May 31, 2008

Are you a productive reader?

Nice post from Lifehack by Dustin Wax that really encompasses my approach when I read the books I review here. I try to engage and debate and discuss with the books, try and understand what the author is trying to get across. I want to see the strengths but also to evaluate the weaknesses and flaws. Especially since I've been reading a lot of business/technology strategy and trendwatching books -- books that need to be put into perspective and context.

I'll give the bare bones of the different suggestions that Wax makes for reading productively, filling in a couple of details too:

  • Use an index card as your bookmark.
  • Have expectations.
  • Keep a reading journal.
  • Talk about it.
  • Teach it.
  • Pay attention to structure.
  • Google it.
  • Take a moment. People want to read fast, to get it done. That’s why speedreading courses are so popular, despite the fact that you almost never come across anyone who can successfully speedread. The reality is, reading takes time, and learning takes even more. If you only have 20 minutes to read, read for 15 and spend 5 minutes thinking on what you’ve read. If you’re not pressed for time, take long breaks between chapters, even between sections, to reflect.
  • Interrogate. It’s a cliche, but not everything is true just because it was in a book. While developing a Stephen Colbert-like distrust of books is probably overkill, it’s a rather good idea to ask from time to time, “How does the author know this?” and even “Does what s/he’s saying really mean this?”
  • Make a list.
  • Switch it up.
  • Accept defeat.

via LISNews.


Peter Rozovsky said...

Congratulations on keeping a Blog of Note.

I like to fill a book's title page with post-it notes. This fills the function of an index card. I would also suggest that blogging about a book fills the functions both of talking about it and of keeping a reading journal. Failure to note these functions is one of the errors that those stupid, ignorant, jealous and scared "mainstream" media critics of blogging seemed to miss in their alarmist articles that created a small storm a few months back.

Finally, I would submit that readers should interrogate themselves as well as the book they are reading. Why do I like this? Why do I find this interesting? Is such and such a weakness a failure on the author's part, or does it indicate a gap in my own knowledge?
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Jean said...

The suggestions to take a moment and to interrogate really hit home for me. People tell me all the time that I read slower than a slug (I do) and should hurry up about it. But then again, these are the same people who don't remember what the author was talking about five minutes after they've put the book down. I may read slow, but that's largely because I like to stop and think about each sentence.

As for interrogating, I never really did that until I had to read Jared Diamond's books for a geography course. We had to read 'em, then write a term paper on what his point was and how he arrived at it. About halfway through I realized he didn't have a point, at least not one I agreed with or could make sense of. So I wrote about that. Diamond had great data, but his conclusions just drove me batty. Got me C in the course, but at least I didn't have to BS my way through the paper!

Peter Rozovsky said...

I, on the other hand, read quickly. For me the interrogating comes in when I try to reach conclusions. Naturally, I've done more interrogating of this type since I started blogging about books. And you must have enjoyed writing that paper.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

John Dupuis said...

I find that I really do interrogate myself when I read a thought-provoking non-fiction book. I'll always keep a folder piece of paper for a bookmark and use that to record some impressions and argument-points.

When I review the book, I like to challenge it and pick the weaknesses as much as the strengths. It can be really slow to read a good, thought-provoking book because I spend so much time actually thinking and recording my thoughts.

opit said...

It sounds as if you are actually making study notes as you read. That means a lot of waste time if you aren't selective.
I'm another fast reader, but often with garbage tastes. Online information has made me a greedy pig about having an electronic library rather than reading 'dead-tree' material - a common observation these days.