Tony Dye

Tony Dye




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How I Read a Book

I actually read a book titled How to Read A Book many years ago. Having been a reader for a lot of years, you’d think I’d have it figured out by now. Nope. I constantly change my methods. Maybe someday I’ll have it right!

I like to listen to audiobooks when I can. While I’m driving. While I’m mowing the lawn or other relatively mindless work. Audiobooks have the bonus they can be listened to faster than recorded, and usually that’s a very good thing.

Often, but not always, I look for a book summary first before reading a book. Many things I read are because a trusted person suggested them, in which case I may jump in with little or nor research.

For me, a key is to take a few notes. “What jumped out at me?” -or- “What’s a quote I want to remember.” Or … scary, what other book did the author mention that now I want to add to my list?!

With audiobooks, when I’m doing something else, this is problematic. But it’s not that hard to pause the book, quickly do a “note to self” on my phone, with something like: “Chapter 4, about 1/3rd in, a reference to how well people understand what they’ve read.” Then, after the fact, I can search out the specifics.

For physical books, or for e-books, I highlight stuff to be reviewed. On real books, I mostly just put a mark in the margins so that I’m not obfuscating the text, or so that if I ever give the book away the next person won’t be over-burdened with my marks.

Something that really helps me get key ideas in mind is to read a book along with someone else. “Co-reading.”

“When one has read a book, I think there is nothing so nice as discussing it with someone else.”
— C. S. Lewis

Another key for me is to put a date on everything! When I start reading something, be it a book, or a chapter, or even a section, I put a date on it. Seems a bit useless at the moment, but sure is neat to look back at a book years later and realize how long it’s been since I read that section. And sometimes, be it good or bad, it helps me identify what else was going on in my life at that time, which can heavily influence my thinking. (My child was struggling in school, or we just had that huge server crash, or vacation started the next day, etc.)

Finally, I have to save those notes somewhere, in a trusted system. Remembering a key from David Allen’s Getting Things Done, my brain is NOT a trusted system. I haven’t yet chosen (or found) the one perfect system for notes. I have some notes in Evernote; some in Outlook. And sometimes I also put stuff on my blog, but my blog is never my primary reference (for myself).

There is the alternative idea, however. I need to have enough in my brain to call me back to the notes at some reasonable time. Or a system. An alternative that I’m underutilizing at the moment is ANKI. Here’s some background.

I’d welcome suggestions for how to make book reading more valuable.

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