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Q: where are book summaries on line? ( Answered,   12 Comments )
Subject: where are book summaries on line?
Category: Reference, Education and News > Current Events
Asked by: gantonick-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 24 May 2002 11:34 PDT
Expires: 23 Jun 2002 11:34 PDT
Question ID: 17842
Where can I find summaries of best-selling books on line?
1- emphasis on summary, not view, like NYT Book Review 
2- broader range of books than Soundview Exec Summaries: must be
complete range of best-sellers
3- summaries must be short - about a page. bullets are good.
4- free is good

Request for Question Clarification by mvguy-ga on 24 May 2002 14:57 PDT
Are you looking something more than you can get off the book jackets?
If that's all you need, you might check out this site:

Clarification of Question by gantonick-ga on 06 Jun 2002 18:47 PDT
I do need more than what's on book jackets: I need a summary of the
main points of the book.

Request for Question Clarification by arlyn-ga on 12 Jun 2002 14:04 PDT
Good afternoon.

As I'm a bit of an avid reader myself, I took a few minutes to see what I
could find here.  One thing that might be of use to you is Reading Group
resources.  For instance:

Reading Group Guides at Harpercollins

If this is what you are looking for I will be happy to post other sites
I've found as a formal answer to your question.

All the best to you,

Google Researcher

Request for Question Clarification by tan-ga on 13 Jun 2002 20:36 PDT
If I may add to the list. has a nice selection of
summaries on selected books.  But they are not all current best
sellers if that is what you are looking for.

Clarification of Question by gantonick-ga on 14 Jun 2002 10:20 PDT
Arlyn and Tan - the HarperCollins Reading Group resources are
excellent: summaries, reviews, literary criticism. I'm only newly
familiar with Reading Groups, and didn't realize that these resources
were available.

What I need is this type of summary for all best-sellers. I'm a
linguist and interested in community discourse - group conversation.
I'd like to draw on influential (in this case, popular) current books
to relate this to how people are talking. For example, the phrase
"tipping point" has become more popular since Malcolm Gladwell
enlivened the term in his recent best-seller by the same name. This is
why I need the summaries: I neeed to know the content of these books,
and if I can't find summaries I'm going to be doing a *lot* of
reading.  :)

Warm and grateful regards,


Request for Question Clarification by voila-ga on 14 Jun 2002 16:32 PDT
Hola Gary,

Here's another reading groups site if you're interested in those:

The detail you've added today is very helpful.  It gives us another
avenue of investigation.  Researching this, I haven't found what
you've asked for but if someone would take the cue from the Literary
Guild's drop-down menu and expand on it, I think they'd have what
you're looking for.  Take a peek and click on the bestsellers at the
left and see what you think.

Hope you find these helpful,

Clarification of Question by gantonick-ga on 16 Jun 2002 22:46 PDT
voila... and everyone, really,

I just wanted to express how grateful I am for your diligence - and
patience with me as I've clarified my question :) I love this! Thank
you, thank you.

Request for Question Clarification by arlyn-ga on 17 Jun 2002 19:03 PDT
Seems too late to post these as a true answer.  Here's some more reading group
book summary/discussion pages for you:

Reading Group Guides at Harpercollins

Vintage Reading Group Center

Ballantine Reader's Circle

Book Group Corner (Bantam, Broadway, Dell, and Doubleday Books)

Penguin Putnam Reading Guides

MIT Recommended Reading: Book Summaries

Google Search Terms: book summaries best seller reading group

Best regards,


Clarification of Question by gantonick-ga on 17 Jun 2002 22:13 PDT
This is just absolutely delicious. Thanks Arlyn, Viola, and TexasT for
the latest comments. I've looked at most the reading group sites and and The sites are excellent. At
the same time, there are two things missing, generally. First, the
books summarized are not current best-sellers across all categories.
They're either business books ( or interesting books
(penguin). Second, in many cases the summaries were more teasers than
actual summaries.

Here's a simple test - if you find a site you think might be what I
want, check it out. It must have
(1) most of the books on the current New York Times best seller list.
Not just business, please :)
(2) actual summaries of the books. Not just book jacket hype :)



The following answer was rejected by the asker (they received a refund for the question).
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
Answered By: bookface-ga on 24 May 2002 18:37 PDT
If you're looking for book reviews LIKE the New York Times, why not
actually USE the NY Times book review?
"Articles from the last 7 days are free, as are book and movie reviews
back to 1996.  Other articles can be purchased for as little as $.80
per article."
You can do a search here: 
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
Or see the main books page here: 
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
If the New York Times isn't exactly what you fancy, you can try The
Boston Globe. Main books page:
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
Archives (limited, have to pay for some full-text): 
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
If both of those fail you, you can try The Washington Post: 
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
They also have a few special features such as an online chapter of the
week, a book club, and reading guides for fiction, non-fiction, and
summer reading.
The American Library Association has booklists online, complete with
reviews for each book:
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
You can also use their search tool to find a specific book: 
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
Or browse by year: 
 &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
Some pages dedicated to book summaries include the following: 
The above mentioned &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
&lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; , which is a database of user comments
on several books in various categories; you would most likely be
looking into &amp;quot;Commonplace Book&amp;quot;. It should be noted that this isn't
really what you're looking for but more of an additional resource for
Finally, I would recommend checking out the major online bookstores,
as they usually provide several extensive reviews including a literary
review and customer opinions:
  &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
  &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt;    
    (borders has teamed with them, so is superfluous) 
  the lesser known &lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; has a selection of
out-of-print and rare books, but most of the descriptions are probably
shorter than what you're looking for
Hope this helps. Thanks for choosing Google! Answers.  

