Ask Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or Sir Richard Branson what's behind their success, and all three would probably mention books. If you want to go far in life, read more, these and other icons have publicly recommended.

One response to this chorus of praise for books, is to simply increase the quantity of titles you take in. You could (and probably should) try to squeeze more hours or reading into your week.

But while spending more time with the written word is pretty much always a good idea, there is another way to increase how much nourishment your brain gets from books. Along with increasing the quantity of time you devote to reading, you might also want to increase the quality of your reading.

Aimlessly skimming and quicking forgetting books is worth little, even if you spend all day doing it. Whereas even a quick 30-minute burst of reading can be highly valuable if you think deeply about the material, connect it to other concepts, and remember important ideas afterward.

So how do you increase the quality of your reading? Blinkist's Page 19 blog recently skimmed the literature on how to read for maximum mental nourishment, coming up with a host of great suggestions, including these.

1. Find a personal angle.

"In Brain-Based Learning, Eric Jensen notes that for our brains to truly learn something, that something needs to have meaning. The thing about meaning is that it's best conferred by giving the topic personal relevance," explains Page19, which suggests that for each new book you ask yourself what you hope to learn, how it might change your life, and why you should bother reading it. All of which will help make the book personally relevant and therefore more memorable.

2. Keep your finger on the pulse.

Details are hard to remember unless you have some sort of theoretical framework to attach them to. So if you want to recall more of what you read, continually pay attention to a book's overarching theme or idea (or the major theme of a chapter or section).

This idea comes from How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Dore. The classic manual on the subject suggests "listening for the 'pulsebeat'--or the central theme," of a book. "The pulsebeat is the core of the book's vitality, and it's also your key to retaining more," claims Page19. You can even try doing a little online research to get a handle on what the central argument of a title might be before reading it to boost your comprehension and recall.

3. Get curious.

If you have specific questions you'd like to answer about the material covered in a book, you're likely to dive in with more enthusiasm (and pleasure), contends Page19. "What is the essence of curiosity?" asks the post. "That gap between what you want to know and what you already know--what Made to Stick authors Chip and Dan Heath refer to as the curiosity gap. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do we humans, so when we're driven by a desire to close that breach. That drive's something you can use when you read." 

Published on: Mar 25, 2016
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