Making The Most Out of Reading

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

When I first starting absorbing books. I found it hard to keep what I learned lodged in my brain. I kept forgetting the stuff I learned just yesterday or a few hours earlier. I used to read an article and find myself having vague recollections of coming across all of this before, a deja-vu of some sort, and then it turns out that I did actually read that piece of information already only to forget it.

Thankfully, I started adopting some techniques that helped me with the learning process. Most of them I acquired from attending Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects, an incredible course by Dr.Barbara Oakley and the author of A Mind For Numbers, the excellent book that examines the same ideas.

So, if you want to make the most out of what you read, here are some techniques that worked wonders for me:

  1. Understand what you’re reading: It is by far the most important aspect of reading. You should never persist and go on reading without understanding the concepts that you previously absorbed. Use google or ask someone to explain them to you. More likely than not, the author of a book is going to build up on those ideas and the further you read the more difficult your understanding will be.
  2. Read slowly: When it comes to non-fiction, you should never overload your brain. Take it slow, read a chapter or two each day.
  3. Further investigations: When you find something interesting or you think it might be of use to you one day, try to go beyond what you read and make your own research on the matter.
  4. Take notes: Just the main ideas. Jot them down. Seriously, you won’t regret it.
  5. Recall what you read when you’re not actually reading: Take a walk, lay back on your bed without doing anything or listen to some calm music and try to remember the main ideas that you learned from the book or article or whatever. You don’t have to memorize everything to the letter. Just the main ideas.
  6. Explain or discuss what you read: This one is my absolute favorite. After I learned something new, I invite one of my friends for coffee or just chat with them online and tell them about what I learned. I’d explain the ideas to them and then consider their points of view on the matter in case they had one.

If you have any other approaches that I missed, then please, share them in the comments.

Cheers!

Review of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

Sorting through a list of the best non-fiction books for something informative and at the same time able to satisfy my thirst for adventure, exploration, and travel. My eyes fell on a most attractive title. How could I resist the allure of a phrase with “Edge of the world” and “Terrifying Circumnavigation” in it? I found myself picking up this book in a blink of an eye. I opened it, started reading and it was everything I expected to find.

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Of course, by now, everyone should have heard of Ferdinand Magellan, the first man to Circumnavigate the world. Surely you came across the mention of him in some article, book, movie or what have you. Although, he didn’t quite complete the journey back to Spain and there were other men who actually made it back home and could safely claim to achieve the deed that Ferdinand himself couldn’t, none of them could deny the critical role that the Captain General had. Without him, the expedition would have been lost or abandoned halfway through or even earlier.

At the start, the reader is exposed to a considerable part of the book discusses the pursuit of Magellan for support to back his expedition to find the Spice Islands (in Indonesia). I, for one, enjoyed this part. Getting to know Ferdinand before he sets on the journey is pivotal for understanding his actions later on. He was ambitious, relentless and alone against a sea of people who resented, envied and used him for their own needs (I’m looking at you, King Charles). After succeeding at getting his backing, he starts assembling the crew and provisions for his Armada De Molucca. The fleet was composed of five ships when it departed from Spain: Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Victoria, and Santiago. And a mixed crew of Spaniards and Portuguese.

In the second part, the author perfectly portrays the lives and hardships of the crew. Their sufferings and their fortunes were so vividly described one couldn’t help but feel a kinship with them. Magellan’s leadership was impressive when out at sea and traveling the strait and while extinguishing a mutiny that arose amongst his men, but he made a lot of false judgments when meeting with the indigenous people of the lands he visited. Ferdinand grew ever so arrogant and his growing fanaticism took him from someone who peacefully offered Christianity and Baptism to the natives he came across to forcibly subduing entire villages and in one instance, burning one to the ground for defying his conversions. It was such a behavior that brought about his demise and that of most of his men.

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“Magellan’s thirst for glory, under cover of religious zeal, led him fatally astray.”

The last chapter revolves around the aftermath of Magellan’s defeat in the battle of Mactan. We get a view of the attempts of the mutineers to taint the reputation of Magellan, the arrival to the Spice Islands and the trip back home.

The author draws from various sources to weave this tale of hardship and adventures for us. Mainly through the chronicles of Pigafetta, the fleet’s annalist, and Magellan’s own Journal. He also does without biases and points us toward other achievements of other great men and civilizations, not necessarily from Europe.
It was a masterfully written book, and I can’t begin to imagine the extraordinary research and effort that went into writing it. Informative, gripping and emotional. This book is a must read for anyone looking for an adventure or an insight into the lives of sailors and indeed, Magellan himself.