Request for Answer Clarification by gantonick-ga on 27 May 2002 18:15 PDT
to clarify - I don't want reviews, just a *summaries*: short versions
of the complete contents of  books.
for example, take Stephen Covey's &amp;quot;7 Habits.&amp;quot; The summary would list
each of the habits and maybe a paragraph or two about whatever else he
talked about in the book.
I actually mistyped &amp;quot;review&amp;quot; as &amp;quot;view&amp;quot; in my first point above.  

Clarification of Answer by bookface-ga on 29 May 2002 11:30 PDT
I'm sorry, I misunderstood the question and thought you were looking
for something that WAS like the NYT Book Review.
I'm afraid that after extensive searching, I can't help you with your
request; there is nothing like what you describe available.
If you'd like to request a refund, you can do so at: 
&lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt;  
Reason this answer was rejected by gantonick-ga:
responder misread question.

The following answer was rejected by the asker (they received a refund for the question).
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
Answered By: madsky101-ga on 29 May 2002 16:26 PDT
After reading your question, the first thing that popped into my mind
was to research sites that might provide the type of summaries that
Cliff's Notes offered.
I was pleased to find several sites, and have listed the links below. 
You mentioned that you were interested in a free site, and I have
located one that may be just what the doctor ordered.
The site boasts that it contains summaries, literature guides, and
study notes for over 250 books.  It also provides links to other web
sites and resources that offer this type of service as well.
Peruse this site by visiting:  
&lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
Scroll to the bottom of the page for available book titles and helpful
Other sites of interest: 
Another free Service with more links to helpful summary sites: 
&lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
This link available on is called: 
&lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
Here is a sample of their offerings for Huckleberry Finn: 
&lt;a href=&quot;<a href=""></a>&quot;&gt;<a href=""></a>&lt;/a&gt; 
Google Keywords: 
cliff's notes 
I hope that this information is what you were looking for, and I was
so happy to provide my assistance.  Thank you for using Google
Reason this answer was rejected by gantonick-ga:
this answer does not give me what I requested in my question: book
summaries must be of *best-sellers* - books on the NYT best-sellers
list currently or within the last few years.

to make things easier: book summaries of non-fiction only.

I just checked the site for current best-sellers.. this is
a bit of what I found:

A New Kind of Science
Stephen Wolfram

Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work
and in Your Life
Spencer Johnson

A Mind At A Time: America's Top Learning Expert Shows How Every Child
Can Succeed
by�Mel D. Levine

I'm looking for summaries of these particular books, and books like it
- non-fiction books that have been on NYT, B&N, amazon etc best-seller

Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
Answered By: voila-ga on 19 Jun 2002 11:54 PDT
Gary, I must hand it to you, both in this and your conceptual
encyclopedia question, you've addressed two niche markets just waiting
to be filled.  *Someone* should absolutely jump on these ideas since
both are extremely useful.

Researching this question for you I visited and clicked all around
literally hundreds of book and review sites.  The only ones I didn't
click through were the many at the phonesoft site.  I'd need my own
research staff for that undertaking!

What I am fairly certain of is that there is not a website available
addressing every nuance of your question, and no one wants to answer
this question giving you only a partial answer.  Lots of promising
ones -- just none with the whole enchilada.

As mentioned above, the most unique site I found was the Literary
Guild's drop down feature.  Now, if you'd combine that with the USA
Today list of bestsellers, which has a cross-section genre, click on
the bestseller's title then add the Literary Guild's drop-down feature
with an *actual* review rather than a jacket blurb, well...Voila. 
However, I still don't know if it would contain your *specific*
requirements mentioned in your S. Covey example or the "tipping point"
reference.  My idea is that *YOU* should run with this idea, Gary, and
make it completely serviceable.  It certainly would be a unique site.

p.s. I did notice the USA Today site has added an "excerpt" feature to
their site and I think they'd be the most likely all-in-one source for
your idea.  Quite possibly it's already in the works.

