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Getting Familiar with Reading Material

I am taking a course and was presented with a big pile of books to get familiar with before it began. This is a description of my process to doing that ask quickly as possible:

You're presented with a big pile of reading material. Reading every book/article/talk from front to back isn't going to get you what you need fast enough.

  1. Summarize as quickly as possible.
    1. Use every tool at your disposal. Google for reviews, summaries, critiques.
    2. Only note new points you encounter from each source.
    3. Output: Notes on other people's take-aways and where you found them.
  2. Edit your summaries.
    1. What are the central points?
    2. What are the interesting gems?
    3. What's the jargon?
    4. Output: One summary file per text.
  3. Question the material.
    1. What do you want to know more about?
    2. What do you disagree with?
    3. What challenges your ideas?
    4. Output: List of questions per text relevant to you.
  4. Crack the book.
    1. Read parts only for answers to your questions. Only continue if you're finding more value.
    2. Add additional questions as you learn more.
    3. Repeat until questions exhausted.
    4. Output: Notes on questions answered and questions unanswered.
  5. Own it.
    1. Triage unanswered questions: Now, later, never.
    2. Expand research to unanswered questions.
    3. Output: In your own words, summary + questions + answers + further research.
    4. Output: Plan of action. What are the things you will actuall do or practice based on what you read?

Bonus tips:
  1. Keep your best takeaways from a book on a single 3x5 card. What would you want to remember if you couldn't take away anything else other than what fit on this card? (redo card as reading continues.) 
  2. Keep a note of the best three ideas that you can act on. If you find a better idea as you read, replace one. Only top three.

See also: