Indexing books with stories

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —June 19, 2008
Filed in Business storytelling

I’ve started a new practice of jotting down, inside the front cover of a book, the anecdotes it contains. It seems to work best for modern business books that have a liberal smattering of stories throughout. It is a useful practice because, like most people, I can remember a story much better that facts and reasoning and the story index is a quick reminder of the key ideas. Here’s an example from Clay Shirkey’s book, Here Comes Everybody.


It would be terrific if publishers created a story index as a matter of good book publishing practice. Mind you, the act of creating your own story index is a tremendous way to crystallise your learning.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. John Smith says:

    Great practice, Shawn! I thought for a moment you were going to provide an electronic copy of your list! (Your hand-written notes are a bit small.)

  2. Were you hoping for an electronic copy John? For some reason I reckon there is less chance of me looking at the electronic version compared to my hand written notes.
    If you click on the image you’ll see a larger version of the file.

  3. John Tropea says:

    Hi Shawn,
    I’m often after examples of km 2.0 cases, and there are lots in books I read, but I can’t recall them all. Same deal with you wanting to index all the stories you read.
    For a while I have been indexing quotes and excerpts from books and papers I read electronically.
    When I was reading The Wisdom of Crowds and The World is Flat I would have my mobile next to me.
    Whenever I came across a great phrase I wrote an email on my phone (I use the book and page number in the subject line) and send it to my Tumblr blog.
    Alternatively, if you have the mobile web on your phone you can post to Tumblr directly (I use a site called which enables you to post to various sites eg. facebook, twitter, etc…the good thing about is it enables you to also tag your posts)
    Here is my tumblr
    Here is the archive page which gives you a better idea of what I’m talking about

  4. Mike Wagner says:

    Great practice, Shawn. Thanks for sharing it.
    I’ve indexed unique phrases and questions before in my reading but never stories. Now I wonder “why not?”
    Keep creating…a story worth repeating,

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