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6 Top Curation Tools for Books & Online Content

Read more while saving time and energy.

Charlotte Grysolle
Charlotte Grysolle
4 min read

You can approach media consumption in 2 ways:

One is to treat the offering as a bottomless bowl — letting it fill automatically and consuming whatever appears next.

The problem with that is you'll never make it to the bottom of the bowl. The system is rigged against you by the sheer volume of media. There's literally no end.

I've found this draining and, frankly, a complete waste of time. I'd hardly remember what I read or do anything useful with the information. The quality of the content wasn't consistent either.

Another approach is to pick and choose. Instead of clicking through every article on a news website's homepage, refreshing the Twitter feed and relying on Amazon to recommend you the next must-read — I use tools that curate content so I can make a conscious and deliberate choice.

One risk comes to mind with this approach. When you only hear the same perspectives and opinions over and over again, you risk creating a comfortable but dangerous echo chamber. You want to make sure you get a variety of sources, so you're exposed to different ideas.

I’ve discovered some resources that I have found helpful to curate what I read.


Five Books

This website asks experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain the selection in an interview.

Nothing groundbreaking, but what's great about Five Books is the interview portion. Just a list of book recommendations is not helpful. I find it more interesting to understand why they recommended the book and what it meant to them. That helps me determine whether it sounds like the book is right for me in that particular time of my life.

A few examples of interviews: a professor at Columbia University who recommends the Best New Celebrity Memoirs. Or Emma Gannon, podcaster and author, recommending The Best Self Help Books of 2021.

The website covers both Fiction and Non-Fiction, as well as Audiobooks.


Read This Twice

We spend countless hours on the internet looking for authentic book recommendations from people we look up to.

Read This Twice will scour the internet for sources where famous people like Obama, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey have talked about specific books — either in interviews, articles or Twitter.

Again, similarly to Five Books, you'll see the recommendation in context: what did that book mean to them? What did they learn from it?

Take a look at the Top 100 Most Recommended Books. You’ll also find Featured Reading Lists, like Best Personal Development Books or Best Books on Body Language.

I don't use this feature, but if you're looking for a tool to organize your book collection and creative reading lists, you can create a Personal Library.


Refind

The essence of the web, every morning in your inbox.

You select 5 topics that interest you, and every day you receive a curated list of 7 links in your inbox from Refind.

The idea is to highlight which articles "made you smarter", so the algorithm can learn and present more suitable sources every time.

You can set it up for Daily or Weekly.

I love this because I've discovered so many different blogs and newsletters this way that I would have never found otherwise.


Shortform

This is the only resource on this list that requires you to pay, and with a slightly different objective than pure curation.

If you read many non-fiction books, I'm sure you'll agree that many of those books could be a blog post. There's an incentive for the writers to get as many pages in as possible, so they include tons of unnecessary examples and descriptions.

Many websites provide book recaps, but I don't feel like just summarising the key points gives you any value.

Shortform approaches it differently. They create distilled guides where they restructure the information to make it digestible and actionable. They add in notes and connect to ideas and insights from other books. When applicable, they'll add in exercises to engage with the ideas.

For example, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. A book recommended by many people but not an easy read. Given how abstract some of the principles can be, Shortform adds examples to help illustrate the concepts. They note them clearly as Shortform examples when they are not directly from the book.

To be fair, it's expensive: $24/month or $16/month if you pay upfront for the year. It's only worth it if you read many non-fiction books, and ultimately you do save on buying new books. Plus, they're constantly adding new books to the list.


MailBrew

MailBrew is my latest discovery, and I love it. They call themselves 'your personal email digest.'

The links you can’t miss, the best content from your favorite creators and newsletters, in a daily email digest.

What's great is that it's not just for articles or books. You can select Reddit channels, YouTube channels, Twitter accounts. All your favourite sources and newsletters in one place, shared in a daily email.

I especially like the link to YouTube channels. I don't want to spend a lot of time on YouTube, but there are some accounts I would like to follow more. Now, I get an email every time these accounts post a new video. Same thing for Twitter and Reddit. I want to avoid spending too much time on these platforms but would still like to receive updates around topics and people that interest me.

It's not exactly curation in the sense that you still select the sources that MailBrew sends you, but it allows you to follow an extensive list of sources that you would never be able to keep up with on your own (without losing your mind).


Read Something Great

Timeless articles from the belly of the internet. Manually curated. Served 5 at a time.

Read Something Great is a similar service as Refind, so I like using both.


✱ Last Tip

You don’t want to be reading all this content the moment it hits your inbox. That would defeat the purpose of all this careful curation you’ve been doing.

The best approach I have found is to time-shift your consumption and use a read-later app.

Happy reading!

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