I used to read non-fiction books the wrong way.
I would read a book. I would take notes. I would discuss parts of the book with my friends and colleagues. Then, I would close the book and move on to another one.
After a few weeks, I hardly remembered anything. Maybe the general idea, but I forgot the in-depth arguments. Perhaps I would need to re-read the book and relearn the facts.
This was not an optimal solution.
I have discovered an approach, based on the ideas of Mortimer J. Adler, which has been a game changer for me.
Instead of quantity, I now focus on quality and depth. Instead of facts, I focus on critical assessment. Instead of passive reading, I work proactively with pen and paper.
Here's how it looks in practice:
To discover the boundaries of my knowledge and to clarify assumptions, I answer the following four questions before I start reading (I write them down on a sheet of paper):
... understanding is a two-way operation; the learner has to question himself and question the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him. - Mortimer Adler
Using this technique, I have observed the following:
I have found the aspect of physically writing my thoughts down to be of critical importance, so much so that I spent 30-50% of the total time with the paper, pondering new ideas. I take time and don't rush.
Reading this way might seem harder at first. However, I have discovered that working through books this way has been more satisfying that sprinting through multiple books as fast as I can.
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