Approach To Reading 1

This note is titled with the assumption that I’ll come up with new (better?) approaches in the future.

Principles

From Books Don’t Work, a system needs to be devised that:

  • Identifies and extracts meaning from difficult text
  • Minimize time spent in the text itself (multiple readings bad)

Main Ideas

  • Only read a book once
  • Prepare a plan before beginning to read
  • Highlight sections that seem important
  • Review highlights (and maybe surrounding context) at well-planned intervals
  • Make use of SRS
  • Integrate notes/ideas with existing notes/ideas (form connections)

Details

Only read a book once

This complies with the principle:

Minimize time spent in the text itself

At the same time, it seems to make the idea of extracting meaning from the text more difficult. After all, is it entirely practical to identify/extract all meaning from a book in only 1 read? Probably not. However, there are probably diminishing returns for each read-through after the first reading.

It’s likely a better use of time to read a second book covering the same topic rather than read the same book a second time. This also gives the added benefit of multiple perspectives on the subject.

Prepare a plan before beginning to read

Preparing a plan will probably look something like this:

  1. Go to the table of contents
  2. Try to comprehend the structure of the book
  3. See if each chapter is self-contained, or if there are bundles of 3-4 chapters covering related topics
  4. Write down “breakpoints” for when reviews will happen

This step is important because it’s likely that your plan will be different for each book. For a math book, it’s likely that it will be necessary to review after every chapter. On the other hand, perhaps a philosophy book will dedicate three chapters to the discussion of death. In that case, you may want to finish all three chapters before reviewing (so that you can get a broader perspective).

If you’re reading the book as a text for a course, the way the professor breaks the class up may dictate certain places to review.

It’s also important to be flexible. You may realize (after finishing a chapter) that there would be a better place to do your review, feel free to change!

Highlight sections that seem important

Depending on the text it may be difficult to identify what is important and what is not. I don’t really have a solution for this. Perhaps the only way to improve at identifying important pieces of text is through practice.

As a sidenote, it’s preferable to do reading/highlighting digitally (with a program such as Polar), to make reviewing quicker.

Review highlights (and maybe surrounding context) at well-planned intervals

The places to review should have been planned before beginning to read (see above).

Go through all the highlights made for that chapter/couple chapters/whole book(???). Try to understand any meaning behind them that you might have missed when you didn’t have the context that you have now. Identify unimportant highlights. Write down your insights, thoughts, opinions, etc. for the rest of them.

Make use of SRS

Use SRS to Digest Textbooks

Integrate notes/ideas with existing notes/ideas (form connections)

Note Taking System

Note on esoteric texts

For certain books where the above system doesn’t work, To Understand A Book, Read It 100 Times may work.