How can you grow in your knowledge and skill by reading books? On Monday, I shared with you some ideas for putting together a reading list for the summer and shared briefly the idea of note taking and interacting with a book. But HOW do we do this? My personal hero in the reading for growth category is a man by the name of Mortimer Adler. Adler and Charles Van Doren were the authors of the classic work “How to Read a Book” which is still available today. In the book, the authors distill the essence of reading for growth and how one should undertake this endeavor. I’ll not regurgitate the text here but suffice it to say the book is a gold mine of reading competence. Why this type of learning isn’t taught in our public schools I will never know.
To be certain, you must also read books for pure enjoyment. Not all reading has to be taxing to your brain. A good mystery, thriller, or comedy is always needed in your reading plan. I drop these in from time to time but the majority of my reading is focused on growing as a pastor, leader, husband, and father. It is there I draw nearly 90% of my reading material. So what do I do to interact with a book? How do audio and electronic books change my plans? I’ll attempt to be brief but here goes:
When I’m reading for growth, I start by surveying the book. I gloss over the table of contents, review the chapters, briefly look over the end pages and then see what the authors closed the book with. In general, their closing thoughts summarize their hope for what it is you draw from the reading. This gives you a “base” to draw from as you begin to see how chapters build on one another. This is a very simple step and one I go through with most reading before I elect to purchase a book.
After a brief (less than 20-30 minute) survey, I read the introduction and credits to see what others are going to say about this book. If there are blank end pages in the book, I generally prepare one with my initial thoughts of what I hope to glean from this text. As I read, I underline and make notes in the text designed to give me ideas to review. If it is something I REALLY want to explore, I make a note of it in the end pages and review it further after I’ve finished the book and am conducting a post reading review. Many times, a thought you note will have a related “in text” note that refers to other books that the author consulted. If it’s worth it, I make note of these and add them to a future “review to read” list the next time I’m in a library or book store.
If I’m using digital work, like an audio book or ebook on my Sony Reader, I use a small digital recorder in place of my pencil and end pages. I will stop and leave myself a brief voice clip in the digital recorder to review later. The idea here is to capture thoughts however you must do it. Else a great thought will get left behind in the pages of the book and a post reading review will have less of an impact.
Another technique I employ is the use of “glyphs” or special notation symbols that I recognize in my own little world. These glyphs can mean anything from “A Great Idea!” to “Not worth exploring”. On another end page, I collect these “glyph” thoughts by page number and add them to each glyph I put on the end page. Thus “great ideas” are collected and I can review them by page number at the end of the book. Some glyphs challenge me to develop an action plan to execute to employ an idea shared in the book. If so, then I can make such a plan part of my productivity work at the end of my week when I’m arranging my time for the coming seven days. With an ebook or audio book, it’s a bit harder to organize the glyphs but a makeshift system can be made with a notecard and/or voice recorder noting the pages and “types” of headings you want to use. My Sony reader ebook has a feature that lets me “dog ear” pages in my book as I read to I can use this method to catalog any specific notes I take.
Sometimes I question the text if I disagree with a conclusion and leave myself a note to review the ideas in other works perhaps cited by the author or ones I can find on sites like Shelfari. These questions also become a valuable part of the text when I’m done. This method was best summarized by others as the “SQ3R” method. I’ve adapted it to my own reading style but essentially, the nuts and bolts of what I do can be found there.
When I’m done with a book, I let it settle for a few days before I go back to review it. Briefly, my review encompasses going over my “glyphs” pages, putting together an action plan to challenge any questions I may have asked of the book, and applying the ideas I found most helpful. How I do this varies but in short, this is how I review a book. There are many other tools I can employ but I think you get the idea.
This is not something you pick up quickly. In fact, it took me years to employ this method successfully over time. Once again, reading for growth is a discipline and you get better the more you do it. If you feel overwhelmed with what I’ve shared here, simply take the time to review one of these ideas and incorporate it into your reading. The next time, add another idea. However you do it, take the time to interact with your books. It will change the way you read forever.
On Friday, I will conclude this series with some time-saving ideas to increase the time in your day for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on t