Just tell me the punchline

We live in a time of summaries.

Our news has transformed from long articles in a newspaper to bite sized paragraphs on our phone screens. Epic trilogy tomes are summarized into movies. Updates on our lives fit into 140 characters.

Book summaries fit right into our era. They promise to be a shortcut to deliver the essence of a book in 60 minutes rather than 600. 10x faster is another mantras of our times.

Yet, a summary of a book is no replacement for the book itself, just as a joke’s punchline cannot take the place of a joke. If you merely read a joke’s punchline, it reminds you of the entire joke if you already know it. If you don’t know it, it is of no use.

Book summaries are a useful way to recollect books we have already read. For new ones, they may help you decide whether to read the book or not. Don’t treat them as replacements for reading the book.

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