How to Read a Book A Complete Guide
You have to read a book three times before you know it. The first time you read it for the story. The plot. The movement from scene to scene that gives the book its momentum, its rhythm. It’s like riding a raft down a river. You’re just paying attention to the currents…”
“The second time you read a book, you read it for its history. For its knowledge of history. [And the third time] you think about the meaning of each word, and where that word came from… you have to look all that up. If you don’t treat each word that seriously then you’re not treating the novel seriously.”
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.
If you’re reading for your own enjoyment, you will probably want to pick a general interest fiction or nonfiction book. There are literally millions of such books, so finding one that’s right for you can be challenging.
A good place to start is by thinking about what you like, and also about what you don’t like. Keep in mind how many different types of books are out there. There are dystopian books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. There are realistic fiction books such as Perfect by Natasha Friend. There are fantasy books like The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. There are historical fiction books like Dragonwings by Laurence. Yep, and so many others.
Knowing your personal taste can really help you find a book you’ll find enjoyable. Just because someone else says a book is good doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily enjoy it. Some people enjoy fantasy novels, other people hate them.
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.
Nonfiction books can be a little easier to narrow down than fiction ones. Most popular nonfiction books are histories or biographies of famous people. Is there a famous person you’d like to know more about? Do you want to know more about a country, a landmark, a war, a historical event? Do you want to know more about oceans, or dinosaurs, or pirates, or stage magic? Pretty much anything you can think of has had a nonfiction book written about it.
Just because you find a nonfiction book about something that interests you doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like the book. Some books are well written and interesting, others are poorly written and boring.
If you find a nonfiction book about something you like, read the first couple of pages first to see if you like the writer’s style. If you find the book difficult or boring on the first page, it probably won’t get any better as you read through.
Go to the library
Go to the library. Your local library is a good place to browse books, since if you see one that interests you, you won’t even have to pay anything to read it. Tell the librarian what you’re interested in, and ask him or her to point you to one or two areas of the library where you might find interesting books related to your interests.
Don’t judge the book by its cover
Don’t judge the book by its cover. The title and cover illustrations may seem boring or not your taste, but inside the book could be a whole world of pleasure and enjoyment that you will be enthralled by. This, however, is not always the case, so make sure you pick wisely! Also, look at the thickness of the book.
If a quick read is what you’re looking for, a big, heavy book wouldn’t be suitable, and vice versa. Lastly, if you are buying the book for someone other than yourself, think about their age and interests, if you are purchasing for a child, young adult books such as Fifty Shades of Grey may not be the ideal choice.
Ask those around you
Ask those around you. Good friends and close relatives may be able to recommend books to you based on what they enjoyed and thought you would also enjoy. But be careful because some people like to read long stories while others don’t. If you love science for example, search for science books.
Check online. The Internet is filled with book lovers who are more than happy to share their opinions about various titles. Find a community that discusses books and search for the subjects you like, or just visit online retail sites and browse user reviews of books that look good. Either way is a great method for getting a quick idea of the most popular and best-liked titles in any category of book.
Make it a group event. Book clubs and readings are both fun ways to expose yourself to new books. Many clubs are focused around a particular genre of book, such as science fiction or romance, but some are more general.
How To Read a Book
Find a comfortable place to sit, make sure there’s plenty of light, and open the front cover. Start at the beginning, which is usually the first chapter unless there’s some front material, and read each page in order until the book is finished. If there is any end material, wait until you have finished the rest of the book before reading it.
Decide whether or not to read the front material
Front material is the writing at the front of the book that isn’t the first chapter of the book. It comes in four basic flavors, and each type serves a different purpose. You can decide on your own whether or not you want to read any given section of front material. The four types of front material are:
Acknowledgments: A brief section that lists people who helped the author in some way during the writing process. You can read acknowledgments if you like, but most people don’t bother. Acknowledgments also commonly appear at the very end of the book.
Foreword: The foreword is written by a different author than the person who wrote the book, so it is usually only seen in later editions of a book that has made some sort of impact in the past, such as an award-winning novel or an important scientific work. The foreword talks a bit about what to expect from the book, and why it is worth reading.
Preface: The preface is written by the author of the book. It is usually (but not always) shorter than the foreword, and is basically an essay that explains how and why the book was written. If you’re interested in the author’s personal life or creative process, the preface can give you some valuable insight.
Introduction: The introduction is the place where the author speaks directly to the reader and introduces the book, reviewing what its intent is and building excitement in the reader about getting to read it. Introductions are more often found in nonfiction books than fiction books. If you would rather not know a few things in the book before, reading the writers prelude after would be a good idea.
