How to Read: A Bookworm's Guide to Building a Personalized Library

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(Photo: iStock)

I loved reading books since the time I first picked up the Three Musketeers - first book I ever read. Since then I have been reading non-stop: fiction first, non-fiction and university readings later, articles, blogs, not to miss the shampoo bottles and detergent boxes.   

Throughout the course of reading non-fiction I have discovered few tricks that help me get more out of the book than I would otherwise and to build a personalized library, digital or otherwise. 

Read the Introduction 

Do not be reluctant to read the introduction, since introduction is where the author puts his/her points of view, references and influences. You will most likely find these very interesting and relevant to the topic that you are researching by reading one particular book. In introduction the author often introduces other reading suggestions that more or less fit the interests of the reader. 

Work with the Book 

Unless you have phenomenal memory (which some of my friends do) I find it useful to work with the book, scribble on the sides and mark what's important and can be useful afterwards. 

I use different symbols for different types of information. 

_________ - underlining the names 

* - using asterix to denote important years /periods

! - an important point of view or  theory 

{ - a passage I would like to re-read later. 

| - a passage that is too long to highlight otherwise 

O - circle everything else that does not fall under the above-mentioned categories 

Prioritize 

When you are done reading the literary piece/article/blog revisit the parts which you have unerlined / marked and see if it is still relevant by the end of the book. The ones that still appeal as relevant and you feel that need more in-depth study of the persona, subject, theory, etc. move onto Google.

Photo: Google
Keep Google Handy 

Google (or whichever search engine you might prefer) has made reading way more informative than it ever was. When you are done reading, working with the book and prioritizing what in the end appealed to you as being important and noteworhty, find time to Google them. You might be overwhelmed by how much more you can learn about one particular person or event.

Read with Google and you will find yourself getting much more out of the book than you ever thought you would (I use the same technique when I watch a documentary, a movie or even a TV show). 

Plant the Seed, Grow a Tree 

After Googling comes the plan. What to read next, whether or not this particular subject is worth the attention and how will it contribute to your overall understanding of subject matter. 

I call it the book tree. Not a very fancy name but does the job. 

I take each and every important person, topic or event I found in the book and put them in small circles on a piece of paper (I am very oldfashioned that way). Then I branch them out if possible, depending on the information I got from Google about one subject or the other. 


Evangeline Adams Photo: solsticepoint.com
For the sake of Demonstration
, right now I am reading Walter Friedman's Fortune Tellers; a book about the early years of business statistics and forecasting. First chapter is about Roger Babson, one of the fathers of forecasting. 
 
In the introduction and first chapter I came across some interesting people.
 
For instance, Evangeline Adamas - one of the most influential women astrologers on the Wall Street in the beginning of 20th century who people believed could predict the future of stock movement. 
 
So, Evangeline Adams, this is the woman I'd like to know more about.
 
Besides, I'd like to know more about what drives people in believing fortune tellers and astrologers. Why we fear uncertainty and look for definitions in mysticism. So Evangeline Adams now is one of the seeds that branches out into the psychology of mysticism and predictions and how predictions could influence the stock market behaviour. 
 
These are the topics that are of interest to me. Evangeline will branch out into several directions that I will pursue in the immediate future. I can now research literature about the topics of interest listed above, read reviews and choose the related books and articles. 
 
 

Digitalized Version

I personally prefer to work in the book and on paper but all of this is possible digitally as well. There are many good notetaking software and apps for smartphone that can do the same for you as the pen and paper does for me. Or, highlight with kindle and start with step 2. 

I have found that reading like this: 

  1. Gives you more information on the subject matter
  2. Helps you identify what you are most interested in  (and you learn to prioritize along the way)
  3. Aids you in discovering the type of literature, articles, blogs you might not have discovered otherwise (what a Joy!)
  4. Aids the memory in remembering the main points better and why this particular book is of a matter for you
  5. Helps you ease into building a personalized library, tailored to your intersts

Merry Reading! 

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