Ideas on notes

I am still thinking about Jennifer Roberts asking her students to sit in front of a piece of art for three hours, writing down their observations. She asks them to note how their thoughts and feelings change over the three hour time period.  

The idea stems from the fact that staring for three hours will force you to look in detail at each inch of the painting. As your eyes pour over every nook and cranny, you can find aspects of the painting you would have missed walking by or sitting for a few minutes. Roberts has done this in front of paintings herself, and she expects your thinking about the piece will change over time as these details come into view. 

I’d like to think about how to do this with books. I read a lot of books, and while they’re a good source of education, I have to think I miss a lot of details. Deep reading is one thing. But like Roberts instructs her students, I think it would also help to note down my thoughts and feelings about a book as I am still reading it. 

Here are a few ideas I have. 

Audible as a crutch 

I listen to audible, sometimes jumping rope. This is a problem for noting ideas down, so I have tried to also grab the physical (or ebook) where possible. I glance at the book after I’ve gone through a chapter or interesting section. Working in a library makes getting a hold of the book easier. 

It’s true that blogging about my readings has helped me increase thinking about those books. And daily blogging has allowed me to watch how my thinking evolves as I move through a book. 

In regards to Audible, I find turning the book off and letting myself reflect on the book. I hope this leads to deeper learning. 

Of course, I am writing this in front of my library’s copy of Crashed by Adam Tooze, which I’ve only looked at occasionally since listening to audible version. I know I need to dig more into the book — he covered a lot of ground in that text — but I haven’t yet brought myself to do it. 


I am a dedicated note taker for non-fiction books that I read. Sometimes I read with the computer next to me so I can type the notes in immediately. Or I travel around with a nice set of sticky tabs that I place right on the paragraph I’d like to get back to. 

This sticky tab method is interesting because I can do it just about anywhere. However,  sometimes I find myself looking over the paragraph in question and wondering, “why did I note this? This is nothing.” 

The one issue about my notes is I generally write them about verbatim, so they can be a few sentences long. I know it would lead to a deeper learning (or memory) if I force myself to put the text in my own words, using my own examples. 

Reading is a wonderful pastime, and working through a book on a complicated subject can be a chore. A good chore, but you hope that it helps you in more ways than one.