Decide whether or not you want to read the end material.
End material is other writing, typically by different authors, that appear after the main book has ended. End material is typically comprised of essays or editorials on the book itself, and is not commonly seen outside of academic “study editions” of certain very famous books, such as John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
As with most front material, all end material is totally optional. If you greatly enjoyed a book, end material can give you a chance to revisit parts of it; if you didn’t understand the importance of a book, it can provide important historical and cultural context. Otherwise, most people ignore it.
Reading a book seems like a pretty straightforward task, doesn’t it? And in some cases, it is. If you’re reading purely for entertainment or leisure, it certainly can be that easy. There’s another kind of reading, though, in which we at least attempt to glean something of value from the book in our hands (whether in paper or tablet form). In that instance, you might be surprised to learn that it’s not as simple as opening the book and reading the words.
How We Learn To Read
A lot of people confuse knowing the name of something with understanding. While great for exercising your memory, the regurgitation of facts without solid understanding and context gains you little in the real world.bet you already know how to read a book. You were taught in elementary school. But do you know how to read well? There is a difference between reading for understanding and reading for information. If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t given much thought to how you read. And how you read makes a massive difference to knowledge accumulation.
A useful heuristic: Anything easily digested is reading for information.
Consider the newspaper, are you truly learning anything new? Do you consider the writer your superior when it comes to knowledge in the subject? Odds are probably not. That means you’re reading for information. It means you’re likely to parrot an opinion that isn’t yours as if you had done the work.
This is how most people read. But most people aren’t really learning anything new. It’s not going to give you an edge, make you better at your job, or allow you to avoid problems.
“Marking a book is literally an experience of your differences or agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him.”
— Edgar Allen Poe
Learning something insightful requires mental work. It’s uncomfortable. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not learning. You need to find writers who are more knowledgeable on a particular subject than yourself. By narrowing the gap between the author and yourself, you get smarter.
Four Types of Reading
In 1940, Mortimer Adler wrote the first edition of what is now considered a classic of education, How to Read a Book. There have been subsequent editions that contain great information, but the bulk of what we’ll be covering today is from Adler’s words of advice from nearly 75 years ago.
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
He states that there are 4 types of reading:
This is just what it sounds like. It’s what we learn in elementary school and basically gets us to the point that we can understand the words on a page and read them, and follow a basic plot or line of understanding, but not much more.
This is basically skimming. You look at the highlights, read the beginning and end, and try to pick up as much as you can about what the author is trying to say. I’ll bet you did plenty of this with high school reading assignments; I know I did. Think of SparkNotes when you think of inspectional reading.
This is where you really dive into a text. You read slowly and closely, you take notes, you look up words or references you don’t understand, and you try to get into the author’s head in order to be able to really get what’s being said.
This is mostly used by writers and professors. It’s where you read multiple books on a single subject and form a thesis or original thought by comparing and contrasting various other authors’ thoughts. This is time and research intensive, and it’s not likely that you’ll do this type of reading very much after college, unless your profession or hobby calls for it.
This post will cover inspectional and analytical reading, and we’ll focus mostly on analytical. If you’re reading this blog, you likely have mastered the elementary level. Inspectional reading is still useful, especially when trying to learn new things quickly, or if you’re just trying to get the gist of what something is about. I won’t cover syntopical reading in this post, as it’s just not used much by Average Joe Reader.
Analytical reading is where most readers fall short. The average high schooler in America reads at a 5th grade level, and the average adult American reads somewhere between the 7th and 8th grade levels. This is where most popular fiction actually falls. For men, think Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Louis L’Amour, etc. These are books that are incredibly entertaining, and a great way to spend a weekend afternoon, but if we’re honest with ourselves, don’t challenge our intellect all that much.
There are some fine examples of manhood in those characters to be sure, but the point is that you won’t get more out of reading them once than you will out of reading them five times. It’s also why these are the types of books that are always on the bestseller lists — they cater to the level that most Americans can actually read at.
How come people can’t read at a higher level? Are we a society full of dopes? Hardly. Adler argues that the reason actually lies in our education. Once we reach the point of elementary reading, it’s assumed that we can now read. And to a point, we can.
But we never actually learn how to digest or critique a book. So we get to high school and college and get overloaded with reading assignments that we’re supposed to write long papers about, and yet we’ve never learned how to truly dissect a book and get the most value out of it.
That’s our task today with this post. Again, I’ll mostly cover analytical reading, but I’ll also touch on inspectional reading, and a couple of other related tidbits as well.
