I’d like to get back to thinking about how I take notes in a book.
It’s easy to say you’re going to take notes on a book, but you need to do it in an effective manner. Shane Parrish calls note taking a conversation between you and the author. Personally I need to become a more active participant. While I take notes, I usually only note verbatim.
Here is an interesting recommendation:
At the end of each chapter write a few bullet points that summarize what you’ve read and make it personal if you can — that is, apply it to something in your life. Also, note any unanswered questions. When you’re done the book, put it down for a week.
I think of book learning as building blocks, where the comprehension gained from each chapter helps build a little brick where we eventually construct a building or a fence or a messy blob, depending on the subject. I take what I learn from a book and compare and contrast to what I already know. Similar ideas and thoughts combine to become stronger blocks. New ideas and counterintuitive arguments help push the project in a different direction. Poorly argued ideas can bring down an edifice. That’s why we don’t quite know what we are putting together.
Shane Parrish thinks of this more like cartography. He has an interesting method on how to remember and process what you’ve read.
Both methods have the same unknowing quality. I don’t know quite what I am building and he doesn’t have a full sense of where he is going.
The important part is reading actively, getting yourself to think about what you’ve read summarize it in a way you understand. This leads to better memory retention. The big trick, I think, is moving from one media (book) to another (paper) which forces your brain to think about the content in a different way. This may also jumpstart the process of moving the material to long-term storage of your mind.