1-Sentence-Summary: How To Read A Book isn’t your typical speed reading book, but rather a book that teaches you how to better comprehend exactly what it is you’re reading, which has some general tips, as well as tips for each different kind of book you may read.
Read in: 6 minutes
Favorite quote from the author: “Most of us were taught to pay attention to the things we did not understand [when reading]. We were told to go to a dictionary when we met an unfamiliar word. We were told to go to an encyclopedia or some other reference work when we were confronted with allusions or statements we did not comprehend. We were told to consult footnotes, scholarly commentaries, or other secondary sources to get help. But when these things are done prematurely, they only impede our reading, instead of helping it.”
The above quote stuck out to me most notably because, if you recall, it’s exactly how we were taught to read throughout school. An interesting takeaway from that is, according to the book, most adults actually read at a middle school to 9th grade level. It’s pretty staggering. Analytical reading isn’t taught in schools. We teach people quite literally HOW to read, how to pronounce words, definitions, grammar, etc, but never how to actually comprehend and learn from a text.
That is exactly why if you think about it, how much do you really remember from some of the textbooks or novels you read in high school? Probably not much at all. Having said that, this book is out to change that. Below are three primary lessons to help you read a book more properly:
- Tricks to improve your reading efficiency
- Reading speed is a variable thing
- Don’t miss the forest for the trees
Lesson 1: Start develop better habits when reading to improve the efficiency with which you read
Be aware of what is called sub-vocalizing. You may not know what this is, or have ever heard of this phrase, but you do it all the time. It’s basically when you’re reading, and you either audibly, or non-audibly (silently in your head) are reading the words to yourself. This slows down the rate at which you can read, as well as limits your understanding of what you’re reading (more on that in lesson 3).
Don’t become fixated on certain words in each line or paragraph. As the quote suggests, a lot of the mistakes we make when reading have to do with exactly this. Our focus is a precious thing, and once you get focused and are on a groove with reading, becoming fixated on a couple words you may not understand will have you losing your focus and having to re-acquire it, something that 4HourWorkWeek suggests takes up to 45 minutes.
And to round out lesson one, always keep track of what you have read, so that you’re not accidentally returning to previous words or lines that you’ve already read. This can become confusing, and lead to you losing your focus. It’s common when reading, especially with books that have smaller font sizes. If you’re reading a traditional paper book, use a pen or your finger to scan the words with, or to keep track of the proper line. If you’re using an e-reader, try just making the font large enough so that this doesn’t trip you up.
Lesson 2: Don’t become fixated on how fast you can read, sometimes it’s actually more beneficial to read slower
Almost everything you hear is about trying to do everything you can to increase the speed with which you read. Do X to increase your reading speed, do Y to make sure you can read a book a day, etc. Even in the paragraph above, I mentioned some tips that’ll allow you to read faster.
Well, I’m here to tell you that reading speed is nonsense. What good is it to read a book and put it away, only to move on to a new book, then have absolutely no idea what the first book was even about, only to be able to say you finished a book at lightning speed?
You may be thinking, if reading speed doesn’t matter, then how fast should I try and read? Well, the answer is simple. Make sure to take note of this somewhere. Reading speed should vary depending on the complexity of the text… You should read no more slowly than it deserves (if it is a simple light-hearted comedic book, read it quicker than a book on something that will be more thought provoking), and you should also read no faster than the book can be read with satisfaction and comprehension.
Seems simple right? That’s because it is, but you must become familiar with how fast you can adequately read while also comprehending and enjoying the book. You can only do this by reading. Also, take note of the word satisfaction. If you’re truly enjoying a book that is thought provoking and exciting, by all means, read it slower if you’d like. But if the book is more about sucking as much value as you can out, while not wasting too much time, then read as fast as you can comprehend it (plus following the analytical reading tips I mention below).
Also, note: I didn’t every say that being able to read slower than you want is necessarily a good thing either. Though there’s no ideal reading speed, in theory, doesn’t it sound nice to be able to enjoy and comprehend what you’re reading, but being able to do so more efficiently? That’s also reading speed is about… efficiency. So definitely continue to practice the tips from lesson 1 to increase the speed with which you can read, so you’re always pushing the upper bounds of your reading abilities. I will also do a future discussion about speed reading tips, specifically.
Lesson 3: Don’t miss the forest for the trees, make sure you’re getting the point of the book
This is the biggest key to reading, in my opinion. As the key quote mentioned above, and as referenced in lesson 1, a lot of the times we focus on the minute details, such as the definition of the word we never saw before, or making sure we don’t miss a single word in a sentence, or properly comprehending the structure of the paragraph…
These are all things that actually SLOW our reading speed and comprehension. You may think that understanding every minute detail of the book would only ENHANCE your understanding of what you’re reading, but that’s because that’s what you were taught to do in kindergarten when you were learning the alphabet and definitions of basic words.
Reading complex, thought provoking material is way different. What you want to do is read the entire book through, without getting bogged down in details, this way you can see the forest (or, the main over-arching themes, ideas, and points of the book). Then, if you determine the book worthy of further inspection, you can go back a second time, focusing on the details you might not have understood, to then add to your already present understanding of the book, so that you can see the trees.
Just remember that you won’t be able to do both. When you’re reading the book for a first time, you don’t want to miss the forest for the trees, because then your whole interpretation of the book and comprehension of the ideas in it will be skewed.
My personal take-aways
The paragraph right above this is extremely key. I used to read books that way, missing the forest for the trees, and I would be left with a vague interpretation of the book, because I would spend so much time flipping back and forth between the footnotes, and the book, and keeping a separate tab open to look up words I didn’t know, that it would take me so long to read a book, that I’d start forgetting what I read in the earlier chapters. It also took so long that I read less books because I felt frustrated with and knew how long it would take to even finish one.
Now, when I read, I can finish a book I like in a day or two, or even less if I really push it. Not only has my understanding of books increased, but I’m able to read them more efficiently, and I enjoy reading way more. When I was in high school and college, I barely even read any required books for class, but now I read every day and find it fun.
This book is definitely a good read if you’d like to have an experience similar to the one I had, being able to improve your reading comprehension and efficiency, and overall joy of reading.
What else can you learn from the full version of the book?
- Learn exactly how to skim a book, systematically, so that you can get the primary gist of the book without wasting hours, days, or weeks reading something that ultimately wasn’t what you were looking for
- Use four specific questions to ask yourself throughout the book to make sure you’re getting the author’s point, and critically analyzing what he’s saying, rather than just passively observing
- If you are really interested in mastering a topic, using syntopical reading is a must. You’ll learn exactly what this is, and how you can use it to read multiple books at once, and drawing similarities and comparisons between all of them so you can master all sides of a topic
Who would I recommend How To Read A Book to?
Anyone who is in high school or above, and currently likes to read or wants to learn how to read to better enjoy it, I’d recommend this book to. A qualification would be that you like to read non-fiction, specifically books that are educational in nature. As you’ll see on NoMoreMasked.Me, I read a lot of books about self-improvement, for my mindset, health, relationships, business, etc. These kinds of books fit perfectly for the analytical and syntopical reading styles you’ll learn in the book. It does go into how to read fiction books too, but that section is admittedly smaller.