Books are the best high quality, low risk investments a person can make. A good book can add more perspective to your life, whether it is interpreting past experiences or creating new ideas. Think of it like updating software on your phone. You can learn new lessons from old moments.
However, this can only happen if you remember the insights from books you have read. Knowledge only builds when it is retained.
Of course, some books are for entertainment, but this particular article is about reading for learning purposes. I have compiled a list of six reading comprehension strategies.
1. Quit More Books
Skilled writing and high-quality ideas stand out, so it does not take long to figure out if something is worth reading.
Most people should start more books than they do, but that doesn't mean you need to read every single page of every book. I recommend skimming the table of contents, chapter titles, and subheadings. Pick an interesting section and read a few pages. In about ten minutes, you will have an idea of how good the book actually is.
Then, quit books quickly without feeling ashamed or guilty!
Life is too short to waste it on average books and there are so many amazing books to read.
Here's what I suggest: start more books, quit most of them, but read the best ones twice.
2. Have a Purpose and Apply It
Try to choose books that you can apply immediately. Making ideas actionable is one of the best ways to lock them into your mind. As you have probably heard multiple times, practice is one of the best forms of learning.
In addition, choosing a book that you can use provides incentive to pay attention and remember the material. If you are starting a business, for example, then you have a lot of motivation to get everything you can out of the management book you are reading.
Although every book is not a guide that you can apply immediately, you can still find wisdom in many other books.
3. Make Mental Connections
A book is sort of like a tree, literally and figuratively. Books have fundamental concepts that form the trunk and the details form the branches. You can improve your reading comprehension by linking branches from different books, articles, and even videos you have previously come across.
Connections help you remember what you read by "hooking" new information onto already understood concepts.
When you read something that reminds you of another topic or sparks a connection, write what you have learned.
4. Write a Short Summary and Make It Searchable
As soon as you finish a book, challenge yourself to summarize it in only three sentences. This forces you to consider what is really important about the book, but this is just a "fun" constraint. When summarizing a book, think of the following questions:
- How would I describe this book to a friend?
- What are the main ideas?
- What idea would I implement from this book right now?
Sometimes, it can be just as useful to read a one paragraph summary and review your notes than reading the book again.
Keep these notes in one place — it does not need to be a complicated system, but store it in a searchable format. I keep my notes in Notion. I use this app because it is instantly searchable, usable across multiple devices, and savable even when you are not connected to the internet. Here is a great visual by Anne-Laure Le Cunff about reading without taking notes.
Remember, an idea is only useful if you can find it when you need it.
5. Surround the Topic
If you only read one book on a topic and use that as the basis for all your beliefs, how accurate and complete is your knowledge really?
Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what's happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. We're biased to our own personal history. — Morgan Housel
Read a variety of books on the same topic and approach it from different angles. Try to look at the same problem through the perspectives of various authors and try to apply it to your own experiences.
6. Read It Twice
As I said earlier, read the best books twice. Karl Popper explained this well:
Anything worth reading is not only worth reading twice, but reading again and again. If a book is worthwhile, then you will always be able to make new discoveries ini it and find things in it that you didn't notice before, even though you have read it many times.
In addition to Popper's advice, revisiting books can be helpful because the problems you deal with change over time. New passages and ideas will be relevant to you the second time you read a book.
Even if you did not get something new out of each reading, it is still worthwhile to revisit great books. Returning to those ideas locks them in your mind.
One book rarely changes your life, even if you get a light bulb moment of insight. Instead, the key is to become just a little wiser each day.
How do you read books? Let me know in the comments down below!