Good Book Reading: Some Personal Tips

(The picture is from a book I finished reading recently)

Someone I know emailed me recently asking me to lend them some advice. He was wondering about ways he could become a better reader. My friend then said,
"You seem like someone who reads a lot and then really utilizes your reading. Would you mind taking a few minutes just to share some thoughts or tips on how you approach reading? What do you read? How often? How do you process it and share it with others? That sort of thing."
I thought it might be worth posting my response. Maybe others will find it encouraging and helpful. Here is how I replied:

(1) I read multiple books at once. If one really snags my heart, I put the others aside until I finish that one. If none snag my heart, then I read a chapter of one, play an online chess game, then read a chapter in another. At that pace I can finish two books in two to three weeks.

(2) I mark my books up like crazy, and write in the margins every so often when something sticks out. Usually in the intro the author states what the book is about, and so I underline that sentence or two, and write in the margin "This Book:" If the author goes further and mentions an aim I mark it and write in the margin "His/her Aim:" etc. I also circle page numbers and draw arrows from the page number to a hugely significant concept. The reason I do these things is so later when I flip back through the book I can easily see what was so important.

(3) Once I'm done reading I write a review of the book and post it. The review is for my benefit. I have to explain what the book is about, how it unpacks, what might have been huge thoughts/concepts, what I disagreed with, etc. If I disagree with something, I try really hard to be charitable and  yet clear. And I try very hard to keep my reviews to around 700 to 800 words (not always successful, but I normally am), which means (a) I can't write out everything in my head, (b) that I need to boil things down and compress them, (c) and find a way to be interesting while being brief. 

Doing the reviews has been a really big way to help me retain things longer, and get my head on straight about a book. On occasion  I didn't like a book, was angry about it, and then when I wrote the review the lights came on and I realized how I had read the book wrong and what the author was really doing. For example, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' book "Between the World and Me" and was convinced all the way through it was hate-mail...until I wrote the review...If you have a minute, here's the review and you'll see what happened:

(4) I read a fairly wide variety of things: Martial Arts, History, an occasional biography, some fiction, once in a while something psychological or therapy-oriented, and loads of theology/biblical stuff from folks all over the Christian spectrum. 

There's more I could say, but this will have to do for now. Let me know if you have any questions. 

I hope you have found this useful. All the best in your book-reading adventures,



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