A good book is like a portal to another world, something that can transport you to magic kingdoms and futuristic cities, spooky mansions and uncharted landscapes.Whether you’re interested in fiction or non-fiction, poetry or textbooks, there are a number of techniques you can use to get the most out of your literary experience.
Choose a book.
Knowing your personal taste can really help you find a book you’ll find enjoyable.Think about what kind of an experience you want to have while reading. Do you want a rousing adventure tale? A cerebral exploration of ideas? An emotional journey through the lives of believable characters? How long of a book do you want to read? How challenging do you want it to be? Are there certain perspectives you want your book to embrace or avoid? Answering these questions will narrow down the field of possible books.
It is possible to read a textbook for fun, but the practice is not very common. Most people read a textbook because they need to get information, and textbooks are an excellent source of concentrated, clearly-organized information on many topics. To get the most from reading your textbook, have a notepad open beside you while you read.
There are Four Levels of Reading
This is the level of reading taught in our elementary schools. If you’re reading this website, you already know how to do this.
2. Inspectional Reading
- Systematic skimming — This is meant to be a quick check of the book by (1) reading the preface; (2) studying the table of contents; (3) checking the index; (4) reading the inside jacket. This should give you sufficient knowledge to understand the chapters in the book pivotal to the author’s argument. Dip in here and there, but never with more than a paragraph or two. Skimming helps you reach to a decision point: Does this book deserve more of my time and attention? If not you put it down.
- Superficial reading — This is when you just read. Don’t ponder the argument, don’t look things up, don’t write in the margins. If you don’t understand something, move on. What you gain from this quick read will help you later when you go back and put more effort into reading. You now come to another decision point. Now that you have a better understanding of the book’s contents and its structure, do you want to understand it?
Classify the book according to kind and subject matter.
State what the whole book is about with the utmost brevity.
Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
Define the problem or problems the author is trying to solve.
After an inspectional read, you will understand the book and the author’s views.
4. Syntopical Reading
- Finding the Relevant Passages — You need to find the right books and then the passages that are most relevant to filling your needs. So the first step is an inspectional reading of all the works that you have identified as relevant.
- Bringing the Author to Terms — In analytical reading, you must identify the keywords and how they are used by the author. This is fairly straightforward. The process becomes more complicated now as each author has probably used different terms and concepts to frame their argument. Now the onus is on you to establish the terms. Rather than using the author’s language, you must use your own. In short, this is an exercise in translation and synthesis.
- Getting the Questions Clear — Rather than focus on the problems the author is trying to solve, you need to focus on the questions that you want answered. Just as we must establish our own terminology, so too must we establish our own propositions by shedding light on our problems to which the authors provide answers. It’s important to frame the questions in such a way that all or most of the authors can be interpreted as providing answers. Sometimes we might not get an answer to our questions because they might not have been seen as questions by the authors.
- Defining the Issues — If you’ve asked a clear question to which there are multiple answers then an issue has been defined. Opposing answers, now translated into your terms, must be ordered in relation to one another. Understanding multiple perspectives within an issue helps you form an intelligent opinion.
There are 4 main questions you need to ask of every book:
- What is this book about?
- What is being said in detail and how?
- Is this book true in whole or in part?
- What of it?
If all of this sounds like hard work, you’re right. Most people won’t do it. That’s what sets you apart.