Building a Second Brain - Book Review

Being a knowledge worker and works with data and literature all the time, I wanted to read this book for quite sometime. The book was released in June 2022 and I read it in June 2023. To be honest the book was not living up to the expectations I had. The book was unnecessarily verbose. The book stands at 260 pages in print, but should have been less than 100 pages. I found the content to be repetitive in most chapters which would have been easily avoided.

If you are a complete beginner in the personal knowledge development, maybe this will be a good starting point. But if you already know hot to take notes, categorically store and retrieve them, then the book offers very little over that.

My Key Takeaways from the books are

  1. CODE Philosophy
  2. PARA Method
  3. Progressive Summarization

CODE Philosophy

CODE stands for Collect, Organize, Distill and Express. Collecting information can be from a variety of mediums like websites, books, videos and images. Once collected what to do with the information? You need to organize them. Here the PARA method will be helpful. Once organized, to extract information from the particular information you need to distill that, basically meaning, summarizing for later use. Finally you need to use the piece of information to express your ideas and views. I guess writing a blog is a way of expressing things?


PARA means Project, Activities, Resources and Archive. I used to organize things by the category. I assume most of us do the same? Like when I find a quote, I have a group called Quotes and I will save it to that and similar things for Code, Drawings, Interesting Links etc. This method of organization works till a point. I have 100+ pages saved under Code and when I want to revisit something, I often found it difficult. This PARA method of organization looks like a viable alternative. Lets say I want to learn C++, I will create it as a project, be it on notes app or a folder in system. Now everything I find about learning C++ will be saved to this folder. Once the project is completed, I can safely move all this into resources for quick retrieval if needed or to the Archive. I will give this method a go and will update in a post later. (Not a promise)

Progressive Summarization

This is the most useful technique I found from this book. I read a lot of scientific papers and consume a lot of information. To effectively get something out of all the information I rely on highlighting and excerpts. But to look for a specific highlight in a 100th page of a book will be tiresome or often will go unnoticed. Progressive summarization helps with that. You highlight the contents. Extract all the highlights into a separate note. Note down important points. Group them the way you want. Summarize the group. Then finally group all the group summaries and save them at the top of the note. So by a glance at the top, you can look for the information you need.

Apart from these ideas, I enjoyed little anecdote stories for the chapters. They made the book bearable.

Do yourself a favour and watch videos posted by the author himself in YouTube to save Time and Money. The author has written in detail about all these points in his blog if you prefer reading. They are more than sufficient.

  1. Progressive Summarization
  2. PARA Method
  3. CODE Method