How to read a book

How to read a book

Read this article, found it really useful. Here’s a quick summary.

1) Read the whole book (from start to finish, however shallow)
What you can do is remember and record the main points. And if you remember those, you know enough to find the material again if you ever do need to recall the details.
2) Decide how much time you will spend
If you know in advance that you have only six hours to read, it’ll be easier to pace yourself. Remember, you’re going to read the whole book…Never start to read without planning when to stop!
3) Have a purpose and a strategy
As soon as you start to read, begin trying to find out four things: Who is the author? What are the book’s arguments? What is the evidence that supports these? What are the book’s conclusions?
4) Read actively
Don’t wait for the author to hammer you over the head. Instead, from the very beginning, constantly generate hypotheses.
5) Read it three times
You’ll get the most out of the book if you read it three times — each time for a different purpose and at a different level of detail.
6) Focus on the parts with the highest information content.
Non-fiction books very often have an “hourglass” structure that is repeated at several levels of organization
7) Use PTML (personal text markup language)
Mark up your reading. Underlining and making notes in the margins is a very important part of active reading. Don’t mark too much.
8 ) Page vs. screen
Printed material has far higher resolution (~600 dpi) than even the best computer screens (~72 dpi). For this reason you will read more accurately, and with less fatigue, if you stick with the paper version. Still, the advantages of portability and high-volume storage mean that we inevitably read much more screen-based material now.
9) Know the author(s) and their organizations
Knowing who wrote a book helps you judge its quality and understand its full significance.
10) Know the intellectual context
Knowing the author and his/her organization also helps you understand the book’s intellectual context. This includes the academic discipline(s) from which it draws, schools of thought within that discipline, and others who agree with or oppose the author’s viewpoint.
11) Use your unconscious mind
The mind, like the body, gets tired, especially when it’s doing just one thing for many hours. Your ability to comprehend and retain what you read drops off dramatically after an hour or so. Therefore, you should read a book in several short sessions of one to two hours apiece, rather than one long marathon.
12) Rehearse, and use multiple modes
Reading is exactly like martial arts, baseball, or cooking in the sense that learning and memory depend crucially on rehearsal. So — after you’ve read the book, rehearse what you’ve learned. Quiz yourself on its contents. Argue with the author. Imagine how you would defend the author’s position in your own writing.

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