How to read a book

I think people who want to read more but don’t, or people who don’t like to read, are sometimes just putting too much pressure on themselves. And perhaps not being smart or creative enough about it. Here are ways around reading a book that are still kinda reading a book:

  • Don’t read the book, read the author’s flurry of blog posts and essays on sites everywhere that appeared around the time of the book’s launch.
  • Don’t read the book, read a bunch of smart book reviews.
  • Read the introduction and/or conclusion. I used to skip intros all the time when I was in high school because I was cool, but when I started Histories, I realized that smart context can be among the best parts. And the intros are also good for selling you the ideas in the rest of the book…
  • Read the index and look for entries with lots of sub-entries. No seriously, read like every line. It’s just a way to get yourself oriented, and more importantly, maybe you’ll catch a name or phrase that gets you curious, which leads me to…
  • Start wherever you feel like it. Page 53 is fine if it’s interesting. This is another good way to sell yourself the book. All you need is a foothold. Pages 1-52 will always be there later.
  • Skim it. For things that interest you. Gloss over numbers or the anecdotes if they bore you. When I read The Information and The Signal and the Noise recently I semi-skimmed, with dramatic impatient sighs, the sections about medicine, health, environment. These have long been areas of maximal boredom for me and I’m happy to acknowledge that and move on to something cooler.
  • Take notes, which is to say, use the book as a way to make your own writing.
  • Read your notes.
  • Reread your older notes.
  • Stop reading. As in, no sentences at all from anywhere. You’ll be back. Mark my words.

And as I finish this brain dump I remember that Ryan Holiday has said many of the same things already.