Do you know how to read a book?

I’ve been reading now for about 46 years … lots of books — textbooks, novels, nonfiction, magazines, journals, papers … and I thought I knew how.  As I was listening to Michael Hyatt‘s podcast “How to read a nonfiction book” tonight, I realize that maybe the way we were taught to read books is not as effective as it could be.  His 10 best practices for reading nonfiction books are:

  1. Don’t feel that you need to finish.
  2. Start with the author bio.
  3. Read the table of contents.
  4. Quickly scan the whole book.
  5. Highlight important passages.
  6. Take notes in front or in the margin.
  7. Use a set of note-taking symbols.
  8. Dog-ear (or bookmark) pages you want to revisit.
  9. Review the book and transfer actions to a to-do list.
  10. Share the book’s message.

The first point is definitely interesting … I’ve got several books scattered around my desk area with bookmarks in them — either I get bored with them, find something I don’t like, or it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  While it’s possible that there may be something useful in the remaining pages of these books, the effort that will be required to plow through them has so far deterred me from attempting the feat.

Items 3 & 4 are also contrary to the traditional “front to back” reading paradigm — and Michael’s rationale is that just like you look at a map before you take a trip, you should get the layout of the book before you start so you know what to expect.

I can’t say that I agree with all his points:  except for textbooks and certain other reference books (such as my Bible), annotating, highlighting, and otherwise “marking up” books seems pointless:  will I ever look at that book again?  His point is that it helps you remember the key points of the book — using the same philosophy as note-taking helping to remember just by the act of writing things down — but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

At the beginning, he does say that this technique is for nonfiction books only — so don’t use this as an excuse to read the last chapter of your mystery novel before you’re supposed to.

What techniques do you use to read books so that you remember the key points in them?

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