Thanks again for your interesting questions.  Are you one of those
"scourers" mentioned in the newhouse papers article?  ;-)
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: j_philipp-ga on 24 May 2002 15:53 PDT
I'd also suggest the Amazon bestseller overview:
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: andrewxmp-ga on 24 May 2002 21:43 PDT
dude.....i thnk you misread number 1
it seems he DOESNT want the sort of thing found in the NY times
reviews, with viewpoints.  Rather, he's looking for a strict database
of summaries, available for all those book that are best-sellers.
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: eastgate-ga on 28 May 2002 18:25 PDT
Greetings -- have you tried the sites Kirkus and
Publishers ? They should be able to be narrowed down to the
current information you want -- they also contain vast stores of
summaries of books. Hope this helps.
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: lisaradha-ga on 31 May 2002 11:20 PDT
If you can check with the local public libraries in your area, you
should be able to find one that subscribes to Books In Print Online. 
This database which you can access to for free online, once you are a
memeber of a public library has excellent summaries of best sellers.
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: nsmith-ga on 31 May 2002 15:40 PDT
Your local library can also provide summaries of books in book
format--ask for Masterplots.  It's usually in the reference section.
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: voila-ga on 06 Jun 2002 21:35 PDT
Hello gantonick,

I'll offer this information as a comment as I'm not sure it fits the
bill but there is some juicy information here nonetheless.  I hope you
can use it.

multiple sites for book reviews, etc.: 

many of the sites already listed by other researchers but they're
neatly grouped on one page here: 
bullet reviews for 150 bestsellers (updated every Friday) psst: beware
the pop-up): 

Best literary wishes,
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: joecool12321-ga on 08 Jun 2002 09:18 PDT
I think you're looking for somehting like SparkNotes. has a vast compendium of both complete texts
( and study guides

I think you may be looking for something like their study guides on
literature (

Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: voila-ga on 10 Jun 2002 22:48 PDT
Hello again, 

This is a semi-cheesy looking site but it will give you an idea what's
out there.  I'd need some help to run down all these links so I'm just
passing it along.

Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: voila-ga on 15 Jun 2002 19:53 PDT
This from the newhouse papers: 

"Merriam-Webster editors have a daily chore of "reading and marking,"
which means they scour books, newspapers, magazines, the Internet --
even menus -- for new words or meanings. When they find them, they are
compiled in a massive, 6 million-entry database of citations.

Then the terms must undergo further scrutiny under two tough criteria:
popularity and endurance.

Macarena, for example, did not make the cut. "It didn't last long
enough," Bicknell said of the dance routine."

It remains to be seen if the phrase "tipping point" has any legs, but
it sure has outlasted the macarena.

This link for the linguist in you: 

Another reading guide resource:,11

Thanks all for me on this question,
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: texast-ga on 17 Jun 2002 20:18 PDT
COMMENTS: I think I've found exactly what you're looking for!  Not
free, though - $100 for one year or for 52 summaries... The material
following is quoted from their FAQ page:


How do you select the books to be summarized?
Our editorial committee sets the publication schedule using
information from three different sources:

Source #1 -- The Editors
Our editors review all the new books and nominate those they consider
to be most important -- that is, those that contain valuable new ideas
and concepts.

Source #2 -- The General Public
Summaries.Com editors closely monitor the business book best seller
lists. Books that hit the right spot usually show up there.

Source #3 -- Our Subscribers
Subscribers can nominate a book to be summarized at any time -- and
quite a few do. The editors then review those suggestions carefully.
Summaries.Com won't always be able to meet all requests, but we
certainly try to wherever possible.



COMMENTS: Here's another possible site. Not sure if they'd have
exactly the books you want, but it does have summaries that are a page
or two long, and it's free.  You can also receive them via email.



Hope that helps!

fellow linguist of sorts - hey, it's a different lingo down here!  ;-)
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: voila-ga on 19 Jun 2002 16:09 PDT
Mea culpa, Gary.  They're painting my apartment and I believe the
fumes may have gotten to me I pressed the "answer" button instead of
the "comment" button.  Please feel free to reject this answer as it's,
too, not altogether on the nose.

However, I do believe you have a novel idea here and should get to the
copyright office immediately {metaphorically speaking}.  Since
researching this question for almost a month now, I feel comfortable
saying your particularly outlined review site does not exist, but your
competition is steadily gaining on you -- witness the new "excerpt
feature" on USA Today since you originally posed this question.  Only
in combining in a variety of features from websites already listed
here would you find something that you're remotely after.

Best of luck with that!
Subject: Re: where are book summaries on line?
From: texast-ga on 26 Jun 2002 22:20 PDT
Here are a couple of other sites - still not quite what you're after,
but they might be of some help.

The "Digested Read" at the Guardian's Books Unlimited has 400-word
summaries of books "Condensed in the style of the original" - or so
they claim. Not sure if they'll have the books you're looking for, or
if the books they DO have will help you, but here's the URL for what
it's worth (at least they're free):,8136,379754,00.html

Here's a place that does reviews, rather than summaries, but with a
twist - they give links to reviews in the media and even have quotes
from them, then add their own review to those. Check out the page on
"The Emperor of Ocean Park" at:


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