instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, June 21, 2013


T. S. O'Rama links to a Lifehacker post titled, "My Secret to Reading a Lot of Books," in which the author discusses ways he tries to achieve the following:
  • Keeping track of the books you want to read
  • Refining the list down to ones you’re going to read in the near feature
  • Actually reading them
  • Retaining the important parts
The first two don't really factor into reading a lot of books, at least not once you've reached the point where you have within fifty feet of you more books that you want to read -- or at least to have read -- than you will read in the next five years (yes, it's really "in your lifetime," but let's not twist the knife). Also, as much fun as it can be to make and remake lists of lists, I'm far too disorganized to use an electronic tool. I keep track of the books I want to read in the near future by stacking them next to my nightstand.

"Actually reading them" seems to be the key step in reading a lot of books. The author has a two-part rule for this:
I never read more than one book at a time, and I always finish every book I start.
I can see where following this rule would help with the total count of books read. Reading one book at a time keeps you focused on that book, and finishing every book ensures not a page goes to waste. If you don't like a book, and you can't read any other book until you finish it, then you'll read it a lot faster.

That said, to always finish every book you start is madness, unless the number of books you finish reading is more important to you than the quality.

As for the first part of the rule, I suppose I would prefer to read only one book at a time, all else being equal, but that would require keeping track of the book I am reading. I'd burn at least as much time finding that one book as reminding myself where I am in whichever book I can find.

What I really like is the author's idea of taking notes on a single sheet of paper, then folding it and tucking it into the book when you're done. What I usually do, when I read something I particularly like, is leave a little sliver of paper as a bookmark, which only tells me that there's something on these two pages I thought was good the last time I looked at the book. (I don't write in books; I'm not sure why, but I don't.) But a page of notes, for a noteworthy book, seems like an excellent way to revisit it. (Or to tell whoever picks up the book after me what I thought was worth revisiting.)