How to Take Effective Book Notes in Obsidian (The Simple Way)

Implement this today and start learning effectively from what you read!

how to take book notes in obsidian

Today, I want to share with you my workflow to take book notes in Obsidian.

My workflow is definitely not the best.

But it’s a great starting point to dip your toes into the water of taking smart notes.

So if you’re ready, let’s get started.

Most people waste their time reading books

Books play an essential part in our life as content creators.
They are one of the best (and cheap!) sources of knowledge and information.

But most people forget 90% of what they read.

Which makes it a waste of time.

What’s the point of reading a book for a couple of hours and only remembering one or two things?

It goes even worse:
How much of this tiny percentage of what we remember do we really put into action?

Here’s the truth:
Unless you have the right workflow to take notes from your readings, you’re just wasting your time.

That’s why I want to share with you my book note-taking workflow.

It is easy to set up, and you can implement it right away.
Plus, it doesn’t require you to buy anything.
Everything we’re going to use is free (except the book itself or the Kindle 😄).

Even though this way of taking notes takes more work than the conventional way, you’re going to see that it will not only help you become more creative but also retrieve the nuggets you came across in your readings more effectively.

Book notes in Obsidian: Workflow overview

There are 3 main stages of taking book notes.

Stage 1 is about reading and highlighting.
Stage 2 is about importing your notes into Obsidian
Stage 3 is about processing your book notes.

How to take book notes in obsidian workflow

So now that you’ve got a 10'000 ft view let’s dive more into details.

Step 1: Reading The Book And Highlighting

The main goal here is to isolate and highlight the book ideas that make sense to you.

While highlighting,
I would encourage you to rewrite the information you’ve just highlighted.

I found myself skipping rewriting when I am on a physical Kindle device because taping on this device is just awful.

But when I am on my Kindle app for iOS, I force myself to never skip this step.
(and even though I skip it… Stage 3 will just force me to do it anyway!)

Step 2: Importing your book highlights into Obsidian

Now that you’ve finished the book and got your highlights, it’s time to get your highlights into Obsidian.

As I am mostly reading on Kindle,
all my highlights are on my Amazon/Kindle account.

So to sync your highlights with Obsidian you can use Readwise.

But I’m using a free Obsidian Plugin called “Kindle Highlights,
which isn’t flawless but does the job — thank you hadynz!

And If you’re reading physical books, you have 2 options:
Retype the original text by hand into Obsidian or take a picture of the physical book pages and then use OCR to copy/paste the text.

Step 3: How to process your book notes in Obsidian

This stage is where the thinking happens.

The goal is to isolate and rewrite your highlights and connect them to what you already have in your note-taking system.

What I am doing in this stage is that I find myself having a giant note with all my highlights like so:

So here’s what I do next:

Understanding the Purpose of the Book

Before I process the highlights,
one thing I like to do is to get clear about the Book’s Purpose.

It’s nothing else that getting clear about understanding the core idea, question, or problem that this book aims to solve.

There are different ways to find a book’s purpose:

  • Amazon Product Page like here:
  • Book Introduction
  • Foreword
  • Or even… on the Book cover :

Take the time to find that out because it will help you give context to processing your notes.

Deconstructing your highlights

So now it’s time to deconstruct the highlights we’ve taken and “atomize” them.

What do I mean by atomizing?
Making them as small as atoms.

As Sonke Ahrens (author of How to take smart notes) says:

To be able to play with ideas, we first have to liberate them from their original context by means of abstraction and re-specification.

So if you want to play with the ideas from the book you’ve just read and be able to find new combinations…

You have to isolate each idea into a note.

Think of your notes as LEGO’s.

Here’s a video that shows you how to do it:

By the time I rewrite every highlight and isolate it from their context,
I automatically think about associations to existing notes that will come up.

I simply add them to the note typing [[ Note Title ]].
Obsidian converts it automatically to a link.

As an example, here’s a note I took from the book “Positioning” by Al Ries.
He talks about the “Can-do mentality”.
The text on the grey background is my highlight from the book.
I’ve rewritten it at the top.
And added a link at the end to my note related to the “Hustle Mentality”.

The next time I’m going to talk about “Why hUsTLiNg! More isn’t the answer” I could include Al Ries’ Example about the Vietnam War.

This allows me to throw everything in my digital Zettelkasten with the peace of mind that I’ll be able to retrieve it later on.

The goal here is not to have pretty notes.

It’s to have thinking material that my future self would like to come across.


So by the end of the workflow,

I’m going to have one main note of the book,
which contains a list of small atomic notes (which are nothing else than my highlights that have been atomized into smaller notes):

Finished Literature note (or book note) looks like in Obsidian
Here’s how a finished Literature note (or book note) looks like in Obsidian

And this is the graph view associated with it:

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

If you put that amount of cognitive effort into everything you read,
you’re going to see mind-blowing results in your ideas and in your content.

Trust me.

– Matt Giaro

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Matt Giaro

Matt Giaro

6 Figure Creator. Helping Busy Creators Get Their Time (And Freedom) Back. Feel overwhelmed? Go here 👉 https://mattgiaro.com