alt text image of a child reading a book with magic coming out of it

How I Read Books Now

I’ve stopped trying to read a lot of books. I used to read a book a week. I read a book a week outside of my assigned reading in college and all the way through law school. I read hundreds and hundreds of books, and I am happy I invested my time doing so (there are few investments with so great a return). But now I have different outcomes, so I read differently.

I read to apply what I am learning to my life. That means slowing down and going over the same ground a few times.

  1. Read Through: First I read a book from cover to cover. I highlight passages I find interesting or useful, but I don’t spend any real time thinking about their value or how I intend to use them in the future. I read the book just as I would have in the past.
  2. Listen to the Audio Book: This isn’t always possible, because some books aren’t available in this format. But when they are this is my second pass. I listen to the book I just read on audio while I am running, showering, and driving. It’s amazing how different the book and the experience are when you listen to it being read to you. It’s passive, but for me it seems to multiply my comprehension and retention.
  3. Second Reading: After I have listened to the book, I read the book a second time. It’s a very different experience the second time through, especially having listened to it. Sometimes you can hear the author’s voice. This time I read with one single purpose that I have managed to capture in a single sentence: Now that you know this what are you going to do different?

It’s one thing to read for pleasure and another altogether to read with intention of using what you read to improve your life. There isn’t any reason to pick up the next book if you haven’t implemented and executed what you learned from the book you just finished. It takes time to digest a valuable work and the ideas therein.

Slow is fast, and fast is slow in all things worth doing well.

Books are magic.

Note: This isn’t worth doing unless you pick really powerful books. I just finished the audio book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I’m on to my second read. After that, I am back to Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

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  • Say Keng Lee

    A more productive way is to read what you need. Re-reading is counter-productive.

    I use a variation of the proven SQ3R methodology, which was developed by a teacher (Francis Robinson) in the 1930’s.

    First, (S)urvey the book by skimming through the front and back covers, inside cover pages, credits, table of contents, preface or foreword, chapter headings, end chapter summary, bibliography, index to single out what you need.

    Then, proceed to formulate (Q)uestions from every headings/subheadings in the text as you read the chosen and pertinent sections. This puts your brain into a hyper-search mode like a Tomahawk missile.

    Move on to (R)ead actively and selectively, using your finger or a colour marker as a pacer. The purpose is to focus your eyeballs.

    Annotate in the margins as you read. Quickly draw mini-maps in any white spaces to flesh out interesting but complex ideas or questions you may have.

    Watch out for words/phrases in bold/italic prints and even boxed selections and footnotes, plus diagrams or pictures, if any, as they often hold valuable information.

    All these initiatives serve as your (R)ecord of spontaneous responses to the reading text.

    Upon finishing the book, especially those sections that meet your search criteria and eventually, your ultimate purpose, (R)ecap what you have read, by putting all the annotations, mini-maps and other responses on to a large sheet of paper.

    This will be your gestalt perspective or bird’s eye view.

    Step back to reflect and introspect. Then, summarise in one or two sentences of all the salient points captured from the reading.

    Always remember, the over-arching purpose of reading is gathering (new) information to generate (novel) insights!

    My two cents!

  • Jay Oza

    Here is something I started doing that has helped me a lot. On the second reading I blog a lot. I did that with Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” and it is amazing how much material you can come up with. It is a lot of work but you do tend to remember a lot and you have not just read but have written about it from your own unique perspective. You do this so this is nothing new.

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