As mentioned above, there are certainly times when inspectional reading is appropriate. It’s particularly useful when you’re at the bookstore trying to pick out your next book and deciding if the unknown object in front of you is worth the dough. (The good news is that you can also do this with ebooks — in most cases you can scan the cover, the table of contents, the introduction, etc. before actually buying.)
This type of reading is also handy when trying to learn new things quickly, or when you’re just trying to get the gist of something. It’s great for the kind of reading you should be doing to stay current in your career as well; books related to a certain industry can often be full of fluff and chapters that just don’t apply to your particular job, and inspectional reading lets you glean the things that are actually helpful without wasting time on irrelevant material.
You can often get a pretty good feel for a book with an inspectional reading by following the steps below.
To get the most out of this, you can actually follow along with a book off your shelf — it will only take 5-10 minutes.
There are 2 Types of Inspectional reading:
- Systematic skimming, also known as pre-reading or intelligent skimming
- Superficial reading.
The first type of inspectional reading is systematic skimming, which you can easily put into practice today. Here’s how you start:
Read the cover and preface. Start with a quick read of the cover, publishers blurb, and the preface to get a feel for the scope of the work. This will not only prime your brain for what you might read in its entirety, but it will help you mentally place the book in a category.
Read the table of contents, which will give you a feel for the map of the book. Where is the book taking you? How are you getting There? It’s amazing how many people just dive in reading without even glancing at the table of contents and yet, the author spends considerable time coming up with the table of contents (as that’s the spine of the book). With non-fiction books you often can’t sell them without having a detailed table of contents.
Understand the language of the book. This means skimming the index. Not only will this give you an idea for the range of topics covered but it will also tell you the other people the book connects to and the jargon used in the book.
Identify the pivotal points. At this point, you have an overview of the jargon and the journey the author is taking you on. It should be relatively easy to identify the pivotal chapter to the argument. Dive into these reading bits and pieces. How are they structured? How connected is it to the rest of the book? Is this a place you want to end up? Turn the pages and dive in here and there with a few paragraphs or even pages.
Read the end. Authors generally do a good job summarizing their work in the last few pages. This where they sum up what they think is most important about their work.
Listen to an interview. While this has nothing to do with the actual book, interviews can be a great way to get the gist of a book in 30m or so. Authors do so much promotion now that its relatively easy to find interviews. And of course, they use the best examples from the book in these interviews.
Deciding to Read a Book
That’s how you intelligently skim a book. Once you get some practice, it should take at most, an hour. Skimming helps you reach a decision point: Does this book deserve more of my time and attention? Why?
Unless you’re reading for entertainment, if you can’t answer that question, you can toss the book.
Mastering intelligent skimming will:
- save you a lot of time because most books are not worth reading
- offer knowledge of the book’s blueprint and contents so you know where to find stuff if you need it in the future
- and improve retention, if you decide to read the book in its entirety because you’ve primed your brain with the contents.
The second part of inspectional reading is a superficial reading. This is used when you’re tacking a book that’s notably above your level. Most of us stop when we’re confused and ponder what’s being said but a superficial reading means that you quickly read start to finish without stopping to ponder the things you don’t understand.
The reason this works is that by reading the book start to finish, you’ll have a great overview of what’s going on. You might only understand 25% of what’s going on but that’s better than nothing. Should you decide to go back and re-read the book, a lot of the things that gave you pause the first time would have been resolved. If you stop and go over everything you don’t understand on your first reading, you get lost. Sure you finish the book but you’ve lost sight of where you’ve been and where you’ve come.
Superficial reading is the first step towards analytical reading – that is, understanding and interpreting a book’s contents.
Inspectional reading should be able to answer the questions, what kind of book is it? what is it about? and what is the structure, or blueprint, of the book “whereby the author develops his conception or understanding of that general subject matter?”
If inspectional reading is the best you can do quickly, this is the best reading you can do given time.rancis Bacon once remarked, “some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” You can think of analytical reading as doing that chewing and digesting. This is doing the work. Analytical reading is a thorough reading.
You don’t need to do this type of reading for just anything. Only undertake it if you really want to get the most out of the book in front of you. Even Adler mentioned that not every book deserves this thorough treatment. But, many do. To read a great book and simply throw it back on the shelf to collect dust is in many ways a waste. The tips below apply to both fiction and non-fiction, but I’ll note where something may differ.
Let’s find out how to get the most out of what we read:
- Look up a bit about the author and the other books he/she has written.
This is a personal thing. Before I pick up a book, I almost always look up the author and/or the book itself on Wikipedia. I like to know how old the writer is, what some of his or her motivations were, how autobiographical it may be if it’s a novel (you’d be surprised how many are), etc. This just gives you a little context into the author’s life that will hopefully help you understand the book a little better.
