How to read a Book

Duhh!! Asking that question of an adult…. yahh duhh!

If you’re wondering that this is a trick question with a funny punch line at the end, you’re wrong. If you’re wondering what kind of a demented, intelligence-insulting question is that, then please hold your fire.

Let me elaborate – I am talking about how to read a book so as to make the entire journey enjoyable, something to look forward to instead of a task on your To-Do list. And then finally how to remember the essence of it all!

If you are someone who has struggled with at least one of the things mentioned above, then please read on –

If this were the 70ies or the early 80ies you probably grew up to the wisdom that advised you to ‘Row your boat gently down the stream, cuz Life’s but a dream’. So this would not even be a question worth asking. Reading books was not a hobby, but a cultural trait. It was a part of your DNA. Well, if you could read.

So Reading thrived.

read a book

Come the 21st Century, and the age of Millennials. The age of gadgets and machines. The dawn of the distractions! I am sure you get the drift.

So the art of reading has faced a rapid decline for a generation that struggles to make time for essential things. Reading faces a constant challenge as we are no longer capable of remaining undistracted for more than 7 seconds. Reading faces a challenge as we prefer ‘quick-fixes’ for information gathering from Google Searches, Facebook posts, Instagram pins and Tweets.

I believe herein lies the main problem. Reading has been reduced from an art that is unique to us to an act of quick-fix information gathering. Our love for ‘seems to know’ about various subjects without needing to deep-dive has made us title skimmers, foregoing the entire ‘experience’ of reading. Not to mention, the retention. How can anyone expect to retain information that has been absorbed in a jiffy?

So when I ask the question of ‘How to Read a Book’, what I am really saying is how to make book reading an experience that creates value in the mundane routine, an act of creative outlet, how to make it time well spent on building knowledge that ultimately leads to developing yourself.

I do the following things-

Bring on the Colors

I love colors and colors love me. You don’t have to do ‘deepmind-analysis’ to know that colors breathe life and creativity. So any interaction with them makes the experience richer. How does it apply to reading? Get a marker/highlighter or pencil of your favorite color. I am a stationery addict. I love it. So I buy pens, pencils and markers of all hues.

highlighter pens

My favorites are the Aqua blue and pastel orange from Staedtler and a cute tip pencil in slate grey. What do you do with them? You use it to mark and highlight the bits and pieces that stand-out for you. Something that you could later glimpse at to know what was the essence.

Flag it!

Some pages in a book resonate more than others. And you want to ‘flag’ them for future reference. So I buy colorful instructional stickers and stick them on those pages instead of folding book pages. This really lifts up the book’s personality (yes I believe they have one). As you plough through a book, and flag the important milestones, you see the progress you’ve made and boy does it feel good!

mark while reading

Tip – I use triangular flag shaped stickies – a whole lot more convenient than the big rectangular ones.

Side Scrawls

As you read, highlighting lines and posting the stickies, I find it useful to scrawl notes along the edges or at the bottom to pen down my thoughts, questions, observations or understanding that I get while reading those bits. I find this very helpful to reconnect with my state of mind in case I am reading a book over a period of several weeks. Works like a rewind button! It’s also a good way to reconnect with your own self years later when you browse through the book. Like a flash of past, a mini-journal entry.


End Notes

Side scrawls are for the instant. What about the ‘big picture’? So at the same time, at the end of the book or on a separate sheet of paper, I write down my own summary of the topics discussed.

Tip – Write it yourself instead of relying on author-provided end-notes. This helps to summarize what you have learnt in your own words, so the recall is higher.

A Few of My Favorite Things…

On another sheet keep writing what about the book appeals to you. For instance, I write things like – wicked humor, cool illustrations, tips on stationery to purchase etc. This will help you identify the kind of content that appeals to you and you discover many things about your personality, likes and dislikes! (you don’t need to go to that counsellor any more!). Identifying the writing style that appeals to you also helps to nurture the writer in you. So next time when you write a blog or a paper, you can refer back to these notes and incorporate into your own style!!!

It is not for nothing that authors and poets have romanticized the act of ‘sitting in a cafe and reading your favorite book as the world goes by’ as an act of rejuvenation for the mind and soul. Investing in reading, is investing in life because the more joy you derive from it, the more it enriches us! Not dogs, not diamonds, I believe that Books are a person’s best friend.

Happy Reading to you!!

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