How I learned to read better.

First up, I like to read but I don’t always read that deeply or in order to fully understand or to learn. I wasn’t really putting in the effort and I had drifted into a habit of just reading.

That is fine in a way, as I do enjoy the luxury of reading. It is a pleasure.

I like to balance my reading between fiction and non fiction and often have one book of each on the go. However, and here is the rub… I was finding that I would approach the reading of each genre in the exact same way and in the end up, I would not be enjoying the fiction book and also not be taking in the learning from the non-fiction book.

I hadn’t really thought about this too much until I was asked to recommend a book that I announced that I had just finished and thoroughly enjoyed.

Out of interest it was a book called ‘Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty’ and yes, I do recommend it.

I struggled to explain why I would recommend it though. That was the strange thing.

I decided to think this through a little bit more and come up with a bit of a strategy for when I am reading the different types of book in my chosen genres.

For the fiction book, my strategy was simple. Read the book, enjoy the book and where there was an opportunity to speed read and skim sections then I would. When it required me to slow down because I wanted to digest the story better at a particular section, then I would put the breaks on.

I would then take the time to piece together the narrative in between doing the skim and slowing down to grab more of the storyline by filling in from some of my own imagination.

Sacrilege, I get it… but when you have read one guy enter the woods, or jump into a car and drive off, or fight off an attacker, then you can piece together with your own imagination what that looks like without indulging in the bloating from the author. Yep. Feedback accepted.

For the non-fiction book I needed a bit more of a strategy. After all why was I reading the non-fiction book, I was reading it to learn something or improve myself from the wisdom of others.

So I start reading a non-fiction book by asking myself what do I want to learn from this book or am I just reading it for enjoyment. If I want to learn something (which is always) then I write a couple of sentences in the jacket or as a note in my kindle and I list out some of the things that I might want to learn.

Next I read the contents, the blurbs on the book and scan some of the appendices and also who has made the book recommendations and why they recommend the book. You can also pick up from this holistic scan some further points that you might want to add to your notes of what you want to learn.

I then read the contents page of the book and grab a mental note of the structure of the book and flick through the pages quickly stopping to take a quick mental snapshot of any illustrations or graphics within the pages.

At this point I write out three to five questions that I want to hold in my head as I read the book and also jot them down as a note so as not to loose them as I start the pleasure of reading.

I read and highlight as I go using one colour of highlighter. I prefer to read on a kindle for this and I have got used to reading on the kindle app on my iPad and iPhone which, once conquered, is actually very useful and enjoyable as I can read anywhere.

I got my head around this type of ‘read anywhere’ from a friend. He helped me understand that it was the content that I was enjoying, the words are what was important and the medium could be forever changing. I could read on my kindle, jump to my iPad and if on the bus or on the go, then I could pick it right back up again on my iPhone.

It is the content you consume, what you use to get the content is your choice or choices. I have my preferences but when needs must, then I am fully mobile and flexible.

After I read and highlight where I found it to be interesting, informative or some key learning moments etc, then I will leave the book down for a couple of days and take the time to reflect on it and think about it more as I go about my daily business.

When I pick the book back up I just read the highlights that I have made and as I do, I highlight (yes, highlight the highlights) the points I found really interesting by using a different colour; again the kindle app is amazing for this second read.

You still with me on this? It sounds a bit convoluted but trust me, it works.

Now that I have got to the core of what I have taken out of the book, I then refer to my initial notes on what I wanted to learn from this book. If they match then Bingo! I am happy as I got what I wanted… if they are not aligned then I see where the compromise is and either look to answer this by digging back into the book now that I am familiar with it or I do some editing of the questions because the learning is just not there.

Finally I check in with the questions I asked myself and answer them as best I can, I write a quick review of what I got from the book in my iPad notes app for any future reference and then I score the book out of 10.

Be honest with your scoring. A 10 is a ten and a 2, well that is a two and best left out of your recommendations to friends and family.

I then go out of my way to share the book with someone that same week and tell them why I recommend it.

This all sounds like a whole lot of extra work, but it takes an extra thirty minutes just to set it up, some invested time with the highlighter as you edge you way through the book and a thirty minute ending review sequence and you are done.

You will be surprised at what you picked up from the non-fiction book.

From the fiction book, well… you let your imagination rip and that is always great fun.

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