Making The Most Out of Reading


“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.