Finishing a book is easy, young man. Understanding it is harder.
In recent years, I have focused on building good reading habits and learned how to read more. But the key is not simply to read more, but to read better. For most people, the ultimate goal of reading a nonfiction book is to actually improve your life by learning a new skill, understanding an important problem, or looking at the world in a new way. It’s important to read books, but it is just as important to remember what you read and put it to good use.
With that in mind, I’d like to share three reading comprehension strategies that I use to make my reading more productive.
Having searchable book notes is essential for returning to ideas easily. It increases the odds that you will apply what you read in real life. An idea is only useful if you can find it when you need it. There is no need to leave the task of reading comprehension solely up to your memory.
I store all of my book notes in Evernote. I strongly prefer Evernote over other options because 1) it is searchable, 2) it is easy to use across multiple devices, and 3) you can create and save notes even when you’re not connected to the internet. I get my book notes into Evernote in three ways.
First, if I am listening to an audiobook then I create a new note for that book and type my notes in as I listen. My preference is to listen to audiobooks on 1.25x speed and then press pause whenever I want to write something down. The faster playback speed and slower note taking process tend to balance out and I usually finish each book in the same time as normal.
Second, if I am reading a print book then I follow the same process with one change. Typing notes while reading a print book can be annoying because you are always putting the book down and picking it back up. I like to place the book on a book stand, which makes it much easier to type out a long quote or keep my hands free while reading.
Print books and audiobooks are great,
but where this system really shines is with ebooks. My third (and preferred) approach is to read ebooks on my Kindle Paperwhite. I can easily highlight a passage while reading on my Kindle—no typing required. Once I’m finished, I use a software program called Clippings to import all of my Kindle highlights to Evernote.
These three approaches make it fairly easy for me to get my book notes into Evernote where they will be instantly searchable. Even if I can’t remember where I read about a particular idea, I can usually search my Evernote folder and find the answer quickly.
When you go to the library, all of the books will be divided into different categories: biographies, history, science, psychology. In the real world, of course, knowledge is not separated into neatly defined boxes. Topics overlap and bleed into one another. All knowledge is interconnected.