Trunk-Branch-Leaf books

Cedric Chin proposes a hierarchy for non fiction books1:

Description Example
Trunk A framework of ideas Thinking, Fast and Slow , Principles, High Output Management
Branch Single idea books Antifragile, Radical Candor
Narrative biographies, memories, history

Others have promoted a similar hierarchy with trees, often attributed to Elon Musk2,3:

Trunk A general knowledge base and 30k foot view of the subject Lessons of History and Sapiens
Branch A deeper dive, perhaps covering a specific period /Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War /
Leaf Finer Level of detail, single individual or idea Grant , Start with Why

These frameworks are similar, but I lean towards Cedric’s as the carve out for narrative seems appropriate. The commonality, is the acknowledgment of single-idea books (Branch and Leaf in each model). This rings true to me, particularly the observation that the books can be skimmed and the make up a bulk of non fiction.


Chin, C. The three kinds of non-fiction books. at (2018).
Nobbs, J. Having a Reading Theme. at (2020).
Wieckowski, A. Tree / Branch/ Leaf Thread. at (2022).

Links to this note