How to Read a Book is a great resource on maximizing your level of effectiveness when it comes to reading books.
- Read because you need a book, not for the sake of reading
- Read quicker on easy parts but slow down on important ones
- Before you agree or disagree, you have to understand
Reading is learning.. But it’s learning from an absent teacher. In a way, you’re on your own while learning from a book. And that’s why it’s all the most important you use a few tools to maximise your reading effectiveness.
Before you start reading in earnest, decide whether or not the book deserves your full attention.
Read the preface and the table of content.
Check if the chapters have a summary at the beginning and at the end, and check the end of the book to see if the author summarized it. If so, read it.
If there’s a chapter you’re particularly interested into, start reading that one.
Have a Purpose
Don’t read books just for the sake of reading. Read them because you’re interested in a certain topic. Or even better, because you need to read it and the information is relevant for your life.
Use Several Modes
Instead of just reading, writing the information down. Think about it, visualize it and put it to action.
If a book is very good or if the information is very important to you: read it again.
My Note: instead of reading the whole book again, you can read your note again if you’re a good note-taker.
Take Time to Process
You know those dares of 50 books a year, or 20 books a month? That’s crap.
Don’t cram stuff just so you can say you read X books. Take time to think the information over and it will more easily sink into your brain.
Question The Information
Understand the author and his position, understand the period of time it was written and question what the author says.
A big note of caution here: before you question anything, I would urge you instead to also do the opposite: accept it. And ask yourself “what if the author was right?”.
I say so because, more than believing everything we say, most of us tend to reject whatever we don’t believe in or whatever causes cognitive dissonance in us.
And that’s probably even more dangerous than believing something that is not true.
Know When to Switch Gear
On some pieces of information or on some chapters you can go quicker. On some others, you have to slow down to really understand the message.
Knowing when you can go faster and when you need to slow down is a major skill in reading quickly and effectively.
Before You Disagree…
… Or before you agree, or suspend judgement, you have to be able to say “I understand”.
Syntopical reading is the reading we do when read many books on the same topic and compare what they talk about.
This is how I read and this is how I structure my how to absorb knowledge.
- Take notes as you read
- Place your thumb and first two fingers together and use them as a pointer as you slide across text lines
- Understand and respect the difference between knowledge and opinion
- Read the book before the summaries
How to Absorb Knowledge Video Summary
And here is a good summary I have found on YouTube:
Real Life Applications
Skim Read Before Reading
Read the preface, the summary and the table of contents before reading the full book.
How to Read a Book is an old book. And that’s not an issue… Except for the fact it misses on many new tools one can leverage.
Of course there’s no mention to audiobook, e-books and checking the Internet.
And that’s not a minor lack because these tools really revolutionize the way we learn.
How to Read a Book is a great book.
Adler says you should read the full book before reading summaries while I recommend you do the opposite in my guide on how to absorb knowledge.
I also stress it’s more important that you open your mind even before you question the author.
But I can otherwise agree with most of what How to Read a Book says.