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How To Read Books

J Oswald Sanders in his book 'Spiritual Leadership' gives five rules that he found made reading more meaningful and of more lasting benefit:
1. Read little that is to be immediately forgotten since that only helps to form the habit of forgetting. Exercise the same discrimination in choosing books as in choosing friends.

2. Read with a pencil and notebook in hand. Unless the memory is unusually vigorous and retentive, much reading will be a waste of time. Develop a system of note-taking, and it be astonishing to discover how great this practice aids the memory.

3. Have a "commonplace book", as it used to be a called, a book in which to put what is striking, interesting, suggestive and worthy of permanent record. One's own comments and criticism can be added. In this way an irreplaceable accumulation of material be preserved and index for use.  

4. Verify as far as possible historical, scientific and other data, and let no word slip past until its meaning is understood. 

5. Let reading be varied, because the mind so easily runs into ruts. Variety is as restful to the mind as to the body.

6. Reading should be correlated where possible - history with poetry. biography with historical novels e.g. when reading the history of the American civil war, read the biographies of Lincoln and Grant and poems written by Walt Whitman on Abraham Lincoln.
I think point 2 probably now in our digital simply means ensure you make good notes on your Kindle as you go along. And probably then export them to some electronic sharing file where your notes are properly index for reference. Similarly point 3 probably can be a form of blog, as I have here where I permanently store things I come along. 

Points 1& 4, if widely applied would help us ensure that we are thoughtful readers not just of book but what also comes through our social media feeds. There is really not much point in taking in information unless we have time to verify the information that comes away. The wisdom here is to limit what what we take in. 

Point 5 is excellent. Variety in our reading is important. This means that it is great for us to read things that we actually enjoy and are of good quality. One of the reasons we struggle to read books is that we do not think much about the quality of those books and do not vary what we read. One way to maintain variety is perhaps to come up with categories of books we like and seek to rotate among those accordingly (e.g. history, business, fiction, etc)

The only point I am sceptical about is point 6. Some people say we should read unrelated content because it pushes the brain harder to help us make connections between what we are reading. Sanders suggests we should read related stuff. I am not sure who is correct here. I will certainly give Sanders suggestion a go and see how I find the experience.
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2020


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