In Friday’s post I shared with you a few resources that I thought could be helpful to you as you build a meaningful life. I also told you that I’m still reading and digesting all the information in the books.
This got me to thinking…perhaps you’d like to know my process for reading non-fiction books.
There are so many books in the world and, being an avid bibliophile, I’d like to read them all! If you’re like me—even just a little bit—you, too, probably have an enormous to-be-read pile of books and magazines beside your favorite easy chair. I know there is no way I can ever read each book from cover to cover like I wish I could. And, to be honest, some books I don’t particularly care for, not because they’re “bad” books but rather it’s because they aren’t a good fit for me right now—later on they may be the absolute perfect book that is right on the mark, and I have found this to be the case with several books I had stopped reading.
So, with the knowledge that I have limited time to read yet so very many books that have captured my curiosity, I know I must have some sort of sorting or ranking system.
Let me say here that I am a HUGE fan of libraries and I encourage each one of you to get a library card! I’m also a IMMENSE fan of the consortiums that the libraries in my area have formed that enable patrons of one library to borrow books from another library within the system. I’m a firm believer in and a steadfast supporter of everyone having barrier-free access to information so that they can pursue their interests as well as improve their lives.
At the library, I usually take out every book that seems interesting. I err on the side of taking a book home if I’m unsure about it. This sometimes results in an enormous stack of books to bring home but I can always return books that aren’t quite what I was looking for at the time.
When I get home, I schedule time to go through the books. When I review the books, I look at the table of contents to get a feel for the information that’s covered. Next, I’ll do a quick read of the first few pages to give me a feel for the style and tone—whether it’s a more formal and serious tone or if it’s lighter and breezy. Then I’ll do a quick read of the first few pages and then skim the rest of the book, sometimes jumping pages and sections ahead.
Doing this tells me whether or not the book is right for me at the time as well as if it has the potential to deliver on the promise of the title and subtitle. I don’t give a lot of time to this, perhaps 5 – 10 minutes per book. The ones I’ve put to the side are then scheduled to go back to the library.
Do I sometimes return a book that could have been a big help? Yes. But the library keeps books in their collections for years so I always have the opportunity to take it out again.
Are there books that pass this first stage of sorting that turn out later on to not have been of as much value as I had originally thought? Yes. Coming up next, I describe a second stage of sorting that weeds out these maybe-can-maybe-can’t-be-helpful-books.
After I’ve done the first round of winnowing down of my book pile, I take the time with the remaining books to read them a little closer. I still do a combination of quick reading, skimming, jumping over the examples and anecdotes, but I also slow down to read the parts that are resonating with me and I mark these passages or parts of the books with either a slip of paper or a sticky note—never by folding down the corner of a page (it damages the book and shortens it’s lifespan). This process takes a little longer, usually a half hour or more per book.
If I notice that I put only a few markers in a book, in a Word Doc, I’ll jot down the passage that I thought was interesting and save it to a file in my computer. These books are then returned to the library. As with the books that didn’t make the initial cut, sometimes I return a book that could have been helpful but, as I said, I can always take it out of the library at a later date.
I go back through my pile of books, by now it’s only ones with several paper slips or sticky notes marking interesting pages. This is my pile of books that have a lot of potential. I go through these books paying attention to the markers I’ve put in them. The point of this is to winnow the books down to around 3 and no more than 6. There’s no magic in this number range, it’s just one that seems to work for me.
Finally, I’m left with 3 to 6 books that I’ll read cover-to-cover, marking pages, taking notes, and oftentimes sitting and gazing off into space as my mind mulls over a point I just read. These are the books that I’ll usually renew as many times as the library will let me!
How do you read books? Feel free to share your tips and techniques in the comments below. Thanks!
Your Friend and Pep Pal,