Learning from Books

It’s hard to convey knowledge. While books are a great way of standing on the shoulders of giants, reading a book by itself is not enough to absorb the author’s teachings and content.

You need to think about what you are reading. This kind of ’thinking’ can take many forms. For example, some people take notes while reading, not simply transcribing the author’s words but summarizing, synthesizing, and connecting with other ideas.

Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of several books about Stoicism, annotates heavily the book he’s reading it. After finishing a book, he lets it rest for some time. He then comes back to his annotations on the book pages and transcribes them to his Notecard System.

As Andy Mathuschak explains in his great article Why books don’t work, learning from reading doesn’t come easily. “Readers must learn specific reflective strategies. ‘What questions should I be asking? How should I summarize what I’m reading? Readers must run their own feedback loops. ‘Did I understand that? Should I re-read it? Consult another text?’ Readers must understand their own cognition. ‘What does it feel like to understand something? Where are my blind spots?’

After reading a book, use your notes to write about what you’ve read, either for yourself or in public. Take some time to reflect. Explain the main points to others and engage in a conversation. This will help you connect the dots and consolidate what you’ve learned. So many times we think we have understood something only to find that words fail us when we try to explain it to others.

Photo by David TravisDavid Travis on Unsplash.

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