Reading has many facets passive or active engagements. Reading exposes us to ideas foreign to us, but owned by others, which can then develop into abstract friendships with authors we may never meet in person. Reading broadens the mind and if you are like me, it provides an escape from reality and feeds your innate curiosity (hopefully you haven’t become too cynical to lose that aspect of yourself). It also provides riveting entertainment that stirs ones imagination. But we are endowed with finite amount of time and may not be able to sift through all the intriguing books we come across as we would like to. So if you don’t have a purpose, your activity of reading might be aimless. As guide please scan you bookshelf and quickly count the number of books you haven’t read, but still mean to.
But there is hope. Unearthing the practical aspects of reading has opened my mind to consider how I read. If you haven’t done so in the past I invite you to evaluate your reading habit. Reading can be an invaluable source of information, but it shouldn’t stop there, it is also is the gateway to discovery. A gateway that is open only when insight is the goal and not facts that can be regurgitated during future conversations. If youve ever read a piece of text, walked away and couldn’t remember what you read, couldn’t explain it to a friend or family member or even better, effectively use it to solve problems, you have read passively and have been bequeathed information that has not made any links with ideas you already understand.
Reading that is performed with the intent of analysing the text or comparing the content of the book with materials in similar or slightly divergent genres requires more effort or intentionally. Mostly, the reader who may have little or no prior awareness of such ideas – is invited by the author who stands on a supposedly higher level of understanding with regards to the subject matter at hand. The author takes the reader on a journey successful, only if the predestined location is arrived at to an equal or almost identical level of understanding. This however, requires intentionality. There are at least four different levels of reading and different styles which become more complex with growth and development. To find out more I will direct you to the book by Adler and Van Doren, illuminating the dynamics of intelligent reading across our development.
To be able to translate ideas, we need to have properly understood what has been communicated (herein innovation is born!). Itemized below are my two cents thoughts on the number of processes that help with efficient and faster reading:
1. Choose good books to spend your energy; ratings of 4 and above are a good place start. Select books related to your developmental goals, otherwise, skim through the content or get the summary/review.
2. Focus on the main arguments within books and you wouldn’t miss out on much. Substantial contents of books aim to provide context before communicating new concepts e.g. stories. These the anchors, that connect you the reader, and the writer. Look out for them. Good writers sign-post you to the main ideas within paragraphs.
3. Make multiple notes. Mental notes/checklists, discuss and explain ideas to people around you as a sounding board for how effectively you have communicated understanding to another.
Here is where talking helps. If you have this tendency, you’re in luck.
4. Use visuals. If you’re more detail oriented, mind maps may work better for you. But these tools which may seem like a complete waste of time help focus the mind and birth insight.
5. Take time to adequately question what you have read. A significant proportion of what we know has not been interrogated, just circulated as facts, some of which are actually myths. Sadly most of us suffer from mental lethargy. I hope you don’t.
Lastly, read and re-read classics or seminal papers, they hold the key to discovery. In the words of my favourite author, CS Lewis What we see depends on where we are standing.