I have always loved to read, and reading has played a vital role throughout my life as a student and as a professor of Psychology. I took great pleasure and pride in contributing more than 30 book reviews to the journal PsycCritiques before it was discontinued (though its past issues are preserved in the Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron). One would think that post-retirement, I would have found time to read even more widely, but such has not been the case. 

I recently explored three “learning tools” purporting to expand one’s reading capabilities by offering condensed versions of popular nonfiction: Blinkist, 12min, and Shortform. 

Blinkist

Blinkist is one of the better-known apps. It reached number 70 in Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning 2022. It offers summaries of over 5500 nonfiction books, podcasts, and audiobooks. Among the books on Blinkist that I own or have read are Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s Flow, Carol Dweck’s Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Cal Newport’s Deep Work, Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

12min

12min is much more aggressive (and obnoxious) in reminding you to read. Among the 14 “critical book summary reviews” I recently listened to on my iPhone are Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence, Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, Rising Strong, and The Gifts of Imperfection, Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile, Cal Newport’s Deep Work, Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, James Clear’s Atomic Habits, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and Peter Hollins’ Finish What You Start. I never did finish the latter, but I ordered the Jaron Lanier book to READ deeply.

Shortform

Shortform, ironically, is the more comprehensive of these applications in terms of the depth of analysis.  Though it presently includes fewer books, summaries are much more detailed and the reviewers provide thoughtful comparisons to other similar books. Reviews also are provided for articles (see below):