- Do a quick inspectional reading.
This is partially why I wanted to cover inspectional reading in the first place. A good, thorough reading of any book will include it. Look at the cover, always read the opening pages, etc. I know far too many people who never read introductions and just get right into page one. You’re skipping the valuable information that can actually frame the entire way you read the book. You don’t need to jump ahead to the conclusion, but at least get all that you can out of the cover and those opening pages.
- Read the book all the way through, somewhat quickly.
Adler actually calls this a “superficial reading”; you’re simply trying to digest the overall purpose of the book. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean speed-reading. It more means that you won’t stop and scrutinize the meaning of each and every paragraph. It means that when you get stuck in a place that’s hard to understand, you’ll keep on going anyway.
It means that when the story slows down a little and gets boring, you don’t just read 10 pages a day, but you’ll keep powering through with the purpose of understanding the flow of the book as well as you can right off the bat. In this reading, you are underlining or circling or taking notes on things you have questions about, but you aren’t looking into those questions just yet.
When you’re done with the book, go back through and look at what you underlined or circled or took some notes about. Try your best to answer a few of those questions you had. If you have the time and desire, re-read the whole thing again. I often do a semi-quick reading like this for many classics that I’m reading for the first time, but then I’ll go back a few months later (okay, sometimes it ends up being years) and read it a little more slowly.
This is where many people struggle with reading older or more complicated books. You might stop 50 pages into The Iliad because you’re just too confused about the language and the style. It’s actually best to just power through that and understands what you can, and then come back to your misunderstandings later. Better to have some knowledge than none at all.
- Use aids, only if you have to.
If there is a word you don’t know, first look at the context to try to discern its meaning. Use your own brain to get things going. If it’s something you simply can’t get past, or the word is clearly too important for you to glance over, then pull out the dictionary.
If there’s a cultural reference that you can tell is important to understanding the particular passage, Google it. The main point is that you can use the tools around you, but don’t lean on them. Let your brain work a little bit before letting Google work for you.
- Answer the following four questions as best as you can.
Now, these questions could have been listed as the first step, as you should keep these in mind from the second you start reading. But, they quite obviously can’t be answered until you’ve read the book. This, Adler says, is actually the key to analytical reading. To be able to answer these questions shows that you have at least some understanding of the book. If you can’t answer them, you probably haven’t quite paid attention well enough. Also, it’s my opinion that you should actually write (or type) these answers out. Consider it to be like a book journal. It’ll stay with you and become much more ingrained than if you just answer them in your head.
- What is the book about, as a whole?
This is essentially the back cover blurb. Don’t cheat, though. Come up, in your own words, with a few sentences or even a paragraph that describes what the book is about. This can actually be surface level; you don’t have to dig too deep. For instance, boy meets girl, boy falls in love with a girl, the boy makes a stupid mistake and distances himself from girl, boy redeems himself and gets the girl.
- What is being said in detail, and how?
This is where you start to dig a little deeper. When you’re done with that first reading of the book, Adler recommends writing an outline of the book yourself so you get a feel for its organization and overall tenor. Briefly go back and page through the book, jogging your memory of the key points. With non-fiction, outlining is pretty straightforward. With fiction, you could do it by chapter or by setting/scene. By chapter, you would simply list the chapter numbers/names and a couple of sentences of what it’s about. For books with very short chapters, it could even just be a few words. For setting/scene, you just follow the characters around and say what happened of significance there. I just finished The Sun Also Rises, which could be segmented into its various settings: Paris, the fishing trip, Pamplona, and post-Pamplona where the characters go their separate ways.
- Is the book true, in whole or in part?
These last two questions are where we get to the meat of reading. As before, for non-fiction, this is a relatively easy (or at least easier) question to answer. Is what the author said true? Are the facts they presented true? With fiction, it’s more about asking if what was written is true to the general human experience, or even to your own experience. In The Great Gatsby, is that feeling of loss and the futileness of great wealth true to the human experience? I would certainly say so. This is partly what turns great books into classics. They ultimately speak to the most basic truths of humanity in story form.
- What about it? What’s the significance?
If the book is indeed saying something true about the human experience, or about manliness, what’s the takeaway? If something strikes a chord with you, and you do nothing with it, it becomes at least partially wasted. There is something to be said about literature that stands on its own merits of simply being great literature, like art, but I’ve learned there is almost always a takeaway. Or at least a way in which you may think differently about the world. My understanding of life in America during the Dust Bowl was greatly increased after reading The Grapes of Wrath. There wasn’t necessarily something I would do in reaction to it, but my appreciation for farmers and farming families of that time period certainly grew. That’s definitely a valuable takeaway.
