Stop Reading More Books: Unlock the True Power of Reading

Unlock the true power of reading - stop skimming and start actively engaging with books. Discover 3 essential steps to transform your reading experience and achieve true intellectual freedom.

July 12, 2024


In this blog post, you'll discover why simply reading more books may not be the best approach, and learn practical strategies to become an active, engaged reader. By defining your reading purpose, researching for context, and actively interacting with the text, you can unlock the true power of reading and achieve intellectual freedom.

Define Your Reading Purpose

Before you start reading a book, it's important to define your reading purpose. Are you reading for entertainment, to learn something, to solve a problem, or for some other reason? Your reading purpose will determine how you approach the material and how deeply you engage with it.

For instance, if you're reading purely for pleasure, you may skip over less interesting parts while immersing yourself in others. If you're reading to learn, you're likely to read more thoroughly, taking notes and highlighting key points to refer back to later.

Knowing your reading purpose upfront will help you stay focused and get the most out of the book. It's the first step in transforming your reading from a passive activity into an active exploration.

Research for Clarity

Once you've defined your reading purpose, the next step is to do research to understand the context of the book. Imagine sitting down to watch a movie that's halfway done - it's pretty disorienting, and it's hard to fully enjoy the plot without knowing the backstory. This feeling mirrors exactly what happens when you dive into a new book without any prior context.

Yes, it is the author's responsibility to paint the picture and lay down the foundation, but doing some preliminary research anyway can significantly enhance your comprehension and enjoyment of the story. By understanding the context, you'll be able to better grasp the significance of the book's content and its relevance to your own life or the broader world.

Preview the Book

Before you start reading a book, it's helpful to do a preview of it to give you a broad understanding of its main structure and points. Look at the book's title, cover, table of contents, and preface. This is like looking at a map before embarking on a journey - you get a sense of the terrain and direction, which can help you from getting lost.

Previewing the book allows you to understand the context and set the right expectations before diving into the content. It's a crucial step that can significantly enhance your comprehension and enjoyment of the story.

Actively Engage with the Text

During the actual reading process, the opportunity to engage with the material really presents itself. For most of history, the way people engaged with the books they were reading was either by underlining or writing in the margins, which is exactly what you should also be doing.

Knowing your reading purpose beforehand can definitely help streamline the process, since you'll know what to look out for to underline. As a general rule of thumb, you should underline key lessons, impactful sentences, or any quotes that stand out to you during your reading.

However, don't limit yourself to just underlining. Consider your reading as a personal dialogue with the author and make use of the margins to engage directly with the text. Jot down notes when you encounter unclear points or when certain sections of the book trigger profound thoughts. Record your disagreements with the author by noting down your own viewpoints. Establish connections by documenting how the text relates to your personal experience or keep a running list of unfamiliar words, adding their definitions as you come across them.

This level of engagement with the text will greatly enhance your reading experience and retention. The goal is to actively engage with the material and make your reading experience interactive. Remember, you aren't just reading; you're having a conversation, and this conversation doesn't end once you've read the last page.

Take Notes, Ask Questions, and Re-read

After reading a book, there are three important things you should do to truly understand and engage with the material:

  1. Take Notes: Write down key passages, quotes, actionable takeaways, and any other relevant information. Organize these notes so you can revisit them and form connections over time.

  2. Ask Questions: Reflect on the overall theme or message of the book. Examine how the story develops and the logic unfolds. Challenge the content - do you agree or disagree with the author's points? Consider how you will apply the ideas presented.

  3. Re-read: Don't just read a book once and move on. Re-read books that have had a significant impact on you, whether that's every six months or once a year. Each re-reading will reveal new insights and deepen your understanding.

The key to achieving the "freedom" that Frederick Douglass spoke of is not just being able to read, but actively engaging with the text through note-taking, questioning, and re-reading. This level of interaction is what transforms reading from a passive activity into a profound exploration.