layer)

ONE SIGN OF AN EXPERT IS THE ABILITY TO RECOGNISE
WHAT’S NOT HAPPENING (difference)

Speed read microsummaries of Malcolm Gladwell’s books

 

Thin slicing principle

The aim when you’re reading a book for factual information is to get as much information as possible by reading as few words as possible. (What Malcolm Gladwell calls ‘thin-slicing’ in his book ‘Blink’.) Previewing is an excellent start to this process.

How would you cut a cake in order to find out what it’s like? Obviously you’d cut a thin slice vertically (hence thin-slicing). But for many people, the way they read a book (chapter by chapter) is like eating a cake one horizontal layer at a time. You have to eat almost the whole thing in order to be sure what the cake is like. Not very efficient!

Thin-slicing is the ultimate art of speed reading. Previewing is thin-slicing. Reading summaries is thin-slicing. If somebody tells you the gist of the book that’s thin-slicing as well. Summarising a book with one or two words is ultimate thin-slicing. My all best favourite thin-slicing is of the Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto who summarised it / thin-sliced it in just ONE WORD… “divergence”.

Read as much as you can in the time available. Read for bite-size chunks of valuable info.