A Simple Book Notes Template (for Notion)


Watch it in action


I’m actually going to start with the content first, then move my way back up to the properties.

I like to remind myself how I came across a book, and there’s a very practical reason for this. Usually it’s friends, family, colleagues, who would recommend me books, and following up with them after I’ve started or completed a book is a great way to:

  1. Hold myself accountable to finishing that book
  2. Build that relationship by letting them know I took action based on their recommendations

The second part is just for me, since I make videos so feel free to ignore this part.

Initial Impressions Section

The one-pager I’m referring to, is actually this 1-page summary that comes with all of Shortform’s book guides.

It’s usually a short article within itself, and what I like to do is, first read through the entire one-pager without taking any notes. After this I just write my initial impressions from it.

Decision Section

Then, I’m going to make a decision.

  • Do I want to stop with just the impressions? Aka is this book not something I’m looking for right now,
  • Do I want to invest further and take notes of the one-pager?

As you can hopefully start to see, this is the flexibility that allows me to dial up or down the commitment as I see fit.

One Pager Notes Section

Within the one-pager notes section, I would usually start taking notes first, then summarize in 1 sentence to make sure I understood the core message, then think of ways I could apply those learnings in my life.

Of course if you choose not to use Shortform you can simply replace this one-pager section with a summary you find online or your current go-to source that helps you determine whether you want to commit to reading a book or not.

Now at this point, I usually make 1 of 4 choices:

  • Do I want to stop with the notes I’ve taken so far? Meaning do I think I have the general gist down already?
  • Or do I want to go through the entire Shortform book guide, listen to the book on Audible, or read through the entire book?

I usually pick 1 of those 4, but sometimes I mix and match.

Shortform Notes Section

If I choose to go with the Shortform guide you’ll notice I added an additional section “Other viewpoints slash further reading”. And this is because in my opinion, Shortform’s biggest value add is that their writers pull in relevant research and information that I otherwise would have missed if I had only read the book.

Let’s take “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker as an example. I first came across this book in Thomas Frank and Ali Abdaal’s videos, and I also know that Bill Gates endorsed this book.

The extremely interesting thing is, Shortform’s book guide for Why We Sleep brings up scientific findings that go against, a few of the author’s talking points. If I had only read the book, I probably would not have gone out of my way to search for “opposing viewpoints” for the book that Bill Gates has endorsed.

Of course, I want to state for the record that the book is great, it’s backed up by a lot of scientific research, but as a reader, I would at least like to know if parts of the book were over-exaggerated or things were left out, no matter how small those elements may be. It gives me the choice to follow up or not.

Audible Notes Section

For the Audible section I’m going to jump to another example: Contagious by Jonah Berger. Huge shoutout to Kajol for recommending me this book, she also has a YouTube channel.

I decided to take notes on the One-Pager because there are 6 principles that contribute to products and ideas going viral and I definitely want to remember what those are:

  1. Social Currency
  2. Effective Triggers
  3. Emotional Response
  4. Public Visibility
  5. Practical Value
  6. Tell a Story

I then decided to listen to the Audiobook, because although I can use my notes here to remind myself of the 6 principles, it was clear that the author included a lot of interesting case studies, and I wanted to hear those actual examples, so I’ve been listening to this whenever I go to the gym.

And this is where I give myself a lot of room for error because as you can see in the Audible section, I let myself write down anything I remember. This is passive consumption, I’m listening to this at the gym, and I’m not going to be typing out notes as I work out, so a healthy balance is when I come back, if I remember something, I’ll write it down because something is better than nothing.

Full Book Notes Section

And finally for the “read the book and take full notes” section, the only addition is this Top 3 Quotes part.

As many of you have probably already noticed, I took a lot of this structure from Ali Abdaal’s Book Notes template, but his is pretty complicated, I spent like 15 minutes on his property fields alone and I felt like that added to the friction of reading, so mine is the dumbed down version 😐.

Template Properties

For the properties I kept the bare minimum.

  • Genre: I kept it simple as opposed to the 20 Ali has in his I think, just Business, Career, and Personal
  • Status: I would bucket Impressions One-Pager, Shortform, and Book under reading and Audible for listening
  • Format: could be multiple formats right, for Contagious would be Impressions, One-Pager, Audible

Want more Notion templates?

You can find all my Notion playlist here!