With books being published at an unprecedented rate keeping on top of the latest and greatest can leave most of us feeling like failures where our reading is concerned. And while I’m supportive of the ‘read a few good books well’ theory I also happen to think you can glean lots of good things from many other places with relative speed and ease. Here’s how:
- Stop feeling guilty about ‘gutting’ books. It’s not wrong to thumb a book, get a few ideas, and then put it down. You have no moral obligation to the author to read every word they wrote. Take a book off your shelf, put it on the floor and stand on it. Now say ‘you don’t own me; I own you; you serve me not vice versa buddy.’ Liberating, no?
- Read book reviews and decide whether or not you want to actually read that book.
- Read the back cover and skim the contents page. Decide whether you want to read any more.
- Read the intro and conclusion to the book. Decide if you want to read any more. [you can do steps 2-3 (and even part of 4) on-line]
- Read the intro and conclusion to each chapter. Decide if you want to read any more.
- Skim through chapters looking for headings, sub-heading, pictures/diagrams, indented quotes etc. etc. Decide if you want to read any more.
- Read the book more carefully and thoroughly. Decide if you want to repeat (ever).
- If it’s worth it create an Evernote file for said book and note down the good and the useful – make your library work for you.
- Decide if its a book worth buying and passing on to others and act accordingly.
- Put the book (if you’re keeping it) in the appropriate section of your library so you can find it again should you want to.
There it is. Steps 1-6 can probably be done in less than 1 hour in total, and it’s probably fair to say you can glean 80% of the goodness in 20% of the time it might take to read it exhaustively. Some books won’t get past step 1; some books will be worthy of careful reading, reflection and re-reading – you’ll get a sense of that as you spend a little time with it. If you follow these steps you will read more, you will read faster, and you will read more profitably. Give it a go. Take a book sat on your shelves now and just spend 20 mins doing the first few steps. I’ll bet you have a pretty good idea after just 20 mins of how much time you want to invest. Try it and let me know what you think.