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Study Tips: Another Way To Read A Book (06/27/2020)

Unless it is a reference work that one peaks into only when they need to look something up, people usually read books in a linear fashion, from beginning-to-end. There is also a "non-linear" way to read a book that has been helpful to me...

1) First, it requires that we take a careful look at the table of contents and try to imagine what each section might contain. Some books have helpful little chapter summaries within their table of contents. However, even if the book doesn't have this feature and we don't know anything about the topic of the book, we can make our "best guesses" based upon the names of the chapters or sections. There is no "right" or "wrong" here, just make a sincere effort.

This first step is a good practice to implement even if we don't follow any of the other steps of this process. Sometimes one may spend a lot of time and effort trying to anticipate what is coming next in a book, instead of paying attention to what they are actually reading. This helps to mitigate that tendency.

2) Next, we go straight to the section that seems the most interesting to us in that moment and begin to gloss over it. It does not matter if it is a technical work and none of the vocabulary makes sense. Just skim it and imagine what it would feel like to fully understand everything that is written. Let all of the information wash over you without worry.

3) Repeat step #2 over and over again, weaving in and out of different sections of the book that seem the most interesting at the time. Notice that step #1 builds up a framework and steps #2 and #3 start to fill it in with information.

This is another reason why step #1 is so helpful, it gives us a "container" in which to place all of the material that we are reading. This helps to keep it organized and is a good "measuring stick" for determining if we are comprehending the entirety of a book.

4) Take periodic breaks and try to write out some of the things that you have learned about each section from memory. This is not a quiz, just a way to see what comes up easily for us.

In summary...
Step 1: Look at the contents and try to imagine what is in each chapter or section
Step 2: Go directly to the section that calls out to us and gloss over it
Step 3: Repeat step #2 with different sections of the book
Step 4: Take breaks and try to write out some of the things that stood out

This might seem like a trivial process, but it is very helpful in building up a familarity with a book without a lot of effort. And if one decides to read the book from start-to-finish after this, it will be that much easier to absorb.

...One final tip: Many books have an index (and/or a glossary) that sometimes gets ignored, but we can use these sections to study the book more deeply, much like the table of contents. For example, an index or glossary can be easily turned into flashcards, a "mind map", or some other tool for quick review.

Happy Studies!

Some music:
VOCES8 - Lux Aeterna (composed by Edward Elgar)

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