- Critique and share your thoughts with others.
Notice that this step is dead last. Only after having read the entire book, and thoughtfully answered the questions above, can you critique or have meaningful discussions about the book.
When reading Amazon reviews, it’s clear when someone stopped reading three chapters in and gave a terrible review. Be extra careful about coming right out and saying, “I understand the book.” You can certainly understand parts of a book, but to have no questions at all probably means that it wasn’t actually a good book to start with, or you are full of yourself.
When discussing, be precise in your areas of agreement or disagreement. To simply say, “This is stupid,” or, “I don’t like it,” offers nothing to a conversation. Also know that you don’t have to agree or disagree with everything about or in a book. You can love some parts and really dislike others.
Now you’ve read a book for all its worth! Huzzah! To execute all of these practices for every book you read would be exhausting and time-consuming. I know that my enjoyment would probably be lessened if I did this for everything I read. So, take a few points and apply them to your reading.
Personally, I resolved to read the difficult books I encounter all the way through (not something I’ve always done in the past), and to keep a short journal of every book I read that answers, at least in part, the four questions above.
Why Read Analytically?
This can sound like a lot of work, and you may be asking yourself if analytical reading is really worthwhile. Isn’t reading something you do for pleasure and entertainment? Partially, yes. You certainly don’t need to be sketching out an outline while you’re reading Dan Brown’s Inferno on the beach this summer (although maybe doing so will help you solve the mystery before Langdon does).
As the late great Stephen Covey taught us, however, a man should always be “sharpening the saw.” This means keeping yourself sharp in all areas of your life. Doing any kind of reading is beneficial, but engaging in analytical reading from time to time can greatly enhance these benefits and help us become better men in several ways:
- Increases your attention span.
The internet has given us more reading opportunities than ever before. But oftentimes our cyber reading consists of skimming and/or quickly jumping from one thing to the next without giving each much thought at all. Have you ever tried to talk to someone about something you read on the net earlier in the day only to find you couldn’t really recall much about it? Reading a book analytically gives your focus and your skills for diving into a single thing deeply and mining it for all it’s worth some much needed training and exercise. It greatly sharpens your ability to handle something as a whole, rather than in part.
- Enhances your critical thinking abilities.
You can read, but how are you at examining something critically? Analytical reading hones your ability to evaluate truth, weigh evidence and sources, synthesize information, make connections between different things, evaluate claims, discover wisdom hidden below the surface, understand others’ motivations, interpret symbolism, and draw your own conclusions. Quite obviously these skills are not limited to helping you better enjoy books, but are absolutely vital in becoming an independent, perceptive, and well-informed citizen and man.
- Shapes you into a better man.
A man who sees personal growth as being something important to him will take time to meditate on life and consider the areas in which he can improve. Books facilitate this reflection in a unique way because they present us with characters or stories (be they real-life or fictional) that we can relate to in at least some small way.
As an example, I just finished the recent sci-fi hit, Wool. It’s a unique story with great characters, and the author is fast becoming a celebrity in the indie publishing world. I could have quite easily read it and moved on to the next book in the series.
But to pause, and read through passages that I highlighted, and take even just 10 minutes considering what can be learned from the book gave me a greater reading experience.
Wool forced me to ask myself if there are areas of improvement in my life that I’ve glanced over simply because it’s something I’ve always done. It forced me to ask about the ways in which I’ve lessened risk simply because it was the easier way to live. I learned that doing the right thing is often terribly uncomfortable. It’s not the first time I’ve learned that lesson, but seeing it again in a unique story gives me yet another chance to be reminded of the importance of that lesson.
Reading analytically offers valuable opportunities for this kind of needed reflection and can help you think through the kind of man you are, don’t want to be, and definitely hope to become.
This task is undertaken by identifying relevant passages, translating the terminology, framing and ordering the questions that need answering, defining the issues, and having a conversation with the responses.his is also known as comparative reading, and it represents the most demanding and difficult reading of all. Syntopical Reading involves reading many books on the same subject and comparing and contrasting ideas, vocabulary, and arguments.
The goal is not to achieve an overall understanding of any particular book, but rather to understand the subject and develop a deep fluency.
This is all about identifying and filling in your knowledge gaps.
There are 5 steps to 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.
Analyzing the Discussion
It’s presumptuous to expect we’ll find a single unchallenged truth to any of our questions. Our answer is the conflict of opposing answers. The value is the discussion you have with these authors. You can now have an informed opinion.
Additional Reading Tidbits
Consider new vs. used.
