Thoughts about reading books vs. studying books – with a modest, doable suggestion

I want to share a few thoughts about reading vs.

I have four book synopsis presentations to give in three days.  Two today; one tomorrow; one Friday.  These four are each on a different book; each to a different group/team/.  (Man’s Search for Meaning; The Culture Code; Strong Towns; and Capitalism on Fire).

All but one of these, I first presented quite a while back; as in at least two-three years ago.  One of them even longer ago.

When I prepare a synopsis, I read the book carefully; slowly.  I underline/highlight hundreds of passages.  When I prepare my synopsis handout, I re-read all of my highlighted passages, and choose 60-100 of the “best” to include in my handout.  Then, as I prepare the rest of my handout, I include these sections:

  • what is the point of this book?
  • why is this worth our time?
  • the best of the highlighted passages
  • the “thesis” statements in the book
  • the key points and transferable principles made by the author
  • my own lessons and takeaways

I re-read the handout carefully, and then present my synopsis.

When I return to the book for a later presentation, as I am doing this week, I re-read the handout carefully all over again.

When it is all finished, I have read the book, studied my notes I took while reading the book, and re-studied my notes that I included in my handout.  It really feels like I have read the book 2-3 times. While taking notes each time.  And looking for the best, most transferable nuggets; seeing new things each time I re-visit the book..

This is a completely different experience from reading a novel; an escape story.  Among others, I’ve read all of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon stories, many of the Jack Reacher stories, a bunch of John Grisham’s novels.

(I have also read all of the Nero Wolfe novels – re-reading them every few years. Call these my comfort reading books…).

Except for Nero Wolfe, I do not re-read the novels I read.  I do not “study” these novels.  I read them; for enjoyment; for escape; and yes, for insight.

But, I do not read them to study.

But for nonfiction books, especially the business books and books on social justice that I present monthly in my two synopsis events, that requires a different kind of, a different level of, reading.

For these books, I have an obligation to learn, so that I can fulfill my obligation to teach.

I have to be thorough.
I have to be reflective.
I have to try to get the message of the author, and the book, right.

I am not claiming that I always succeed.  But I work hard at studying these books for the purpose of learning, and teaching.

And, I have this observation; if you can read in order to learn, and then in order to put your lessons learned into practice, then you are ahead of the pack.

Studying books is not done often enough.  And when it is done well, thoroughly, you learn things that help you become more effective; more successful.

Here’s a suggestion.  You likely will seldom, if ever, present a synopsis of a book.  But, what if you kept one book going, reading it slowly, studying it carefully?  Maybe read a book a quarter in this fashion; reading, studying, to learn.  That’s four books a year.  That’s a hefty amount of learning.

I think this is an idea you would find worth tackling.

Those are my thoughts about reading vs. studying.

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