How to Read a Book - Write in it!

Reformers Resource: How to Read a Book -- Series by Thomas Eglinton

Last time, we looked at how we need to learn to ask questions of our book. Previously, we have seen how there is a goal in reading - to understand what the author is saying.

So reading is a conversation. The author starts talking to you, you ask them questions and they answer as best they can. Given the conversational aspect of reading, how can we help ourselves have this conversation as we read?

Adler's answer is to tell us write as we read! He encourages us to pick up a pencil and write down our part of the conversation. I loved this part where he talks of making a book your own:

"Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it - which comes to the same thing - is by writing in it."

But what shall we write? Well, here Adler gives what amounts to two types of writing that you can do in your book.

1. Highlighting

This is where you mark important points, critical words or phrases. You can use underlining, a highlighter, circling or vertical lines in the margins to mark key words or important sections.

Similarly, you can visually display the flow of an argument by using numbers in the margin along with circling, highlighting or underlining.

2. Commentary

You can add your own thoughts by writing in the margin or at the top or bottom of the page. Try using this type of writing to answer questions 3 and 4. Note down where you disagree with the author or where you find them particularly compelling.

Where the importance of what the author says becomes clear to you, note it down in the margin. You can even use the pages between chapters to write short commentary on the chapter you just read. Adler goes further and suggests using the blank pages at the beginning and end of the book to note down a brief summary of the book, any key points you would like to remember and any answers you may have as to why it matters.

So, pick up a pencil and get reading!

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