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How to Read a Book a Week in the Age of Facebook and Twitter

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How to Read a Book a Week in the Age of Facebook and Twitter

A data scientist explains the unique strategies he's developed in order to read more widely.

· Writers' Zone ·
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Background

When my son was nearing 14 years, I mentioned to him that I read James Clavell's epic novel Shogun (1136 pages) around the age of 15, i.e., his age. Reading a book like Shogun at age 15 is admittedly not typical reading for a 15 year old. But I have always been an avid reader, even as a child. Of just about everything.

But as I saw Shogun again — I realized to my horror that I could never read and complete a 1136-page book now! And that is worrying.

With the sheer amount of distraction, it's hard to read a book of 1000 + pages now. Yet I and so many others had done it a couple of decades ago (since the book was a bestseller).

So, I attempted to read a book a week for a year in 2017. This experiment continued in 2018.

This post is about how you can read a book a week. It follows some unorthodox strategies in the face of social media, which I hope you will also find useful.

Why Read a Book a Week?

First, why bother to read a book a week?

The "why" is actually very important, and it's more than just "books are good."

It's better to think of this project as "reclaiming your mind" in an age when media (especially social media) attempts to control what we read (and hence, what we think).

Numerous studies have shown that too much tech is ruining lives. At the same time, reading is one of the best indicators of career success. If you are a thinking man or woman, most media today is far from intellectual.

The Discovery Channel, supposedly based on science, broadcast the infamous megalodon documentary. Not to be outdone on sensationalism, National Geographic (until recently News Corp.-owned) produced a documentary called "Cocaine Hippos" based on Pablo Escobar's hippos in Colombia.

The point here is, even documentaries can be sensationalist. Even for the so-called scientific ones, an hour peppered with advertisements does not give time for any detailed analysis anyway. So, the overall idea is to see this as not just reading a book a week, but as changing our thinking.

Some overall objectives:

a) Read the whole book, but aim for comprehension.

b) Read things that you do not read normally.

c) Combine the reading of larger books with smaller books.

Strategies

Here are the strategies I used:

1) Try to read unabridged books, but use Sparknotes or similar. I would never have been able to read the unabridged Moby Dick without Sparknotes: Moby Dick.

This strategy gives you the big picture, and also helps you to read complex material with comprehension — better understanding the main themes.

2) How do you read a book that cannot be finished in a week? The answer is, don't attempt to finish a book in a week if it's too long. Many books take more than one week, but you can always pick up a shorter read to meet your goal. At any point, you may be reading more than one book, but you are always finishing one book per week.

3) Speed reading does not work for me, although my speed of reading has increased dramatically. I am sure speed reading works for some, but it did not for me.

4) When reading literature, use comics — especially Classics Illustrated to start off with — before you get to the original book. (I did say that my strategies are unorthodox!) This strategy worked very well for me. I love comics, and reading Classics Illustrated allowed me to read many books that I would not have attempted otherwise.

5) Read for completion, and balance with comprehension. This works quite well because you can skip the filler material in a book (especially if you combine this with the other strategies).

6) Read Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book — first published in 1940 and still relevant today.

7) I can read business and technical books fast, but many other categories, not so. For example, this book —although not very large — took a lot longer because the content was excellent: Lee Kwan Yew's The Man and His Ideas.

8) Read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. It's an iconic book written in the time of television that can help you understand why you need to rethink your media strategy. See this review of the book and many others online.

9) Read a range of different books across cultures. This is an excellent list: The Most Iconic Books Set in 150 Countries

10) Read in chunks of 30 pages. That means you can finish a reasonably sized book (210 pages) in a week.

11) Collect lists of book links. Here are a few: Bill Gates' book listTim Ferris' book listJames Clear's book list

12) Try to read bigger books for the reasons I mentioned above. Til the end of the year, I have two specific books I am reading: the autobiography of Marshal Zhukov (see this review of Marshal of Victory: the Autobiography of General Georgy Zhukov) and Walter Isaacson's biography of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Conclusion

Today, I feel it's not so fashionable to be thoughtful. In many areas like politics, we see intelligent, thoughtful leaders being penalized. Yet that's exactly why this kind of thinking is called for.

I see some notable exceptions. This thoughtful young girl is very inspiring: How To Read More: How I Read 102 Books in a Year! Both Buffett and Gates are also avid readers, as you can see in The Simple Truth Behind Reading 200 Books a Year and How Bill Gates Reads a Book. I read 48 books in 2017, and in 2018, this continued. So, overall, this experiment has been a success. I hope you can learn from it.

Topics:
writers zone ,reading ,comprehension ,books

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