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How to finish any book in a single day?
Reading a book is a skill that we sadly cannot take for granted
Understanding a book and finishing it end-to-end are two different things. Understanding the book should be the objective when reading non-fiction, and finishing it end-to-end when reading fiction.
I will summarize the article for you, in case you’re not interested in reading the entire thing. Pick up a book. Ask relevant questions and try to get their answers. Finally, figure out for yourself if you want to get into any of the specifics. Simple!
Unlearn school habits
Open a book, start reading the first page and then get up when you're done reading the last one. That's how we are taught to read books in school. You have successfully read a book only when you can pass a test afterwards.
I'm sure there are geniuses out there who can actually follow this method. I know I'm not one of them. I also know that there are others like me. This article is for them.
Side note, I will be focusing on reading non-fiction. I don’t think reading fiction is an optimisation problem.
Narrowing down the problem
Reading a book is similar to listening to the author talk about the subject. If you think about it, you are having a conversation with the author while reading a book: you read something, you have questions in your head and then you try to get to the answers. If we want to figure out how to effectively read a book then that translates to how to effectively communicate with a stranger. It's not about the book; that's just a medium.
The good news is that our brain has already figured out how to hold conversations effectively, i.e. only focus the stuff that matters (at least most of the time).
How does our brain process a conversation?
You're at a party and you meet someone new. You haven't heard of their profession. You haven't heard of the sport they follow. You don't know any of the books they have read. You haven't watched any of the movies they have watched. Let's assume that you are interested to know more about this person. You start a conversation by asking questions.
Now, tell me what details will you end up remembering after the party.
Would you remember their dog's name? Perhaps but only if the name was unique and rememberable. Would you remember their favourite character from their favourite movie? Yes, only if you're a freak or you had a crush on them. So, what will you remember about them? Maybe their profession because that intrigued you. Maybe their favourite TV show because you have been meaning to watch that show for some time now. But, that's about it. Your brain was filtering out all the irrelevant information (to you) while you were having the conversation. It's an unconscious effort that’s why we don't realise it happening. That is also why you sometimes forget the name of the person you were talking to just a second ago.
This is not inefficiency. This is a clever use of memory. I'm a programmer so I value efficient algorithms for memory management.
We can use this algorithm to extract context and meaning from any book that we want to read, quickly. The algorithm is efficient enough for us to hold conversations with total strangers without a lag. So, it’s safe to say that the algorithm is effective and reliable.
How to read a book efficiently and quickly?
Pick up any book. Start asking questions about the book and the author. Who is this guy? What is he trying to say? What is the subject of the book? Why is the subject relevant to me? What topics does this book cover? Is there any topic that I particularly I like?
You don't need to remember every little detail from the book. You can just understand what the book is talking about and move on with your life. You don't need to remember quotes from the book. Unless you're one of those Twitter-freaks who post shit just so that people think they're brilliant. Let me break it to you: if you want people to think that you are smart then you're not smart, to begin with.
Read about the author if you don't already know about them. It is important to know who are you reading. Just because the book is a best-seller doesn't mean it's worth a read. I mean, for god sake Chetan Bhagat is a best-seller. Understand the subject of the book and how it is relevant to you. If the subject of the book is not relevant to you then why are you even reading it?
Look at the table of content. See if you like something in particular. Start reading that chapter. That last step is important. You're not reading Game of Thrones; there are no spoilers in Psychology of Money. Read whatever you like reading. If you didn't understand something from the chapter then check if it is covered in one of the previous chapters. If yes, then jump to that chapter and start reading.
There is no "right" way of reading a book. The objective should be to understand what the author is trying to communicate, quickly.
Life's simple so let's keep it that way. There is no point in finishing a book if you didn't understand it. If you read a book without understanding it then you're wasting your time. If you spend too much time reading a book that doesn’t require a lot of mental effort then you are wasting your time.
Reading a book effectively and quickly is a skill. Even I'm trying to master it.
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