15 votes

How do you all do "deep readings"?

I'm reading a book right now that I am finding fascinating, but I don't want to forget the thoughts and ideas presented in each chapter by the end. I was wondering what you all do when reading books like this. In college, I would usually jot down a few notes on the chapter I was reading, but I always found the act of interrupting my reading to write to be very disruptive.

  • Do you take notes and highlight directly in the book, or use another notebook or software?
  • Do you take notes as you go, or wait until the end of a chapter or section?

I want to arrive at a system that works well for me, so I'm looking for suggestions here.

8 comments

  1. thundergolfer
    Link
    Read it once and enjoy it, don't make extra effort to remember everything. Highlighting things would be fine. Use subsequent readings to reinforce learning and solidify memory. Also read other...

    Read it once and enjoy it, don't make extra effort to remember everything. Highlighting things would be fine.

    Use subsequent readings to reinforce learning and solidify memory. Also read other material closely related to the source material.

    9 votes
  2. cardigan
    Link
    Usually I end up writing out a lot of passages by hand in my journal, and using that space to read over them and comment on them. Writing things out is the way that I remember things, and the...

    Usually I end up writing out a lot of passages by hand in my journal, and using that space to read over them and comment on them. Writing things out is the way that I remember things, and the effort of transcribing a long passage forces me to reconsider whether it's worth the effort of using a full page to write it. I had been doing this for a while before I discovered that it was a real thing.

    4 votes
  3. 666
    Link
    What I found the best for me during my school and university years is likely not going to work for you but this I what I used to do: wait until the day before the exam or two days before if the...

    What I found the best for me during my school and university years is likely not going to work for you but this I what I used to do: wait until the day before the exam or two days before if the book was too long and read it all from cover to cover only pausing for food, shower and sleeping. I found that the pressure of time made me focus on the topics that were really important and helped me remember better, I never took notes or highlighted anything because it interrupted the flow and made me forget things. Then, the morning before the exam I discussed the topics with classmates and if they had any doubts I'd explain them what I remembered, that helped me figure out if I had forgotten anything and if I did I'd jump to that chapter/page and re-read it (skipping over filler words and not so important paragraphs). Sometimes paying attention in class and taking notes was enough and I'd read those before the exams instead of the book, but that only works if you know the teacher and how he/she evaluates well.

    The previous advice worked for me on everything except math-heavy subjects, for maths, physics, etc I'd just practice equations the night before until I understood how and why they worked so in case I forgot them during the exam I'd be able to "come up" with them again with some extra effort.

    3 votes
  4. eve
    Link
    I've taken to writing small blurbs about books. Nothing more than a long paragraph and I'm done. I keep a list of the books I've read and their ranking for me personally, as well as a small note...

    I've taken to writing small blurbs about books. Nothing more than a long paragraph and I'm done. I keep a list of the books I've read and their ranking for me personally, as well as a small note about it. I enjoy doing it but not necessarily do it to remember the book. Most of the books I've read are there, lurking, but I also blew through a lot of YA trash as a kid so some of that blurs together lol

    3 votes
  5. pvik
    Link
    The way I read non-fiction books have changed quite a bit since the days I was in Uni. When I was in Uni, I would do something similar to what @666 mentioned in their reply (mostly for non...

    The way I read non-fiction books have changed quite a bit since the days I was in Uni.

    When I was in Uni, I would do something similar to what @666 mentioned in their reply (mostly for non math-based courses). This help with getting you a decent grade, but it is absolute crap for any kind of knowledge retention in the long-term.

    In courses I was more keen to actually learn things, I would read and prepare notes and constantly add/improve my notes over the period of the course. This would also let me prepare for the exams much easier and I found this method netted in better long-term knowledge retention.

    Nowadays, I when I read non-fiction books, I don't bother taking notes. However I do highlight points I think are important (I grew up being told never to write or highlight in books, so starting to highlight in books was a hard habit to pickup, but I find it really helps.

    Most non-fiction books are also dense with material, so I try to restrict myself to read a single chapter (at most) at a time. This helps my brain digest the information better and also helps me contemplate/think on it till I pick up the book again.

    Also, as @thundergolfer said, re-reading a book is a great way to solidify your understanding of a book. When I was younger it was a point of pride to not re-read a book. I have let go of that silliness and often re-read books now :)

    2 votes
  6. krg
    Link
    My answer doesn't pertain to readings that are to be studied, rather mostly for fiction stuff that I feel has ideas worth thinking about. I don't commit much to any idea of "deep reading" because,...

    My answer doesn't pertain to readings that are to be studied, rather mostly for fiction stuff that I feel has ideas worth thinking about.

    I don't commit much to any idea of "deep reading" because, as you stated, I feel it to be disruptive. Usually, I let any feelings or emotions or connections happen while I'm reading ("digestion", if you'd like) and might take a moment to ponder (or many moments, if I find something particularly profound or moving) and then move on. I've basically resigned myself to impermanence. I might not remember exactly how a passage effected me, but I'll remember which books had passages that effected me and may return to them later.

    Every once in a while, though, I'll open up Google Notes and make a new note with the book title and jot down any passages (pg. # - "sentence fragment...") I really want to remember.

    1 vote
  7. Mulligan
    Link
    I recently read Ulysses and found that in my desire to finish the book I'd sometimes gloss over, ignore, and/or forget passages. I didn't want to miss anything so I'd end up rereading entire...

    I recently read Ulysses and found that in my desire to finish the book I'd sometimes gloss over, ignore, and/or forget passages. I didn't want to miss anything so I'd end up rereading entire pages. I wanted to enjoy and remember the work so I tried a couple different tactics. What worked best for me was reading out loud. Focusing on intonation and pronunciation gave me a greater appreciation for the work and let me retain more of the dense text than when I'd speed through.

    Obviously it's not always possible to read aloud but if I started by reciting the first couple sentences I could carry that focus through the entire session.

    1 vote
  8. mrbig
    Link
    I really don’t. This kind of “deep reading” would make me less emotionally and intellectually available to a books. This is true even for college books. I can highlight some stuff – the Kindle...

    I really don’t. This kind of “deep reading” would make me less emotionally and intellectually available to a books. This is true even for college books. I can highlight some stuff – the Kindle makes that super easy. If I deem necessary, I take notes on a second read. I can do this on a chapter by chapter basis if I’m studying rather than reading for pleasure.