This is just a personal thing, but I love used books in many cases. I appreciate just knowing that someone before me has enjoyed this very text. Especially when it’s an old book, it’s always fun to wonder how many people had their eyes on these words, and what kind of setting they were in. On an airplane in 1960? In a bar in the 80s? Perhaps in college just a few years ago?
Consider your variety of fiction vs. non-fiction.
There are significant benefits to reading a variety of genres. I am almost always reading one fiction and one non-fiction book at the same time. Your mind grows as you experience new things. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking you only like one genre. I recently read some science fiction (something I didn’t think I liked very much) at the recommendation of a friend, and now I want to read much more. I’m hooked.
Consider whether to take notes in the book itself.
I love underlining great sentences and taking short notes in pencil of things that pop into my head as I read. The only time I don’t do this is when it’s a book I plan on either giving to a friend to read, or giving away to Goodwill or a used bookstore. Some people are quite opinionated about this one, so let’s hear your thoughts!
Here is some advice I’d like to share which helped me read more effectively-
- Take a Pilot view- The book on which you’ve put your hand on maybe of 50 pages or 500 pages. Doesn’t matter what kind of book you prefer to read, once you have the book in your hand, try taking overview by flipping pages, referring the index etc. This will generate an clear overview an help you to identify the core section which should be focused upon and section which you could skip and keep for later part or which are irrelevant.
- Have an Intention- Before getting started , find why you intend to read this text? Having clear intention of why you are reading any book will keep you on track and will provide you the desired output. For eg. If I am going to read the book ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ my intention should be clear like ‘I want to acquire wealth and maintain it so I have to read this book and gain the knowledge.’
- Read it Fast and Slow- Many a times I find common content in books and therefore I don’t stress on that repeated content and read it fast but when I read something which seems new and valuable, I tend to spend more time just to stress out and reflect. This is how you can save your time as well as spend that time on understanding the uncommon part.
- Always have a highlighter/pencil- Reading while spinning a pencil or holding highlighter increases your focus. It’s my personal experience that I tend to have more focus when I hold a pencil in my hand or a fidget spinner. Also start marking the lines or section which seem important and valuable. This will help you to focus more on that part when you re-read that book.
- Make Hand-written notes– Don’t ever try underrate the habit of making notes of the text you read cause this process helps you to retain more and also provides a small summary to the gigantic and complex texts. Notes are helpful to just revise what you’ve read without opening that book again.
- Video/Audio- Try to find the summaries or explanation of the book you have read in video or audio form like podcast or interview. This will help you a lot in getting clarity, understanding the central idea of the book and authors views on it.
- Reflect- Try to reflect on the learnings you got through reading books in your life. Try to identify the area where you could improve and implement this teachings. Be more mindful about what you have read and try to understand it deeply.
Paper vs. ebook.
I was once a Kindle devotee. I still do a lot of reading on it, but I’ve moved to actually prefer paper. Even though you can scan all your Kindle notes and highlights at once, it’s actually easier to navigate a paper book and skim it, in my opinion. There’s also something to be said about the reading experience.
With digital devices, you really only get one sense involved — sight. With a physical book, you get multiple senses involved, making it a more immersive experience. You can feel the paper on your fingers as you turn the page, you can smell that new book (or old book) smell that is so distinct. What’s your preference? Has it changed?
E-Readers Vs. Tablets
At first glance, you notice that most tablets are full-color devices with apps and tons of functionality for games, productivity, reading and more. Then you notice that e-readers are black and white devices with low-performance specs, relatively small storage chips, no camera, no apps, low refresh rates and they’re black and white. They’re also generally inexpensive when compared to something like an iPad.
So why would you ever choose an e-reader over a tablet? Well, there are actually quite a few reasons that you might want to buy an e-reader. If you own a tablet, you have probably noticed that the battery life lasts a day or two. If you like to read, it can be inconvenient if you aren’t around a wall outlet all the time. So what else does an e-reader bring to the table?
Regardless of what device you are using, battery life is important. There’s definitely nothing worse than being in the middle of a task and getting the dreaded low battery notification. It’s even worse if you aren’t near an outlet and you have to stop whatever you are doing to prevent your device from dying.
E-readers are simple devices. While at first glance, this may seem like a disadvantage, e-readers definitely do their job well. See e-readers were never meant to do everything. E-reader manufacturers like Amazon and Kobohave one goal in mind when making e-readers. Reading. Everything that e-readers are capable of all exists to improve the reading experience.
Like we mentioned, battery life is incredibly important no matter what you are doing. This is doubly true with e-readers. Imagine buying a device that only does one thing and also has bad battery life. There would be no reason to purchase it because you can get something that does more and has similar battery performance.
