In the modern world, knowledge is CURRENCY. More books are published every day than it used to in a whole year just a few decades ago. We are facing decision fatigue on which books do we read & not. We encounter tons of content 24/7 with access to the internet on our palms. It has become necessary to remember the books you read & consume.
Being lazy & having a slow reading pace, I avoided & procrastinated reading indefinitely while other kids binged on storybooks (Tom Sayers, Famous Five, Goosebumps, etc.) from the school library. I confess that I missed one of the greatest privileges & opportunities I had in my life: a library.
Growing up, I came to realize that reading is one of the most powerful ways one can develop oneself intellectually. Be it for entertainment, specialized knowledge, information, or perspective on a particular subject.
I took up the challenge by picking up books that were easy reads to develop the habit of sitting through the book (averaging 200 pages) instead of satisfying my thrust for reading short-form articles across the web. With my quest to read 1000 books in my lifetime, it was necessary to focus on the quality of knowledge I consume, retain, derive from & apply than merely chasing the numbers.
Some of the things that have worked for me for reading books and retaining the learnings are:
- Don’t force yourself to read a book: You may have picked up a book because someone recommended it or someone you looked up to wrote it. It’s okay to say no to the book, put it down & maybe revisit it at a later time or not even pick it back up. It is not something you need to check box and complete in your life.
- Mark up the book while you read it: As you read through the book underline, highlight, circle, write down questions, thoughts, or even notes alongside the book.
- Put down the book if you hit reading fatigue: It is not a race to complete the book in a specified time. Read it to absorb the essence of the book, not because you want to finish a book. If you get distracted, put it down for the day. Pick it back up when you are fresh and ready.
- Make notes at the end of each chapter: After you complete reading a chapter, make notes in bullet points of the takeaways, arguments & ideas in your own words. It is ok to copy certain parts verbatim but making the notes in your own words allows you to reflect on your learnings and gives an opportunity to revisit parts of the chapter if required.
- Let the book age after you complete it: Once you complete the book, put it away for at least a week or ten days before you go back. Then write down 3-5 key points, learnings, takeaways, or observations as a way to summarise the book.
- Document the learnings: I like to summarise the book into a one-two pager which I can refer back to in the future. The format I prefer is to start with 3-5 key take away points and chapter wise bullet points. You can either create a folder or blog these summarise (whichever works better for you).
The key to remember the books you read is to be focused and engaged while reading them. Organize the ideas and information in a way that works best for you. Some people love bookmarking the book to reference it back. Stop worrying about taking notes and what to write. Writing the notes at the end of the chapter or book in your own words and from memory is the best way possible way to make remember what you read.
Avoid over highlighting or underlining to the extent that it loses the idea of doing it in the first place. Do not be afraid to use symbols in the margin or anywhere in the book to draw your attention.
Even though the summery is a good way to remember the books you read, sometimes rereading the book is not a bad idea. Find a system that works best for you and not overwhelm you.
In the end, don’t forget to enjoy the reading!