There are many benefits to reading more books, but perhaps my favourite is this: A good book can give you a new way to interpret your past experiences.Effective Reading tips for beginners
Whenever you learn a new mental model or idea, it’s like the “software” in your brain gets updated. Suddenly, you can run all of your old data points through a new program. You can learn new lessons from old moments. As Patrick O’Shaughnessy says, “Reading changes the past.”
Of course, this is only true if you internalize and remember insights from the books you read. Knowledge will only compound if it is retained. In other words, what matters is not simply reading more books, but getting more out of each book you read. Gaining knowledge is not the only reason to read, of course. Reading for pleasure or entertainment can be a wonderful use of time, but this article is about reading to learn. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the best reading comprehension strategies I’ve found.
1. Quit More Books
It doesn’t take long to figure out if something is worth reading. Skilled writing and high-quality ideas stick out.
As a result, most people should probably start more books than they do. This doesn’t mean you need to read each book page-by-page. You can skim the table of contents, chapter titles, and subheadings. Pick an interesting section and dive in for a few pages. Maybe flip through the book and glance at any bolded points or tables. In ten minutes, you’ll have a reasonable idea of how good it is.
Then comes the crucial step: Quit books quickly and without guilt or shame.
Life is too short to waste it on average books. The opportunity cost is too high. There are so many amazing things to read. I think Patrick Collison, the founder of Stripe, put it nicely when he said, “Life is too short to not read the very best book you know of right now.”
2. Choose Books You Can Use Instantly
One way to improve reading comprehension is to choose books you can immediately apply. Putting the ideas you read into action is one of the best ways to secure them in your mind. The practice is a very effective form of learning. effective reading
Choosing a book that you can use also provides a strong incentive to pay attention and remember the material. That’s particularly true when something important hangs in the balance. If you’re starting a business, for example, then you have a lot of motivation to get everything you can out of the sales book you’re reading. Similarly, someone who works in biology might read The Origin of Species more carefully than a random reader because it connects directly to their daily work.
Of course, not every book is a practical, how-to guide that you can apply immediately, and that’s fine. You can find wisdom in many different books. But I do find that I’m more likely to remember books that are relevant to my daily life.
3. Create Searchable Notes
Keep notes on what you read. You can do this however you like. It doesn’t need to be a big production or a complicated system. Just do something to emphasize important points and passages. Reading trips for beginners, I do this in different ways depending on the format I’m consuming.
I highlight passages when reading on Kindle.
I type out interesting quotes as I listen to audiobooks.
I dog-ear pages and transcribe notes when reading a print book.
I get my notes into Evernote in three ways:
I. Audiobook: I create a new Evernote file for each book and then type my notes directly into that file as I listen.
II. Ebook: I highlight passages on my Kindle Paperwhite and use a program called Clippings to export all of my Kindle highlights directly into Evernote. Then, I add a summary of the book and any additional thoughts before posting it to my book summaries page.
III. Print: Similar to my audiobook strategy, I type my notes as I read. If I come across a long passage I want to transcribe, I place the book on a book stand as I type. (Typing notes while reading a print book can be annoying because you are always putting the book down and picking it back up, but this is the best solution I’ve found.)
Of course, your notes don’t have to be digital to be “searchable.” For example, you can use Post-It Notes to tag certain pages for future reference. As another option, Ryan Holiday suggests storing each note on an index card and categorizing them by the topic or book.
4. Combine Knowledge Trees
One way to imagine a book is like a knowledge tree with a few fundamental concepts forming the trunk and the details forming the branches. You can learn more and improve reading comprehension by “linking branches” and integrating your current book with other knowledge trees.
- While reading The Tell-Tale Brain by neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, I discovered that one of his key points connected to a previous idea I learned from social work researcher Brené Brown.
- In my notes for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK, I noted how Mark Manson’s idea of “killing yourself” overlaps with Paul Graham’s essay on keeping your identity small. Reading trips for beginners
5. Write A Short Summary and effective reading
As soon as I finish a book, I challenge myself to summarize the entire text in just three sentences. This constraint is just a game, of course, but it forces me to consider what was really important about the book.
Some questions I consider when summarizing a book include:
- What are the main ideas?
- If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?
- How would I describe the book to a friend?
In many cases, I find that I can usually get just as much useful information from reading my one-paragraph summary and reviewing my notes as I would if I read the entire book again. effective reading
6. Surround The Topic and effective reading
I often think of the quote by Thomas Aquinas, “Beware the man of a single book.”
If you only read one book on a topic and use that as the basis for your beliefs for an entire category of life, well, how sound are those beliefs? How accurate and complete is your knowledge?
Reading a book takes effort, but too often, people use one book or one article as the basis for an entire belief system. This is even more true (and more difficult to overcome) when it comes to using our one, individual experience as the basis for our beliefs. As Morgan Housel noted, “Your personal experiences makeup maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. We’re all biased to our own personal history.” effective reading
One way to attack this problem is to read a variety of books on the same topic. Dig in from different angles, look at the same problem through the eyes of various authors, and try to transcend the boundary of your own experience.