Enter the humble e-reader. Amazon must have considered this when they launched the Kindle e-reader into the spotlight. It may not have seemed at first like it was a device worth owning, yet avid readers flocked to it. The Kindle and pretty much every modern e-reader have batteries that last for weeks on end. This is great because you can toss it into your bag or leave it by your favorite reading chair without worrying that you will come back to it for a reading session and find that the battery died.
Tablet batteries, while improving every year, can’t hold a candle to an e-reader. While e-readers grant users weeks of battery, tablets manage mere hours or days at best. So why is this? Well, tablets have much beefier hardware, and they also do a lot more. Tablets like the iPad or an Android tablet designed to run multiple apps at the same time. They have bright, full-color screens that are made to play games and consume media.
Windows tablets like the Microsoft Surface take performance a step further by running full Windows programs. You can run the full Microsoft Office suite. You can play full PC games and more. This means that you will never get the battery life that you see on an e-reader.
Comfort is really important when you are reading for a half-hour or more. It’s essential to have a device that is light, small, and easy to hold for a long time.
When it comes to reading, e-readers are specially designed to be around the size of a paperback book, and usually lighter. This is because many readers like to hold their devices with one hand while they are reading. Some devices like the Kindle Oasistake this a step farther with asymmetrical designs and page turn buttons that are specifically designed for one-handed use.
E-readers have screens that are between 6 and 7 inches, 8 at the most. They also are made of plastic in most cases and don’t have a lot of hardware under the hood. This means that no matter how you hold your e-reader, it will never be super heavy or cumbersome to hold.
Tablets are usually designed with performance and size as a focus. Devices like the iPad are over 9″ and have a lot of hardware that makes them heavier and impossible to hold with one hand for over half an hour, especially in the same position.
Devices like the Microsoft Surface are even heavier because they have to be able to satisfy a PC user’s needs. The surface is even thicker than your average tablet and larger as well, meaning that any kind of one-handed reading is pretty much out of the question. The kickstand on the surface is even more proof that it is designed to be set up like a laptop and used on a flat surface if used for long periods of time.
Both tablets and e-readers are designed to accomplish various functions. What you want your device to do will heavily influence exactly what device you need to purchase. For example, if you want to do document edition, an e-reader isn’t for you.
E-readers are simple devices. They’re designed with pretty much one function in mind and that’s reading books. From camping to road trips to plane travel or just at lounging around the house. E-readers are designed to provide you with hours of comfortable reading at a time.
One of my favorite e-reader features is the E-ink screen. It’s the brilliant display that is the driving force behind the battery life of modern e-readers as well as the feature that makes it easy to read for hours. E-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite or the Kobo Clara HD use edge lighting to produce a soft glow that doesn’t hurt your eyes, and the screen itself uses a technology that makes your device seem like you are reading an actual piece of paper rather than an actual screen.
If you love reading but you are finding that your eyes hurt after a period of time then an e-reader might be exactly what you need.
Tablets are packed with features. If you want an all in one device that will allow you to play games, read books, do light editing and more than a tablet is likely for you.
With a tablet, you have access to an app store. If it’s an iPad you will be using the Apple App Store and with an Android device, you will be using the Google Play Store. Regardless of which store you are using, you will be flooded with options. You will have access to the latest games as well as the mobile versions of Microsoft Office or Google Docs.
If you are the kind of person that has ebooks with multiple companies (Kobo, Kindle or Nook), you will probably get more use out of a tablet as you can have all of those on one device as opposed to having 3 different e-readers for each bookstore.
When you hear news about new devices, the hardware is always part of the conversation. Hardware includes everything from the display to the processor, storage, RAM, camera, and more. Hardware talking points will be different depending on whether you are talking about an e-reader or a tablet.
Processors, RAM, and storage aren’t as big of a deal for an e-reader as they are for a traditional tablet. E-readers are much more simple devices, so you will hear a lot more about things that affect the reading experience.
When it comes to e-reader hardware you will hear a lot more about the ppi (pixels per inch) of the display, water resistance, screen size than anything else. For example, there are only a few devices like the Kindle Oasisand the Kobo Aura H2Othat have water resistance. Water resistance is handy if you are the kind of person that likes to read in the bathtub or by the pool or lazing around in a hot tub.
Pixels per inch is important because it has to do with the clarity of the text. 300 ppi is standard these days but in some cases, you will find devices that have fewer pixels per inch. For most people, this isn’t a big deal, but if you have sensitive eyes it can be.
With e-readers, you have to gauge what the most important features for you are, for example, I am a person that likes to take my devices everywhere, especially in the water. So for me, a device with a well-rounded hardware selection is best.
