How to Upgrade Your Reading & Extract Value From Books.

        Last year I made a promise to myself to never ever stop being a learner and I figured that the best universally agreed upon way to be a lifelong learner is, of course, reading books.

       For a long time though (most of my childhood and teenage years), I thought that any kind of reading done in any way will be beneficial and will contribute to my growth, even teenage fictions or a psychology book read only once on a crowded beach.

But I was wrong, reading that way only served as a brainwashing tool and didn`t help in nurturing my critical, reading nor writing skills.

        So as promised here, today I`m sharing with you the best methods to get the most out of a book.
 
         I learned most of these methods either by experience or from my beloved book :Thinking as a science by Henry Hazlitt. 

1. Picking the right book:

 

        I never had any guidance in what books to read and how to read them, so during most of my teenage years I soaked up on popular teenage fictions which resulted in me being the victim of a major brainwash.

       I won`t say I regret all of it -they surely get both your dopamine and hopes on life up- but I wish I read books that added more value.

       I am now satisfied with my reading list for the past year and a half during which I started to pile up more English and French

- classics,

- books who defend and shed light on great causes (e.g.: mental health…) and by shed light I mean in a deep and unbiased way, not a romanticised and unrealistic way

- and informative books depending on my area of interest and my level of knowledge in that area. 

        In short, books that make you actively react to or reflect on their content and therefore they add value to your thinking and life in general.

« The good you get out of reading will depend entirely on how you allow it to affect you. If every book you read suggests more problems, gives you worthwhile questions and topics to think about in spare moments, enriches your intellectual life and stimulates your thought, it is performing its proper function. 

But if you read solely to answer problems you cannot answer for yourself, if every time you are puzzled about anything you run to a book to have it explained, and accept without question the explanation there given; in short, if you use your reading to save yourself from thinking, you had better stop reading altogether. Smoking is a far less harmful form of dissipation. »
~ Excerpt by Henry Hazlitt from « Thinking as a Science. » 


2. You don`T have to read the whole book. Scan. 

 

          I`ve always considered reading the book from cover to cover as one of my duties towards the writer and the book.

      That resulted in me getting to a part of the book I don`t enjoy much or aren`t interested in and consequently, I start postponing the reading of that book because of how that part is boring me.

      That`s why it was so deliberating to realize that it`s more rewarding to skip that kind of parts and focus your reading and learning in the chapters that interest you.

     The best way to do that is to check the table of content first and go directly to the chapters you are interested in. 

Another way is «  ... instead of reading every word he glances down a page and sees certain “cue” words or rather “cue” phrases, for the eye and mind take in phrases as wholes. If he is familiar with the subject (and he is not to employ this method unless and until he is) he knows immediately (...) whether any new or valuable thought is on that page. When he finds that there is he involuntarily slackens his pace and reads that thought at ordinary reading pace or even slower. »
~ Excerpt by Henry Hazlitt from « Thinking as a Science. » 

 

 

3. Understand everything you read.


           When reading Thinking as a science, I sometimes caught myself reading unconsciously because I was too lazy to actually focus and re-read sentences to understand them better and that resulted in me going through an entire chapter without getting anything out of it simply because I didn`t focus on the first idea and lost track of what the author was talking about.


      Then I realized that the real duty I have towards the books and its writer wasn`t reading the book from cover to cover but  making sure to stay engaged and focused enough to understand everything I decide to read.

«  (...) there is one practice about which there can be no controversy—that of making sure you thoroughly understand every idea of an author »
~ Excerpt by Henry Hazlitt from « Thinking as a Science. » 
 

 

4. Think for yourself:


          So we agreed earlier that the point of reading altogether was to engage/react extract the value the book is meant to add to your life not to brainwash you.

 Well this couldn`t and shouldn`t be done without an awake mind and some deep thinking about the words you are consuming. In Thinking as a Science, Mr. Hazlitt gave us three ways to use reading to upgrade our thinking processes:


And in thinking for yourself you should not make the author’s remarks the basis of your thinking.
— Henry Hazlitt.

A/ Anticipate:


 « A way of reading a book is what I may call the anticipating method. Whenever a writer has started to explain something, or whenever you see that he is about to, stop reading and try to think out the explanation for yourself. »
«  This practice will make you understand an explanation much more easily. 
-If your thinking agrees with the author’s explanation it will give you self-confidence. »

-If you were not able to think the thing out for yourself you will appreciate the author’s explanation.
 
-If your thinking disagrees with that of the author you will have an opportunity to correct him— or be corrected.
 
In either case, your opinion will rest on firmer grounds. Not least of all you will be getting practice in self-thinking. »


B/ Reflect on the suggested opinion/ idea:


« whenever an original and important relevant thought is suggested to you, you should take your eyes from your book—shut it if necessary—and let your thinking flow on; give it fair play, even if it takes an hour before your vein of suggested thought exhausts itself. »


C/ Critical reading:


 « When reading a book you will often come across a statement, perhaps an entire chapter, with which you disagree. This disagreement should be recorded in the form of a question; as for instance, “Is such and such the case?”
   You may doubt whether an author’s explanation really explains. You may have a vague inarticulate suspicion that he is sliding over facts, or that his solution is too superficial. This suspicion should also be recorded in the form of a question.
Often again, while reading, a problem connected with the subject will occur to you which the author has not even considered. This too should be recorded. »

« Simply because somebody else has been satisfied with a certain solution, that is no reason why you should be. You should deal directly with the facts, data and phenomena under consideration; not with the opinions of others about those facts, data, and phenomena. »

 

         These methods have benefited me a great deal, especially for articles I read online where everybody nowadays seems to know and talk about everything.

     It taught me that the fact that something is well-said or beautifully presented doesn`t give it any credibility to become part of my thinking and of my vision in life.

So always process what you see and read through a filter of thoughts and principles, we all have working brains we can think and analyze with. Use it!!


5. Reread.


I discovered the joys and perks of rereading when I decided to reread one book  per day  during a week from my all-time favorite books.
 
      You guessed it, it was a big fat fail HOWEVER I did finish the smallest book of all which is one of my dearest books : Tuesdays with Morrie. 

      That was the third time I read it and here are some of the things I benefited from rereading it:
    ▪    I  was no longer eager to know the ending and finish up the book so I cherished every moment and every line and reflected more on the statements and ideas rather than focusing on the events and chronology.
    ▪    I read and learned things I didn`t notice before: this happens because I am now interested in topics I wasn`t interested in the first time I read the book. When we`re interested in something, our brain is on a constant hunt for more information and opinions on that subject, so it spots it more.
    ▪    I understood better. Rereading is also a great way to track your progress and personal growth because you start to notice things you didn`t pay much attention to the first time because back then you had no experience and no thought on the matter. So it`s such a great feeling to realize that you have learned this life lesson on your own and you now understand what the writer is talking about.

Another one of the perks of rereading is reinforcing your learning as expressed by Mr.hazlitt:

The only way we could remember would be by constant rereading, for knowledge unused tends to drop out of mind. Knowledge used does not need to be remembered; practice forms habits and habits make memory unnecessary. The rule is nothing; the application is everything.

That`s a wrap, folks!!
    I know this is a bit on the long-ish side but there`s really no point in reading pointless books with a closed mind and an uncritical eye.  Hope this helps ;) Good reading.

Also, this week I have been addicted to the Artsy`s Vincent Van Gogh page. Art, vintage and good reads are my drugs!! 

   Rise Brighter Sunshines!!


I`ll be doing a Q&A soon so ask me your questions and suggest me articles you wanna see over here. 

( You don`t have to enter your name or e-mail, just ask ;) ) 

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