Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tips for Effective Non-fiction Book Reading

I remember, some time ago, reading on how to get the best out of reading a book; more specifically, a non-fiction book. So, I'm writing these words here to share how I read:


The first thing I do is look at the copyright year. Information and technology are changing so rapidly that it behooves me to get a frame of reference based on when the book was written.

For example, I recently checked out a book called Time Management for Dummies, and I found out it was written in 1995. That makes sense when I see one of the sections called Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Be On Compuserve. Back in 1995, eleven years ago, CompuServe was it.

So some of the ideas presented in this book might be out of date, but some principles and practicals are probably still useful. That's why it helps to know when a book was published so that you can get a proper frame of reference when reading what the author is offering.


I also read the front and back cover information to get a preview of the best things the book has to offer. Then I look at the inside front and back covers.


Reading the Table of Contents is also essential, because it give you an overview of the book. I look at the main topics first, then the next level of topics, and so forth. It helps me get the flow, and is another way to be able to read what the book is about.


Another good way to see what the book is about is to browse through the index, if there is one. I think that most non-fiction books DO have an index.

But it's useful to see which topics have the most pages associated with them. A topic with a large number of pages signifies that the topic is more emphasized than a topic with only one or two pages, for example.


If there is a glossary of terms, then it's a good idea to read through this list. These are some potentially unfamiliar terms that are going to be used throughout the volume.


I approach reading chapters by reading the summary first, then going back and looking at diagrams, tables, and charts. After doing that, I scan through the chapter, reading the headings, similar to what I did with the Table of Contents earlier. Then I'll read any bulleted lists.

Once I've finished with all of this, I'll finally get down to skimming through the text. I figure that, by this time, I will have repeated the information so many times that it will help me to remember.

I guess that's all I have to say about that.

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