Tablets are designed to handle a lot more than e-readers so hardware like RAM and storage upwards of 64GB is often very important. If you are the kind of person that uses one device for everything, a tablet with a good amount of storage and a good processor with 3GB or more of ram are important.
One consideration to make when it comes to tablet hardware is that the better your tablet, the more expensive it will be. The most expensive iPad model can cost over $1000. The most expensive version of the Kindle Oasisis under ~$400.
Software between e-readers and tablets are dramatically different. Since they are both geared toward different uses, their functionality between tablets and e-readers do different things as well.
You know by now that e-readers are all about books and reading. Their software echoes that. Kindle devices have software that allows you to look up words while you are reading, highlighting functionality and more features that are related to improving your reading experience.
Kobo deviceshave features like pocket built in that allow you to save articles from the web to read later at your leisure. Some Kobo devices also have OverDrive which allows you to read library books from participating libraries.
Tablets include much more software than e-readers. They support all of the same software features that e-readers do but also support editing software, camera software for picture taking and editing, flashlight software so that you can use your camera’s flash to see in the dark. Basically, their software sticks with the theme that you can do almost anything with your tablet, at the cost of battery.
Choose an iPad if you want to read textbooks or comics
A Kindle is perfect for reading novels. All you have to do is set the right font size.
Problems start to appear if you want to read ebooks that contain illustrations, graphs, or tables.
Kindle’s lack of color is not the major obstacle, though. It’s how graphic-rich books – such as textbooks or comic books – are developed for digital use.
First of all, some textbooks are still available in pdf format. If a pdf file is not reflowable, it means a page of a book is like a fixed image. You can’t make the text bigger by changing the size in the settings. All you can do is zoom into a fragment of a page. In such cases, an iPad is much more convenient.
The first benefit of an iPad is the size of the screen. A page fitting a 10-inch display of an iPad is bigger than on a 6-inch Kindle. Thanks to that, chances are the text will be readable without the need to zoom in.
Secondly, controlling an iPad is easier. Yes, Kindle has a touch screen, but as it’s e-ink, it works with a noticeable delay. It means you won’t be happy to pinch to zoom on your Paperwhite every few minutes.
Choose a Kindle if you read a lot
The Kindle is a single-purpose device. It’s designed for reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks (which is a different format of a book).
You can’t play games on a Kindle, reply to emails, or check out what’s new on Facebook. A Kindle offers a black-and-white screen of the size of a typical paperback book.
Because a Kindle is a dedicated e-reading machine, it offers features an iPad lacks:
- long battery life
- e-ink screen
If you read a lot during a day, an iPad might at some point require recharging. You’ll need to finish that book somewhere close to a power socket, or – just in case an iPad dies – take a power bank always with you. Both solutions are far from being comfortable.
When you have a Kindle, you can forget about a charger. Any Kindle model can run for weeks on a single charge. You can take a Kindle for your summer holidays, and it still won’t need to be recharged after you come back.
Choose a Kindle if you care for your eyes
The other benefit of a Kindle is even more important. If you read for long hours, you have to care for your eyes.
An iPad, just like any other device with an LCD color display (not only tablets but also phones) emits light directly into your eyes. It’s because an LCD screen produces images by using a light that is placed behind it. In other words: you are looking into the source of light.
A result? Eye strain. It may not happen if you use an iPad for half an hour, but you’ll definitely feel eye fatigue after reading a book all Sunday.
A Kindle saves your eyes. Its screen doesn’t need a light to produce a visible image. In other words: you are not looking into the source of light.
Choose a Kindle if you want to focus on reading
There are millions of apps for iPad. Thousands are available in the Books category.
I bet a Kindle or Google Play Books or iBooks app won’t be the only ones you download to your iPad from the App Store. Facebook? Note-taking apps? Games? Netflix? Photo-editing?
A Kindle does only one thing. It lets you read. No notifications, no desire to switch between apps or play with apps’ settings. No distractions.
The more you want to escape into the world of books, the more you will love your Kindle.
It’s not even a bad option to have both. The standard Kindle is under ~$100 and will leave some wiggle room for some people to get a decent tablet like the Kindle Fire as well. There really is no wrong answer as long as you have what you want to do with it in mind.ablets and e-readers are both really good, but which one should you pick? Well, it really depends on how you want to use it. If you want a device with stellar battery that you can read on comfortably for hours at a time, get an e-reader. If you want a device that does it all but has a battery that lasts a day or so get a tablet.
Now it’s your turn. What device do you have? Do you prefer e-readers or tablets
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